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June 16, 2006

Four incidents occur at Australian reactor in a week

Four incidents occur at Australian reactor in a week

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Friday, June 16, 2006

The Lucas Heights Science and Technology facility

Wikinews Australia has in-depth coverage of this issue: Australian nuclear debate

The Australian federal opposition has attacked the Howard government following four incidents in a week at the HIFAR nuclear research reactor in Lucas Heights, South of Sydney. The incidents come just a week after the Australian government announced an inquiry into the feasibility of nuclear power.

The first incident occurred on June 8, when a carbon canister containing radioactive material exploded, blowing out seals in a cell at the Lucas Heights site. The accident is believed to be an explosion in a carbon canister containing radioactive material, which blew the seals out on Hot Cell No 2 in Building 54 releasing small amounts of xenon and krypton into the atmosphere.

Jenny Macklin (Jagajaga, Labor), shadow science minister and deputy leader of the opposition accused science minister Julie Bishop (Curtin, Liberal) of misleading the parliament. Ms Bishop told parliament on Wednesday that “there was no measurable contamination found outside the immediate area where the incident occurred,”

Ms Bishop denied there being any radiation threat to the community. “According to ANSTO, there was absolutely no radiation threat to the health of the workers of ANSTO or the community.”

Jenny Macklin said in a statement on Wednesday that details of the incident were being hidden. “The local community deserves to be told what actually happened at the Lucas Heights reactor last Thursday, and why the release of radioactive gases into the atmosphere was not made public,” said Ms Macklin.

Following Ms Macklin’s statement ANSTO said it was “surprised and disappointed” at Ms Macklin’s comments. ANSTO refuted that it failed to adequately notify the community saying that they released a media statement the day after the incident. ANSTO said that radiation released during the incident was “so low as not to be directly measurable”. ANSTO said that it could however calculate the amount of radioactive material released and it was a “very small fraction of the radiation dose received by everyone each year from naturally occurring sources of radiation”.

ANSTO assured the public that the releases could not be detected off-site.

Following a statement by the science minister on Thursday that she was unaware of any incidents at ANSTO in the 12 months prior to the latest incidents, the opposition again questioned Ms Bishop’s competence. Ms Macklin asked how the minister could not be informed about compliance reports issued by Australia’s nuclear regulator ARPANSA that state there were 12 incidents at Lucas Heights in 2005.

Following Ms Macklin’s removal from the house, Anthony Albanese (Grayndler, Labor), shadow environment minister questioned Ms Bishop about incidents at ANSTO on Wednesday. According to ANSTO, a worker received a low dose of radiation from Iodine-123 while packaging radiopharmaceuticals. ANSTO claims that the technician received a dose around four per cent of the annual limit for radiation workers and much less than a thyroid cancer patient would receive during a nuclear medicine scan.

In a statement, Ms Macklin later accused the science minister of being ill-informed of the incident at Lucas Heights, saying it was concerning the government had an “incompetent” science minister at a time when they were “pushing the benefits of nuclear power”.

Responding to the opposition’s questions during question time in the House of Representatives, the science minister accused the opposition of engaging in a scare campaign to close down a facility that provides “a medical service for cancer suffers across Australia.

ANSTO has said that the radiation dose received by the technician was so low he did not require medical attention once he had undergone several tests.

ANSTO admitted another two incidents occurred at its Lucas Heights facility on Thursday. The first occurred when a worker who was cleaning a production area burst a package of radioactive material. The second occurred when a worker packing a radiopharmaceutical dropped a small vial. ANSTO said that the amount of radiation received by both workers was extremely low.

ANSTO said that while it is uncommon for two incidents to occur on a single day, it was not uncommon for minor incidents to occur once a month.

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June 1, 2006

Australian House of Representatives has \”no rules\”: Gillard

Australian House of Representatives has “no rules”: Gillard

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Thursday, June 1, 2006

The Australian House of Representatives descended into rows between opposition and government members today

The Australian Labor Party has accused speaker of the Australian House of Representatives, David Hawker (Liberal, Wannon) of failing to be impartial.

