FoE Australia News

Friends of the Earth Australia news section from Chain Reaction #133, September 2018

Rubicon Day of Action for Forests

On Saturday June 9, over 80 people joined local community members and the Rubicon Forest Protection Group (RFPG) and walked into what is likely to be Victoria's largest logged area – 650 MCGs worth of clearfell logging – in the Rubicon Valley.

The surroundings were both devastating and spectacular – a vast landscape of burned black logs, boulders and churned earth surrounded by rolling hills and steep valleys shrouded in mist, with logging as far as the eye could see.

The action was supported by the Friends of the Earth (FoE) Forest Collective who created two giant banners which were unfurled inside the coupe (one 25 metres long), helped organise and promote the action and came along in numbers on the day.

Forest activists, conservationists and friends came from right across Victoria, including from regional towns affected by logging like Toolangi, Strathbogies, Mirboo North, Warburton, Noojee and Far East Gippsland and from Melbourne's inner suburbs, Werribee, Mornington and many more places.

Ken Deacon from RFPG said: "I am personally still moved by the entire event and to see the interest in the Rubicon State Forest, which on this scale of attention, has never happened before."

Following the action, at least 30 people stayed the night with Lea Jellineck who worked non-stop for three weeks and opened her house to us all to make this action possible. The group planned future actions to bring regional communities together who are fighting to protect their forests ‒ the next one will be in Toolangi!

More information, photos and videos from the Rubicon Day of Action:

www.facebook.com/rubiconforest

www.facebook.com/Environmental-Media-Foundation-154946411517049/

You can support regional groups to protect their forests from logging by joining the FoE Forest Collective or contacting us for information on groups across Victoria. www.melbournefoe.org.au/forests

www.melbournefoe.org.au/logging_the_heart_of_vic

‒ Sarah Day, FoE Melbourne Forest Collective Coordinator, [email protected]

Forest protection in the Strzelecki Ranges

After two decades of campaigning, forests in the Strzelecki's have been protected! On July 14, Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D'Ambrosio, and Gunai Traditional Owner Aunty Doris Paton formally announced the creation of the Brataualung Forest Park in the Strzelecki Ranges.

The name Brataualung refers to one of five clans of the Gunai tribe and was the nominated name for the Reserve by the GunaiKurnai Elders Council after a Government naming process.

The new reserve covers 2,400 ha of land, including key cool temperate rainforest catchments in the Agnes River, Franklin River, Dingo Creek, Albert River and College Creek.

The creation of the Brataualung Forest Park is the result of over 20 years campaigning in the region by Friends of the Earth and local group Friends of Gippsland Bush. At the launch, Aunty Paton thanked all those people who had helped protect her country.

Over the next 10 years, another 5,500 ha of land will be added to the reserve with the possibility of the creation of a new National Park in the region. The new reserve approximately doubles the amount of reserved land in the Strzeleckis, Victoria's most depleted bioregion.

Friends of the Earth plans to keep pressuring the state government to deliver on the additional 5,500 ha and to recommence koala surveys in the region. The Strzeleckis contains the only endemic koala population in Victoria and South Australia.

Our past work in the region has helped to better understand preferred koala feed trees and develop an approximate population size. We plan to use a new koala survey technique to map the distribution range of the Strzelecki Koala. Using a new fast assessment methodology will mean that a lot more ground can be covered in a quicker amount of time.

www.melbournefoe.org.au/new_forest_reserve_in_victoria_s_strzelecki_ranges

www.melbournefoe.org.au/college_creek

Goongerah Environment Centre smashing it

Here are some examples of FoE affiliate GECO's successful work over the past year:

  • Protected 3,000 hectares of forest through our citizen science surveying and reports (Recently we secured protection for two areas of old growth forest after our surveys documented endangered crayfish species and Greater Gliders.)
  • Recently we secured protection of 100 hectares of forest for the Yellow Bellied Glider.
  • We launched the East Gippsland Emerald Link proposal to create a continuous network of protected forests from the Australian alps to the East Gippsland coast. 
  • We've helped our friends Fauna and Flora Research Collective bring a Supreme Court Case fighting for protection of old growth forests
  • We made the Kuark forest an icon which led to the government formally protecting 2,500 hectares of some of the highest environmental value old growth forests in Australia.
  • We empowered tens of thousands of people to contact decision makers through online actions and advocacy
  • We generated 27 mainstream media articles in the past 12 months that have put East Gippsland's forests on the political radar.
  • We complied detailed audit reports that stopped VicForests attempts to achieve Forest Stewardship Council certification.

