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Help fight for a Constitutional law giving us The Right To A Healthy Environment [TRTAHE].

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The Australian Federal Government does not presently have a legal responsibility nor the legal power, [nor the desire], to act above the States and Territories in regard to the ‘approval’ or ‘rejection’ of gas and coal mining projects nor other economic activity, to ensure “The Right To A Healthy Environment” of every Australian. 

Impacts generated during the exploration and production stages of Gas-fields and coal mining projects may pose a potential threat to human health, animal health, our farmland, the environment, water resources and climate. 

The State and Territory governments have ‘sole power’ in regard to the approval or rejection of mining projects.  Their treasuries also ‘receive any revenues’ generated from the mining projects that they approve.  A clear ‘conflict of interest’ exists.

                                         “The little people”

When concerned Australians ask Federal politicians for help because of adverse health or environmental impacts, politicians always sidestep the question by saying, “Mining is a State issue.”  

During the ABC, Q & A Tamworth debate held before the 2016 Federal election, Sandra Bamberry who lived with her family near 25 gas wells in Tara, Queensland; addressed the panel claiming that the air and water around her home and land were contaminated by lead levels too high for the kids safety, so they moved out. 

She asked the 3 politicians on the panel, “What will you do to help the little people like us get the new beginnings we deserve?”  In short she was told by Barnaby Joyce the Deputy Prime Minister and by Joel Fitzgibbon the Labor spokesperson for Agriculture that ‘mining was a state issue,’ and Mr Joyce said that the High Court will not allow them to intervene.  Sandra responded by saying to the politicians,     “…. And you’re sitting there telling me it’s a State issue.  It’s not a State issue, it’s a very, very serious issue right across the nation and you just sat there and told me you’re going to do nothing.” 


                 Additional detailed background information

                   [if you have time and want to read  more]

I, like many others became concerned when successive NSW State Labor and State Liberal/National governments approved 15 Coal Seam Gas exploration wells in the Woronora and Nepean drinking water catchments that supply the people living in Sydney with their drinking water.  Coal Seam Gas-fields are well established in Queensland and in NSW a gas production field with 96 wells has been operating at Camden for 14 years.  An exploration well was approved at Bentley near Lismore, 4 wells were ‘fracked’ at Gloucester, NSW., and 50 exploration wells have been drilled in the Pilliga State Forest at Narrabri, NSW., with a plan to drill 850 production wells there. 

The Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews in August, 2016 announced that his government would introduce a ban on coal seam gas extraction to protect the state’s valuable farming sector, which earned billions of dollars in exports each year and employed nearly 200,000 people.

There is a ‘temporary ban’ on gas-fields in Sydney’s drinking water catchment, ‘temporary !,’ why is it only a temporary ban, that’s crazy?

This newly developed form of gas extraction often described as ‘fracking’ arrived from the USA about 8 years ago and was approved by successive Labor and Liberal / National - State governments without any government sponsored independent scientific investigations being conducted beforehand to assess the risks.  Conveniently for the gas miners, but alarmingly, independent “baseline testing” was not completed, meaning there is no original scientific record available with which to compare any potential adverse impacts to land, water and air against, “before” and “after” the mining commenced.

But still the politicians tell us, “its world’s best practice.”  Well, in fact “it world’s best American practice,” and the Americans forced it on to their people without any independent scientific risk assessments or baseline testing being completed either.   In fact, in 2005 they exempted the shale gas/oil industry from some provisions in the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act plus they allowed drilling and oil services firms to NOT disclose the type of chemicals that they used to frack, if they wanted to declare the chemicals a ‘trade secret.’    

It’s not surprising that government oversight in Australia is basically a ‘desktop model’ with a few public servants processing reports while independent government authorised monitoring and testing is non existent.  The fossil fuel industry contract / employ many former politicians and political staffers to lobby the state and federal politicians from the two major parties to look after their interests.  This is backed up by substantial donations to the two major political parties meaning they have the ear of the government and the opposition.  The regulatory system in place means that all testing and reports are completed by contractors hired by the mining companies, then forwarded to public servants for scanning and filing, after giving them a big tick of approval. So what about us, “the little people” ?