During question time today, opposition leader, Kim Beazley (Labor, Brand) asked the government to confirm comments made by Cameron Thompson (Liberal, Blair), which asked for Prime Minister John Howard (Liberal, Bennelong) to explain his role in the failed merger of the Nationals and Liberals in Queensland. According to Mr Beazley, Mr Thompson claims that the president of the Liberal party in Queensland was appointed by Mr Howard and that his actions would have been known and agreed upon by the Prime Minister.

The house’s speaker refused to allow Mr Beazley to debate his question claiming it was not relevant. Mr Beazley argued that his question directly related to Mr Howard in his capacity as Prime Minister and to disallow his question was “shutting down accountability”.

The opposition’s next woe came when Stephen Smith (Labor, Perth) asked the Prime Minister to confirm accusations that the government’s new industrial relations laws (called Workchoices) had placed pressure on the low pay commission to lower the minimum wage of Australian workers. Mr Howard took the opportunity to attack Mr Beazley’s role as Minister for Employment, Education and Training in 1993 saying that he had contempt for the unemployed.

Anthony Albanese (Labor, Grayndler) raised a point of order, claiming that the Prime Minister’s answer was irrelevant. This was refused by the speaker, who said that Mr Howard was attempting to answer a “lengthy question”. Mr Albanese then interrupted Mr Howard as he was continuing his attack on Mr Beazley telling the speaker that the question was very specific and that Mr Howard’s answer was irrelevant. Mr Albanese was ordered to resume his seat, and when he failed to do so was ordered out of the house.

Following Mr Albanese’s ejection, Mr Smith argued that the Prime Minister was not answering his question before also being ordered out of the house by the speaker. As Mr Howard began to continue his answer, Julia Irwin (Labor, Fowler) interrupted Mr Howard. Mrs Irwin was then ordered to leave the house.

The opposition found itself another member short in the house after Julia Gillard (Labor, Lalor) was removed for calling Health Minister Tony Abbott (Liberal, Warringah) an “idiot”. Ms Gillard’s comment followed Mr Abbott tabling a document written by Medibank Private relating to a media campaign to counter negative views on its sale. Part of the document claimed that Medibank Private had “established a hypothetical but possible scenario: Julia Gillard arguing that the sale will mean higher premiums”.

Mr Abbott joked that “Medibank Private sure know the member for Lalor (Julia Gillard)”.

It was Ms Gillard’s second ejection in two days. She was removed from the house yesterday for calling Mr Abbott a “snivelling grub”, the same term Mr Abbott labeled an opposition MP last week without being removed.

Following the house’s question time, Mr Abbott and Peter Costello (Liberal, Higgins) accused Lindsay Tanner (Labor, Melbourne), Wayne Swan (Labor, Lilley) and Kim Wilkey (Labor, Swan) of deliberately blocking a camera’s view of Mr Howard during one of his answers. Mr Tanner said “It’s not our fault he’s short” and Mr Wilkie said that he never raised from his chair and that Mr Abbott needed to “get his facts straight”.

Following her removal, Ms Gillard told reporters that speaker of the house, Mr Hawker had double standards. “We’ve reached a stage … where there are no rules in the House of Representatives,” Ms Gillard said.

“Four Opposition members were tossed out of Parliament today. I don’t think anybody watching question time could say that’s a fair result.”

“We’ve seen double standards in operation all week” she said.

She said that it was not unusual for people to walk around the chamber and talk to each other during question while government members were speaking.

“At the end of the day there is wandering around and chatter in question time,” she said.

“But why is that? Because the quality of what’s coming off the government front bench doesn’t bear listening to” she said.

Sources

  • Maria Hawthorne, David Crawshaw and Melissa Polimeni. “Gillard thrown out again” — The Daily Telegraph, June 1, 2006
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May 23, 2006

Howard government confirms \”secret nuclear power committee\”

Howard government confirms “secret nuclear power committee”

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

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An internal government committee has been created to look at Australia’s nuclear energy role. The Federal Government has admitted it has set up a “secret committee” to examine the economics and science of nuclear power. During a Senate estimates committee, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet’s deputy secretary, Duncan Lewis confirmed that the committee had been formed following statements by US President George W Bush to create a global nuclear energy partnership. He told the Senate estimates that the committee would effectively try to develop an Australian perspective on the American proposal.