The state election this November represents a huge opportunity to secure outcomes for the protection of our forests. Logging is costing the government votes in important marginal seats. We've got a plan to turn up the pressure up and win! We're working with Friends of the Earth to target key electorates and make the protection of our forests a massive issue. It's the best chance we've had in years of securing meaningful protection for our forests.

‒ Ed Hill, Goongerah Environment Centre, www.geco.org.au

Victorian state election less than 100 days away

With the Victorian state election less than 100 days away, FoE Melbourne working hard to ensure that all political parties take meaningful climate and environmental policies to the election.

We've been in campaign mode since last August but now we're getting to the serious part of the race. Back in the 2014 state election, FoE's smart approach to campaigning helped deliver the key environmental wins that were achieved, including: the permanent ban on fracking in the state; the extension of the moratorium on onshore conventional gas drilling; our campaign to win the commitment to develop a Victorian Renewable Energy Target (the VRET); and helping secure the safe passage of the re-built Climate Change Act through the Upper House.

This is a high stakes election. Because of the regressive agenda of the Coalition in Victoria, we now need to mobilise to defend our wins – they have indicated they will lift the moratorium on gas and kill off the VRET if elected. And after a disappointing couple of months on the climate front, we need to push the ALP to do more on environment and climate.

We are working in targeted areas of Melbourne and regional Victoria to build active support in regional areas for the VRET and gas moratorium and ban, and ensure that sustainable transport, forests, and climate and energy are on the agenda for all political parties.

We're doing actions and stunts, letter boxing and leafleting, holding forums, generating local media, doing community surveys and info stalls, and lots more.

For our full election policy package, and information on how you can help, please visit www.melbournefoe.org.au/victorian_state_election_2018

Dump nukes!

Have you been keeping up with the news on the nuclear waste dump proposals in South Australia? Barngarla Traditional Owners are taking legal action, calling for all Traditional Owners to be included in a community ballot regarding the federal government's plan for a national nuclear waste dump on farming land near Kimba. They argue that the ballot is discriminatory under the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners have also called on the federal government to include all Traditional Owners in the ballot for the proposed site near Hawker in the Flinders Ranges. The SA Supreme Court has referred the matter to the Human Rights Commission, and the ballots are on hold for the time being.

A senate inquiry report has criticised the site selection process. Even the major parties acknowledge that the government's 'indigenous engagement strategy' has not 'conformed to best practice'. Senator Rex Patrick from the Centre Alliance (the former Nick Xenophon Party) calls the government's handling of the issue "flawed and disingenuous" while the Australian Greens call it "fundamentally flawed".

Conservation SA has released a report written by Dr Cameron Murray from the Australia Institute debunking federal government claims about the economic impact of hosting a national nuclear waste dump. The report finds that the government has exaggerated the benefits, and not properly factored in insurance costs and other risks. The "Down in the Dumps" report compared the current Australian National Radioactive Waste Management Facility (NRWMF) plans with similar facilities overseas, and found a raft of exaggerated jobs and economic return claims.

The SA Branch of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) is continuing its long-running stance against the shipping of any nuclear material in or out of South Australia. Whyalla, Port Lincoln and Port Pirie have been named as potential nuclear waste ports in reports released by the federal government in July. MUA SA Branch Secretary Jamie Newlyn said MUA members are long time opponents of nuclear waste storage in Australia and led the charge against the former SA government’s defeated plan to establish a high-level nuclear waste import industry.

"The Federal Government’s recent declaration that sites in Kimba and Flinders Ranges could be used to store intermediate-level nuclear waste is incredibly concerning," Newlyn said. "The MUA is further alarmed that the Federal Department of Industry has identified Whyalla and Port Pirie – where our members currently work – as potential ports to unload this toxic and unsafe material. The MUA, along with the mayors of Port Pirie and Whyalla, have been blindsided by this announcement yet the safety of port workers and the communities through which this hazardous material is transported is critical." 

Calling all artists!

FoE Melbourne's Nuclear Free collective is holding our annual art auction in October and we'd love your creative contributions. 'Maralinga Pieces ‒ Forever on Country' will commemorate the 66-year anniversary of nuclear bomb tests at Maralinga and celebrate decades of nuclear resistance, while raising vital funds for our national nuclear-free campaign work. 

We welcome artworks from all disciplines and work is not restricted to the title theme, however artists are welcome to submit a piece inspired by the theme if they wish. We are seeking donations until September 30.

The art auction will be held at Arena, 2 Kerr St Fitzroy, on Friday October 5.