Communities living close to these gas-fields [and coal fields] have been fighting fiercely because of the threats these projects pose to their health, their children’s health and the fact that their house and land will become worthless, meaning they can’t sell up, because no one else wants to live there.  You’ve got a house, a mortgage and your house is no longer safe for you and your children to live in.  You’re trapped! 

There have been community successes, the Bentley and Gloucester gas projects [NSW] were stopped after protectors united and fought.  Politicians don’t listen unless an electoral seat is under threat. There are plans in place for the gas-field at Camden, NSW to close in the future.  The “little people’s” demand for a Federal Royal Commission into adverse health impacts will in the future be acted on after the truth comes out, but we can’t just sit around waiting.  State governments have approved many massive coal projects throughout NSW., Queensland and Australia.  Of note is a proposed coal project on prime agricultural farmland on the Liverpool Plains, Gunnedah NSW., and another the proposed Carmichael coal mine in Central Queensland which will pose a further deadly threat to the sensitive coral of the Great Barrier Reef.  Their federal mates signed off in regard to the “water issue side” [water trigger] of those projects allowing the states to then proudly claim, “The Federal government has approved this project.”  And the Federal politicians respond with something like, “We are step 15 in a 17 step process and the State government say 5 independent water experts concluded that the mine would not impact on highly productive aquifers.”  What would Maxwell Smart, Agent – 86 from Control, say about it, … “Chief, it’s the old, ‘good cop – bad cop,’ trick.”

This at a time when the Paris Climate Agreement signed by the Prime Minister of Australia, dictates that governments should keep fossil fuels in the ground to reduce the release of carbon dioxide [CO2] into the atmosphere.  Coal Seam Gas [methane] is a flammable greenhouse gas 84 times more heat trapping than carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over the first 20 years.  The Paris agreement also obliges governments to take strong action to support and promote a transition to safe clean non-polluting renewable energy, which is now, the new “innovation revolution.”  Why; because the good health of planet Earth and every thing on it is at high risk!  This is World War III without the usual weapons. Nature can be more destructive than man made weapons.

Insurance companies worldwide have been factoring climate change into their risk assessments for over 40 years.  In July 2017, a group of global firms with combined market value of US$1.5 trillion and US$20 trillion in assets will deliver recommendations to G20 leaders on how to avoid the risk of serious financial dislocation caused by a carbon bust. A chief executive with an Investor Group on Climate Change recently said, "Once you put it on your financial statements, companies start to treat it differently.  Climate change is one of those issues that will never be material in any historical reporting period, right up until the point where your whole industry goes out of business."

Funny isn’t it, but it seems that the ordinary people ‘get it,’ and that the only group that don’t ‘get it’ are the politicians here and throughout the world, who are slow to publicly and loudly acknowledge or take appropriate action re the imminent threat that climate change poses to the health of planet earth and everyone on it, which proves that fossil fuel lobbying is a powerful weapon. 

The names of all the Australian politicians and others throughout the world who failed to stand up for planet earth when it mattered most, will be permanently etched into the pages of history.  In years to come all their spin, excuses and ‘in hindsight’ defences won’t be enough to erase the truth.  All has been documented and the record will show that their political cowardice was spawned by a narcissistic desire to place the value of a financial benefit to their own political party and to themselves; above what is best for the climate, environment and the people that they claim that they represent.

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison on 09.02.2017, produced a lump of coal in federal parliament, (it was coated with lacquer so he wouldn’t get his hands dirty) and he joyfully handed it to the Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce whose face became red  and expanded with apparent excitement and laughter.  It was then passed to other Ministers on the front bench then to the back benchers.  Mr Morrison said to the opposition and to us via our television sets, “Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared, it won’t hurt you. It’s coal.”  That got a good laugh from his side of the chamber, but it doesn’t change the fact that in 2017 coal is a ‘sick joke’ in regard to its proven adverse impacts on climate change and to human health.  On the positive side, I suppose it was a good visual aid supporting their promotion of “ultra-supercritical coal-fired power stations” an allegedly, very special NEW “clean coal” [CC] which everyone in the real world knows is actually ridiculously ultra-stupid - “dirty expensive clean coal.”  [DECC]   

Just when you thought that the politicians had stopped treating us like idiots, the PM and his senior ministers told us there is an ‘energy crisis’ and a ‘shortage of gas’, and began loudly demanding that the states and territories reduce their renewable energy targets and withdraw their moratoriums or bans on coal seam gas fields.  The PM called the gas industry CEO’s to a meeting on 15.03.2017, announcing, “It is not acceptable for Australia – shortly to become the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas – to not have enough gas for its own families and it own businesses.”  He boasted about the size of his constitutional stick, saying, “the industry understands the gravity of its “social licence” to operate.” 