Labor Opposition environment spokesman, Anthony Albanese, says the information has not been made public because of the sensitivity of the issue. “This hasn’t been announced, the work’s been done behind-the-scenes because the Government knows that this is indeed a very dangerous path for Australia to go on,” he said.

Greens Senator Christine Milne said that the establishment of a secret committee to look at nuclear power was deeply troubling: “Prime Minister John Howard says he wants a full public debate on whether Australia should adopt nuclear power, yet his government has set up a secret committee to examine the matter,” Senator Milne said.

“The latest evidence about climate change supports the Greens’ position that nuclear power is no solution to climate change, as the government claims. As well as being dangerous it is too slow to mobilise,” Senator Milne said in a media release.

Democrats Leader Lyn Allison says it is extraordinary that the Government did not make the details of the committee public. “It’s very clear… that we’re looking here at a very secret, narrow and possibly a biased inquiry,” she said. “If that’s where it is going, in fact we’ll be moving as soon as we can to establish a Senate inquiry into this, we think it needs to be open, it needs to be public.” Senator Allison said in a media release that Howard’s push for nuclear power “is greed and glow in the dark politics…”

“The Government has no plan for power generation into the future that doesn’t add to greenhouse emissions or produce intractable waste. The enrichment process is energy-intensive and Australia is already the world’s highest per capita greenhouse gas emitter. We cannot afford another energy guzzling industry, especially when this government has abandoned renewable energy,” she said. “Enriching uranium concentrates the isotopes making the uranium more hazardous, more polluting, and makes Australia a greater target for nuclear terrorism.”

Senator Milne said on the Democrats website: “Australians want leadership on this issue, not knee jerk reactions to what George Bush thinks is a good idea. They want a debate that isn’t set up to merely justify selling enriched uranium and nuclear power.”

Anthony Albanese says John Howard’s push for a nuclear energy debate would become “Australia’s nightmare.” Mr Albanese said Mr Howard’s views were retrospective and not in Australia’s best interests: “This is classic John Howard whether it be the GST, whether it be the extreme industrial relations agenda, or whether it be this nuclear fantasy which will become Australia’s nightmare – John Howard always returns to the past,” Mr Albanese said in a News Limited article.

“For John Howard to say that there hasn’t been a debate on nuclear energy would suggest that he went to sleep in the 50s and he’s just woken up.” Mr Albanese said the dangers and costs of nuclear energy outweighed the energy benefits. “The problems of cost, safety, waste disposals and nuclear proliferation in the climate of terrorism are more acute today than they’ve ever been.”

Nuclear power sites for east coast?

Meanwhile a new study by the Australia Institute has identified several areas on Australia’s east coast, where nuclear power plants could be built if the Howard Government decide to take the nuclear energy path. The Australia Institute say they have consulted experts who say that the plant will need to be located on the coast, near transmission lines and be near a major centre with good rail and port access.

The institute’s Dr Clive Hamilton said the area south of Wollongong, the central coast of New South Wales, the Sunshine Coast and other areas in Queensland and Victoria would be ideal. “You can’t have a nuclear industry without specifying where the nuclear power plants are likely to be,” he said. “We’re really taking up the Prime Minister’s challenge to have a debate about nuclear power in Australia. We want to make it an honest debate and to start talking about where you would put the nuclear power plants if they were to be built.”

Dr Hamilton suggests the nuclear debate barely touched the surface. “Wherever a nuclear power plant is built in Australia, some people aren’t going to like it, that’s just an inevitability,” he said. “I think if we’re going to have a serious nuclear debate rather than just a false debate then we need to start to talk about the reality of building nuclear power plants which, in the end, comes down to location.”

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May 22, 2006

PM John Howard\’s nuclear push causes alarm

PM John Howard’s nuclear push causes alarm

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Monday, May 22, 2006

Nuclear Power for Australia?

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Australian Prime Minister John Howard has announced he wants a “full-scale nuclear debate”, and three of his senior federal government frontbenchers – Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, Resources Minister, Ian Macfarlane, and Environment Minister Ian Campbell – have all suggested Australia, which has around 40 per cent of the world’s known uranium reserves, should consider enriching uranium – a step in processing that would allow it to be used as reactor fuel as well as for nuclear weapons.