Contact: Jim 0417 318 368 or Jemila 0426 962 506 or email [email protected] 

www.facebook.com/events/1865552983748568/

Stuck in traffic on Melbourne's Eastern Freeway?

Have you heard the Eastern Freeway has some of the worst travel times in Melbourne? A big reason is there are currently zero rail or tram services in this part of town. Instead, everyone has to jumps in their cars and onto the freeway.

Building new roads does little if nothing to solve traffic congestion. The North East Link is going to add 95,000 cars a day to the already choked freeway.

The #GetOnBoardVic plan has a better vision for Melbourne. These last few weeks we've been growing local awareness with banner drops, radio shows, and flyering at local train and bus stations.

You can find out more and sign up at www.getonboard.org.au

‒ Rachel Lynskey, FoE Melbourne Sustainable Cities Coordinator

Food irradiation labels will stay!

Updates from Bob Phelps from Gene Ethics, a member of FoE affiliate group GM Free Australia Alliance.

Many thanks again for raising your voice when Food Standards Australia NZ (FSANZ) reviewed a plan to strip labels from irradiated fruits and vegetables. 238 of you said "NO!" and our face-to-face meetings with the reviewers were frank and fearless. And then we won! FSANZ recommended, and the Ministerial Food Forum decided, that food irradiation labels will stay.

Labels are important. But 26 fruits and vegetables are approved for irradiation, to extend their shelf-life. Herbs, spices and herbal infusions are also irradiated to control sprouting, pests, weeds, and to kill bacteria. Re-irradiation of some foods is also allowed.

New Zealand is a prime target for irradiated mangoes from Steritech's Queensland plant which also zaps table grapes for Vietnam. The company is also building an irradiation machine in the Melbourne Produce Market, to open in April 2019. Key trading partners China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand reject 'fresh' irradiated horticultural crops, though FSANZ claims 50 others approve.

www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/labelling/review/Pages/Labelling-review-recommendation-34irradiation-labelling.aspx

www.geneethics.org

New Waste and Consumption collective in FoE Melbourne

We are pleased to announce the start of Friends of the Earth Melbourne's Waste and Consumption collective. We are working in partnership with Friends of the Earth's Co-op cafe, which has approximately 40 years' experience of working to educate the community on food waste and plastic issues. In addition to these issues, we will be looking at waste to energy projects. Other areas that may be incorporated are the recycling crisis, ocean plastics, plastic bags and container schemes. We are interested in a systemic view on these issues, rather than individual changes of habit.

We have the following aims:

  • Fill the vacuum, change the conversation in regards to consumption and appropriate disposal of waste
  • Put pressure on MPs to release the Sustainability Fund to create self-sufficiency and green jobs in Victoria
  • Support impacted communities
  • Connect local governments
  • Network interested groups across a wide range of consumption and waste issues to create a public awareness campaign and encourage their involvement in a strategic campaign to change waste policy in the state

If you are interested in being involved, have ideas that you feel aren't reflected here, or have amazing contacts that we need to know about, please contact Anine at [email protected]

Act on Climate collective

FoE Melbourne's Act on Climate collective and community members took the case for climate action to the Victorian Parliament on World Environment Day 2018 ‒ presenting the government, opposition, and the Greens with a community statement calling for leadership.1

The statement calls for party leaders ‒ Premier Daniel Andrews, Opposition Leader Matthew Guy, and Samantha Ratnam (Greens) ‒ to consider the community's views and provide a response. 

A few weeks earlier, on April 22, over 50 community members participated in a discussion about climate impacts, brainstormed positive solutions to the issue, and formed unanimous agreement on the need for Victorian political parties to take urgent action.2

The 'crowd-sourced' ideas formed the basis of the statement which was handed over to Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D'Ambrosio; Minister and member for Albert Park, Martin Foley; Greens MP for Melbourne, Ellen Sandell; as well as Liberal party shadows for energy and environment, David Southwick and Nick Wakeling.

The Act on Climate collective is campaigning for Victoria's first Climate Budget.3,4 The Andrews government has strengthened the Climate Change Act 2017, put in place a permanent ban on onshore gas, and enacted a Victorian Renewable Energy Target of 25 percent by 2020 and 40 percent by 2025. A climate budget is the logical next step for Victoria if it wants to truly be a climate leader.

With a modernised state budget, Victoria can invest in the comprehensive actions we know we need to take to mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts, such as intensifying bushfire seasons.