The truth is there is no shortage of gas in Australia, we export 70% of our gas to south east Asia, and there is enough gas in the Bass Strait to supply the east coast indefinitely.  The ACCC in 2016 identified that Australian industry had received “few, if any, real offers for gas.”  So isn’t this all just a phoney ‘energy crisis’ and ‘shortage of gas’?”   You bet it is, and journalist, Waleed Aly nailed it in an article he wrote in the SMH on 16.03.2017 titled, “Phoney energy crisis merely a ploy to access off-limits gas” and Waleed finished off his great article with, “It’s a neat trick, really.  Take a country with enough gas to supply itself “indefinitely,” send the vast majority of it overseas, refuse to sell locally at a fair price, create a domestic shortage, then demand access to some of our most environmentally sensitive resources as though it’s an emergency outcome.”

 Who’s the PM kidding, no state premier would be silly enough to fall for that one !  Ur, Well …. actually one did, SA Premier Jay Weatherill announced that he is about to offer farmers in SA a 10% royalty for any gas wells drilled on their farmlands.  Well I hope the royalty payments promised to farmers turn out to be a gigantic sum of money because once the gas wells are drilled on their farms they’ll need all the royalty money they can get from the government.  It will have to cover them and their family for the rest of their lives. 

 Why?  Their farm will be turned into an industrialised gas-field, above and below ground and rendered valueless, meaning their 40 years of toil was for nothing, and the very high risk of toxic contamination will mean there’s no farming future for you, your kids and grand kids. Not to mention the real risk of the states’ farming sector collapsing.  No person, nor politicians’ family for that matter, will risk buying produce that comes from a farm that they know has gas wells on it. The same applies to overseas buyers.  Reputation is everything. Most people in Australia are not prepared to knowingly buy food from China and that is why we want food labelling with country of origin to avoid contaminated imports. In fact families in China gladly buy healthy uncontaminated produce imported from Australia and are happy to pay top dollar for it.  How many $billion is a state farming sector worth?  The whole farming sector will be at risk of being stuffed forever. And the fact is, the state / federal governments and the gas miners don’t have a “social licence,” to impose toxic gas-fields on you, so lock the gate !  And fight like a scalded cat.

It’s sad that while playing silly kiddies games in parliament house, our federal politicians also defend their cowardice in not promoting renewable energy with misleading claims about electricity price rises and grid security. Why?  They are welded to a 20th century view of energy production, because the fossil fuel lobbyists have done their job and played them beautifully.  The politicians are treating us like fools, while looking after their fossil fuel industry lobbyist mates.     

The outdated and dying fossil fuel industry and their well connected lobbyists are no doubt, very gratified, relieved and happy with that ‘political state of mind’ as it serves to slow down their inevitable ‘fossil fuel death spiral’ while protecting their terminally ill financial investments.   

 Consideration of the good health of the Australian environment, the climate, its people, every animal, land and water, now and into the future, should override approval by any state or territory government of ‘risky’ projects, just because of a state or territory politicians’ wet dream about their ‘treasury bottom line.’ 

 Can our federal politicians be trusted to consider and fight for your “right to a healthy environment” above decisions made by the states and territories; without a law that directs that they must?  The answer is, “NO.” 

 Will you join the fight to create a new federal law guaranteeing the ‘constitutional recognition’ of THE RIGHT TO A HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT of every Australian

That is to give the federal government the responsibility and power above and over the states and territories to consider the preservation and protection of a healthy environment as the highest criteria, by directing the federal government to take responsibility and to be accountable, when necessary, to override the states and territories by stopping any projects that threaten the good health of our environment and us, “the little people.”     

“Australia we can do this !” - “No ?”… Would you believe  we’ll have a bloody go !”

                                                      …. and loving it.

                                                  Under the Southern Cross


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