However there is strong opposition for nuclear power in the Australian community. The Australian Greens have rejected the Prime Minister’s assumption that nuclear power might be ‘desirable’ for Australia. The Greens say they challenge Mr Howard to show “true leadership on climate change and nuclear non-proliferation.”

Greens climate change and energy spokesperson Senator Christine Milne said Mr Howard was “playing politics” by floating the idea and testing public opinion before developing a government position.

“Instead of pandering to US President George Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair – the two most unpopular leaders in the world today – Prime Minister Howard should demonstrate real leadership and put some authenticity into the government’s response to climate change and terrorism,” Senator Milne said. “Nuclear power and nuclear proliferation are a threat to both.”

Senator Milne challenged advocates of nuclear power to explain what they will to do about nuclear waste, how large a public subsidy they are prepared to pay to prop up nuclear power, and why the Sustainable Development Commission was wrong when it recommended last month against expanding nuclear power in Britain.

“Australians have already had to subsidise uranium mining companies to clean up after mines have closed, while last week’s Budget papers revealed that ANSTO can’t estimate the cost of decommissioning the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor,” Senator Milne said. “When will advocates of nuclear power admit that it is too slow, too expensive and too dangerous to be a solution to climate change? Nor is there any safe way to dispose of the waste. It is not even safe to transport, a concern supported by the head of the International Energy Agency…” said Senator Milne in a media release.

“Instead of turning to nuclear power, Australia should ratify the Kyoto Protocol, invest in renewable energy, adopt a national energy efficiency target and improve public transport.

“Several studies examining options to achieve deep cuts in Australian greenhouse emissions all show this goal can be achieved, cost effectively, without resorting to nuclear power,” said Senator Milne in a media release.

Greens leader Bob Brown says the Prime Minister is sending a message of approval for Indonesia to become a nuclear power. “Australia and our region are essentially nuclear-free. Mr Howard is abandoning that security to grab uranium profits and facilitate an Australian role in nuclear enrichment,” Senator Brown said. “This robs Australia of its moral strength to argue against Indonesia resurrecting the Soeharto plan for 12 nuclear reactors and to advance its interest in Russian-built floating nuclear power stations.”

A Nuclear Symbol

“This will make our region much less secure for the next generation of Australians,” Senator Brown said. “John Howard has talked up regional terrorism. Now he is promoting nuclear power proliferation in our neighbourhood. At best his logic is faulty, at worst he is taking Australia into a future unnecessarily menaced by the nuclear threat,” Senator Brown said.

Labor MP Kelvin Thomson says John Howard’s push towards nuclear power generation could heighten the risk of a terrorist attack. “The problem with nuclear power is that more of it that is around, the easier it is for terrorists to get access to it and I’m not satisfied that in this day and age we can be absolutely certain that terrorists can’t access it,” Mr Thomson said.

Mr Thompson said the Government should be focussing its interest on “much safer and environmentally-friendly” abundant renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power. Mr Thomson said Australia was a potential world-leader in solar power. “Surely you exhaust all the other alternatives first before you say let’s go down the nuclear road,” he said.

“The problem with nuclear power is that more of it that is around, the easier it is for terrorists to get access to it,” he said. “I’m not satisfied that in this day and age you can be absolutely certain that terrorists can’t access it.”

Union leader Bill Shorten, a federal Labor candidate at the next election, believes the issue is unpopular with the electorate. A survey in 2005 found 47 percent of Australians supported nuclear power and 40 percent opposed it.

Professor Frank Muller from the University of New South Wales, said the framework to manage nuclear power needs to be put in place first. He says it could take decades before a nuclear power plant could operate. “So it actually takes even longer to provide a greenhouse benefit than it does to build a power plant,” he said. Professor Muller says nuclear power stations are expensive to build, and safety is a major issue.

Opposition environment spokesman Anthony Albanese said: “John Howard’s nuclear fantasy is Australia’s nightmare,” Mr Albanese told reporters. “Intractable problems with nuclear energy when it comes to economic costs, safety, disposal of waste and contribution to nuclear proliferation remain up to some 50 years.”

Mr Albanese said that if Mr Howard was serious about nuclear power he should say where a nuclear power plant would be built, and where the waste it produced would be stored. “If he’s so confident that nuclear energy is safe… I’m sure he’ll have coalition MPs volunteering to have a nuclear reactor in their electorate and to store their waste in the electorate,” he said.