  1. www.actonclimate.org.au/pollie_watch_community_statement
  2. www.actonclimate.org.au/earth_day_recap
  3. www.actonclimate.org.au/four_pillars_of_a_climate_budget
  4. https://reneweconomy.com.au/case-modernising-victorian-budget-81517/

FoE Melbourne's River Country collective

Now that the Murray-Darling Basin Plan has been weakened ‒ the Coalition succeeded in slashing 605 billion litres of water from the Plan, with Labor's support ‒ our rivers are at risk of going under.

Rivers are our lifeblood but the federal government and basin states are turning their backs on the science that says we need to return more water to the river to revive its natural rhythms, and NSW is attempting to weaken laws that crack down on water thieves. 

We want sustainable solutions to fight water theft, bad management and deliver for all communities that need a healthy river to survive. Our work includes:

  • Research into how river water is used in Victorian forests and wetlands and the flow on social and economic benefits
  • Organising meetings with politicians to tell them what's not working
  • Planning a road trip along the Murray to help people take action and create meaningful change

With the Darling River running dry, Broken Hill is on the front line. The government is building a 270 km pipeline from the Murray to supply town water, instead of standing up to water theft and corruption. This is putting insurmountable pressure on farmers, communities, lakes, wetlands, fish and bird populations. Broken Hill also happens to be the home of the fabulous Pricilla Queen of the Desert-inspired Broken Heel Festival. This year, Broken Heel started on National Threatened Species Day, 7th September, and River Country campaigners journeyed to the outback to show solidarity with those suffering from drought and water theft.

The River Country collective recently worked with the Lifeblood Alliance ‒ a group of people from across the Basin ‒ to release an open letter in response to the federal government's refusal to allow government agencies (Murray Darling Basin Authority, CSIRO, government departments etc.) to provide evidence to the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission. The statement, titled 'Transparency and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan', notes that the refusal to cooperate with the Royal Commission worsens the lack of trust the public has in the federal government and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority. Improved transparency is in the public interest and the Royal Commission was set up in the absence of a Commonwealth response and following requests from all sectors including affected communities.

The River Country collective has regular meetings on Wednesdays, 6pm at Friends of the Earth, 312 Smith St, Collingwood. Email megan.williams.foe.org.au to RSVP or get in touch on 0452 366 605.

‒ Megan Williams, River Country Coordinator

Market Forces

Updates from FoE Australia affiliate Market Forces.

Standard Chartered: Market Forces hasn't just been working on preventing new fossil fuel projects in Australia. For the past 18 months we've also been supporting groups in South East Asia to keep investment out of new coal power plants on Australia's doorstep. We're already getting results. Earlier this year we forced a major investment bank in the region – Standard Chartered – to pull out of a proposed coal power project after we worked with Greenpeace to reveal it would be too polluting for the bank's own policy.

Now we have an opportunity to magnify that Standard Chartered win many times over. The bank is reconsidering their position on coal lending and if we apply enough pressure, they could pull out of a raft of proposed coal power plants in Indonesia and Vietnam that threaten communities, livelihoods and the climate we all share.

QBE: The insurance industry is a major supporter of the coal, gas and oil industries and here in Australia QBE is the biggest culprit. QBE is not only invested in fossil fuel companies, it also provides insurance to coal mines and power stations, oil rigs and gas pipelines.

Meanwhile, QBE has had to deal with huge losses due to climate change-related extreme weather events over the last few years. QBE posted a US$1.2 billion loss in 2017 mainly due to flooding, storms and wildfire. So while QBE is itself a victim of global warming, it continues to worsen the problem.

However, we have seen the first signs that QBE can be moved, and now we need to ensure they are feeling the pressure to act. Thanks to community pressure and a shareholder resolution at its May 2018 annual general meeting, QBE committed to reviewing its investment and underwriting strategies over the next 18 months with regards to climate change risk.

But we already know what QBE needs to do, stop delaying and end its support for coal, oil and gas as soon as possible. Other global insurers like Axa, Allianz and Zurich have already announced restrictions on their underwriting of coal mines, power stations and companies. They have also dumped their coal company shares.

Over the past five years, Market Forces has shown when people hold the custodians of their money accountable for how it's used, massive change is possible. So far, our campaigns have helped lead to:

  • over two dozen banks refusing to back Galilee Basin coal export projects like Adani's Carmichael mine;
  • the big four banks' fossil fuel exposure dropping by $10 billion in two years and another $40 billion opened up for lending to climate solutions;
  • dozens of companies committing to reveal climate change risks to their business, and;
  • tens of thousands of Australians matching their money with their values, sending their bank, super fund or insurance company a powerful demand to change in the process.

Whilst you are here, please make a tax deductible donation. Friends of the Earth relies on donations from people like you to keep running campaigns for social and environmental justice.