Mr Albanese said the current Labor policy remained opposed to nuclear energy in Australia.

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May 20, 2006

Australian PM pushes for \”full-blooded\” nuclear energy debate

Australian PM pushes for “full-blooded” nuclear energy debate

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

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Wikinews Australia has in-depth coverage of this issue: Australian nuclear debate

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has told media in Canada that he wants “a full-blooded debate” in Australia about the issue of nuclear power. “I have a very open mind on the development of nuclear energy in my own country,” he said. “That includes an open mind on whether or not Australia should in fact process uranium for the purposes of providing fuel for nuclear power in the future in Australia.”

Australia and Canada are two of the world’s largest uranium producers, and the nuclear energy issue was discussed at length during Prime Minister Howard’s visit to the country this week. Mr Howard said soaring oil prices and environmental concerns from fossil-fuel energy are adding pressure towards the debate in Australia. “I think it is inevitable. The time at which it will come should be governed by economic considerations,” Mr Howard said from Ottawa.

Australian Greens leader Senator Bob Brown labelled the Prime Minister’s call “a sham”. Senator Brown says the Prime Minister has already made up his mind. “His talk about a public debate is a complete sham, he’s made up his mind,” he said. “He’s had no mandate, but he’s got control of the Senate and therefore we are going headlong into becoming a major agent in the nuclear proliferation right around the world.”

Scientists have said Australia could not develop a nuclear power industry in time to stave off the effects of climate change. Greenpeace Australia says that even if there was a doubling of nuclear energy by 2050 it would only reduce greenhouse gas emissions by five percent, well below the large cuts scientists say are necessary. Academics at NSW University and the University of Technology Sydney have said, “No private investor would take on the risk without huge government subsidies.”

The NSW Greens MLC Ian Cohen said that after 50 years, the nuclear industry still had not found a way to store its waste safely. “We don’t want it back and we don’t want to create it here.”

Steve Shallhorn, chief executive of Greenpeace Australia Pacific says the Prime Minister should have used his trip to Canada to learn why “nuclear power is not a viable option.” Mr Shallhorn said that, in Canada, nuclear power has driven up the price of electricity and created dangerous amounts of waste. He says its effect in reducing greenhouse gas emissions is also negligible.

“Nuclear power can only solve a very tiny portion of greenhouse gas problems because electricity is only one source of the problem,” said Mr Shallhorn. “Nuclear power is not going to solve emissions from aircraft, from the industrial sector or from industrial processes.”

“I think it is inevitable. The time at which it will come should be governed by economic considerations,” Mr Howard said from Ottawa.

Australia is one of the world’s top coal producers. The Howard government has supported the coal industry in the face of calls for more renewable energy. Treasurer Peter Costello, next-in-line for the prime minister’s job, has said “nuclear power would cost twice as much as coal power, adding that nuclear energy was not economically right for Australia at the present time because it had such large resources of gas and coal.”

John Howard said nuclear power in Australia “could be closer than some people would have thought a short while ago.” Federal Industry Minister, Ian Macfarlane, claimed it could be as early as 2020.

The Opposition’s environment spokesman, Anthony Albanese, said Labor opposed nuclear power on cost, safety, and waste and proliferation grounds. “Labor will not change that view.” He said he looks forward to “Labor ending John Howard’s nuclear fantasy.” Energy experts say that Australia could not develop a nuclear power industry in time to stave off the effects of climate change, and such a program would be prohibitively expensive.

A 2005 survey found 47 percent of Australians supported nuclear power and 40 percent opposed it. The federal opposition party, and all six state governments, oppose nuclear power. Australia has a strict “no new mines” uranium policy.

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March 30, 2006

Australian MPs exchange fighting words over healthcare rebate

Australian MPs exchange fighting words over healthcare rebate

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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Fighting words were exchanged in the Australian House of Representatives over the matter of the division of Medicare safety net payments per electorate. The Minister for Health and Ageing Tony Abbott (Liberal, Warringah) had introduced a policy that the Government would pay Medicare users up to a fixed amount — the safety net — to help in addressing “gaps” in certain payments which Medicare would not cover, such as certain hospital payments. The Opposition was opposed to the idea on efficacy counts.

Abbott was asked a Dorothy Dixer in Question Time today about the benefits of the safety net. He alleged that criticism by the Opposition Health spokeswoman Julia Gillard (Labor, Lalor) that the safety net favoured Liberal/National Party coalition electorates was misleading as it was a Labor electorate, Grayndler that received the “highest safety net benefits per electorate”.

This led Gillard to make a personal explanation after Question Time, stating that “the top four electorates receiving money under the Medicare safety net are Wentworth, North Sydney, Bradfield and Warringah” — all coalition electorates. The Leader of the Opposition, Kim Beazley (Labor, Brand), put a question to the Speaker of the House, David Hawker (Liberal, Wannon) asking of the Speaker his “assurance that no person is being deliberately misled by the actions of any other person”.

Abbott had then interjected towards Beazley, saying “You big bellowing cow”; the Speaker asked Abbott to withdraw, but Abbott mentioned that “the Leader of the Opposition regularly interjects ‘pompous ass’ and ‘goose’, but I am happy to withdraw”. Beazley then responded through the Speaker saying of Abbott, “I think that he is a sleazy, dummy-spitting, little git.”

Abbott then made a personal explanation of his own, saying “The safety net benefit per person in the electorate of the member for Grayndler was $591, the highest in New South Wales…the safety net benefit in the electorate of Sydney was $589, the second highest…the benefit in the electorate of Lowe was $458, the third highest”.

The matter was not further raised at the time, but after the Matter of Public Importance debate, Gillard moved a motion to suspend standing orders which would prevent Abbott from explaining his earlier claim “when this claim is totally untrue”, to correct the “grossly inaccurate and misleading statement”, to “apologise to all Members in this place” and to “apologize to the Member for Grayndler and his constituents”. Gillard also listed the amounts of payments “released by the Minister himself”, that Wentworth received $7.8 million, North Sydney received $7.5 million, Bradfield received $6.9 million, Warringah received $6.3 million; whereas Grayndler received only $3.6 million. She attempted to debate the motion but a gag motion to silence Gillard was moved and won because of Government numbers. Anthony Albanese, the Labor member for Grayndler attempted to second the motion but the gag was moved on him as well. The final vote on the motion was lost 55 to 79.

Sources

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  • Australian House of Representatives Hansard, March 29, 2006.



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January 7, 2006

Australian government says technology could reduce emissions three times more than Kyoto

Australian government says technology could reduce emissions three times more than Kyoto

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Saturday, January 7, 2006

Climate change

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Less than one week out from the inaugural Asia-Pacific Clean Development and Climate Partnership meeting in Sydney, the Australian government has claimed that technology could be used to cut emissions three times more than the Kyoto Protocol.

Ian Macfarlane, Minister for Industry said that the six countries at next week’s meeting will discuss ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions while continuing to produce large amounts of energy.

“While Kyoto puddles on, to put it nicely, the real reductions will come from technology” Mr Macfarlane said. “This is not a diplomatic love-in. It’s a hard-edged business plan with targets and reporting duties.”

The members of the partnership – Australia, the United States, China, India, Japan and South Korea produce around half of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Of the world’s developed nations only Australia and the United States have refused to ratify Kyoto.

The pact will not set binding targets upon its members, but will monitor its results.

It is believed that the meeting will discuss nuclear energy generation, geothermal energy and capturing and storing gases underground.

The federal opposition is calling on the Australian government to ratify Kyoto. Environment spokesman, Anthony Albanese, said “The Kyoto Protocol is the main game, with mandatory fixed targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions over an extended timetable, with economic instruments driving the policy outcomes”.

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January 5, 2006

Australian Labor Party announces new Climate Change Policy

Australian Labor Party announces new Climate Change Policy

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Thursday, January 5, 2006

Climate change

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The Labor Party of Australia has today launched “Our Drowning Neighbours”, a Pacific Climate Change strategy. The strategy was announced at 11am today, at Parliament House, Canberra, by Bob Sercombe MP (Shadow Minister for Pacific Island Affairs and Overseas Aid) and Anthony Albanese MP (Shadow Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Water).

Senator Bob Brown of the Australian Greens party welcomed aspects of the statement but suggested that the policy as stated was weak and pointed out that Labor had voted against Greens Senator Christine Milne’s motion calling for recognition of Pacific climate change refugees just two months previously.

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November 3, 2005

Australian House of Representatives grows heated over industrial relations legislation

Australian House of Representatives grows heated over industrial relations legislation

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Thursday, November 3, 2005

Australian industral relations reform legislation made up of 700 pages of bill legislation and 500 additional pages of explanatory memoranda was introduced into the Federal House of Representatives November 2, where the Opposition heatedly attempted to address their perceived problem of the Government’s lack of discussion and debate over the matter.

The first reading of the bill was the first order of the day, and when Kevin Andrews tried to do so, Opposition member Stephen Smith, responsible for workplace relations, immediately moved a motion deferring the bills to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment, Workplace Relations and Workforce Participation. The Leader of the House, Tony Abbott moved that Smith and the necessary supporter — viz., Julia Gillard — be not further heard (cloture). The Government’s majority in the House ensured that this would happen. However, Opposition members attempted to use House standing orders necessitating that copies of the bill to be “available to Members”, with argument arising whether “available to Members” meant all members or simply whether some copies should be available; this ended up in a dissent motion moved against the Speaker of the House.

Later, in a heated Question Time, where six members of the Opposition, (Kelly Hoare, Julia Irwin, Anthony Albanese, Bernard Ripoll, Catherine King, and Gavan O’Connor), were removed from the Chamber during Question Time under standing orders for disruption — Jill Hall quipped that she was “glad to be still here to ask [her] question” — nearly all questions to the Government put by the Opposition, the subsequent time for matters of public importance, and some members in the adjournment debate, was all on the topic of the industrial relations reform.

To implement and fund the legislation, the government will “spend an additional $486million on industrial relations changes over four years, or $121million a year. This spending would be in addition to the present annual budget of $86million.” said an unnamed government source for The Australian.

The government will need to use its corporation powers to remove the powers from the states to alter the award conditions and other employee employer related conditions. But the New South Wales premier Morris Iemma has received legal advice that the legislation maybe unconstitutional, the reason being its being used to end the role of the states and territories Australian States in the industrial relations system. “It is our view that the Commonwealth is misusing this law to achieve exactly what it was designed to prevent”, Iemma said. Mr Iemma will be challenging the changes in the high court with Peter Beattie Premier of Queensland supporting his challenge in the High Court.



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Australian Members of Parliament removed from chamber again in rowdy session of Question Time

Australian Members of Parliament removed from chamber again in rowdy session of Question Time

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Thursday, November 3, 2005 In what appears to be a continuing trend from the Australian House of Representatives Question Time session November 2, an further six Federal Opposition members and one Government member were ejected during and just after Question Time November 3.

Anthony Albanese, having been warned earlier to Question Time was the first removed, and after Opposition members had interjected “Boring, boring!” to an answer from the Australian Treasurer Peter Costello describing the Opposition stance on the industrial relations reform as a “scare campaign”, the Speaker Neil Andrew issued a “general warning”.

Wayne Swan, Tanya Plibersek|Tanya Plibersek, Jill Hall, Julia Irwin (who was also removed yesterday) were also asked to remove themselves under standing order 94(a).

When controversy arose after a question was asked to the Leader of the House, Tony Abbott, about the issue of distributing bills on the industrial relations changes and the Speaker intervened in favour of Abbott, he went on to say that Stephen Smith “took copies of the workplace relations bill, handed them to an adviser and then the adviser exited the chamber…he then raised a point of order claiming copies were not available”. Graham Edwards said “You’re a fraud, Abbott!” and he was also removed.

Later, when Smith rose after Question Time to make a personal explanation that he did not “[remove] nor [steal] 60 copies of the bill”, Michael Ferguson had interjected and was removed — the only Government member to be removed over the previous few days. Julia Gillard asked the Speaker that of the eighteen Opposition members and one Government member removed over the last two days, “whether 18:1…equals a fair application of the rules as to keeping order in the House”, to which he said that “the last two days have been particularly noisy and…it has required more discipline than the chair would like to have to exercise.”

Sources

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