This far in to the longest election in living memory, you'd be forgiven for thinking there is nothing good about an election, other than it being over.
Elections are interesting times. We starts to see more of our local representatives, whether we want to or not. On one side we are reminded how well we are being served by our government, and on the other we are reminded of how we are being failed by those same people. Interest groups become more vocal, and those who are given the biggest megaphone can leave us wondering why.
And in among all that, we start to have the kind of conversations we need to have… about the present and the future.
The Conversation website is always a great source of information and inspiration. During this election period they have provided some great stories. Below are a few worth checking out.
The storm system along the East coast has done a great deal of damage, led to a number of tragedies, and has got people asking great questions… like - Is climate change playing a role in these events?
It also has people considering the unseen damage occurring from water run-off and the associated pollution of our waterways caused by the way our cities are designed. There is clearly more we should do, and you’ll find some suggestions in the article by Katherine Dafforn and Emma Johnston from UNSW.
Innovation has been a word that Malcolm Turnbull has been using frequently, without well-defining what he is talking about, or even proposing where our innovation investment should be focussed. Perhaps he doesn’t know, or perhaps he just needs a distraction from the record of his government. Either way, there are people who are making real and concrete suggestions about where our potential lies.
Peter Fisher from RMIT asks what a smart modern city looks like. This includes digital entanglement, densification and managing the risks of climate change. The Greens see these same risks and are addressing them through its policy on the NBN, protecting the envirnoment, addressing the reef's challenges, meeting our future transport needs, supporting and investing in innovation and research.
Professor Peter Doherty suggests that we play to our strengths and take advantage of our abundant renewable resources and our ability in medical and scientific research.
And what about the issues facing rural and regional Australia? According to Stewart Lockie from JCU they are: Infrastructure, Unemployment, Diversification and New economy jobs, ATSI participation, Health, Education and Social services, Climate change, Natural resource management, and Agriculture. You can read more of his views here.
The Greens understand this and have policies which include supporting our clean energy future, community owned energy, getting the community into active transport, investing in health, closing the gap, and empowering ATSI peoples.
Part of the process of being clear about the facts and the truth, is the ability to identify the lies, the exaggerations, and the popular myths. Again The Conversation and their fact checking unit is a great source of information.
While most rational people would take anything Pauline Hanson said with a grain of salt.. fact check has debunked her claims that crime is getting worse in Australia. And while Pauline relied on anecdotes, sensationalist news reports and her own gut feeling, fact check looked at the official data.
So rather than feel like you are being let down by politicians or news services who want to sell you the idea that all we need is a big new dam, or a new football stadium and all our problems will be solved for the next three years… feel encouraged that you can always search out other, more reliable sources of information, advice and opinion.
The Greens want people to be informed, they embrace a diversity of ideas and opinions, they support the research and the science, and they want people to make their own informed decisions. And the Greens have a full suite of policies which supports and integrates all the outcomes it believes in.
We might be in the middle of an election campaign but we will keep telling the truth, we will keep the hyperbole under control, and we will continue to highlight the kind of ideas that will serve the interests of all Australians.
In our opinion The Conversation website is such a reliable source. When you get the chance, check it out.
by Wendy Tubman
Water is an issue for the nation (one of the driest continents on Earth), as well as for Townsville, a large regional city in the dry tropics. The choices we make about water security underpin cost of living pressures, liveability and the ability of the city to grow and support jobs and industry.
Water is a simple supply and demand relationship. We can’t expect an unlimited supply and we can’t expect to have unrestrained demand.
We need a reasonable balance.
On the supply side - Townsville has an excellent water supply system, with highly treated and very safe water sourced from the Ross, Paluma and Burdekin dams.
While the Ross is our main supply dam, it is highly variable, with a limited catchment and low rainfall. The Paluma dam is situated in the wet tropics and is much more reliable, but can only supply 30 ML per day. The Burdekin dam is a huge system, with over 1 000 000 ML per year of water allocations, some of which is not committed. Townsville has 120 000 ML of allocation from the Burdekin.
In 2014, the Department of Energy and Water Supply (DEWS) undertook an assessment of Townsville’s water security. It found that at current consumption levels of 60 000 ML per year, we would have to be on Level 4 water restriction on average once every 160 years. It’s almost certain that we will have level 4 water restrictions this year (and perhaps next year). But that doesn’t mean we have a chronic water shortage problem.
It should be noted that the DEWS report used historical data in its modelling and did not consider the impacts of climate change on rainfall and catchment flows. However CSIRO have found that climate change is not likely to result in significant changes to rainfall patterns in North Queensland.
It is however worth considering that with population and economic growth we would expect to see demand grow to around 75,000 ML/a by 2026 (if current usage patterns remain the same). Even with that level of consumption, DEWS found that we would have to impose Level 4 water restrictions only once every 100 years.
Nevertheless, people are concerned about the city’s water supply, so it is worth some discussion now.
There have been a number of supply side solutions floated: Haughton pipeline duplication ($250M), Hells Gate Dam ($2-3B), Desalination (over $5B), but all these proposals have logistical challenges (and costs) as well as significant environmental impacts.
This begs the question… What about the demand side?
Townsville discharges 40 ML per day of treated water into the sea. There is an opportunity for reuse of this water, either in a third pipe system for irrigation or returned to the Ross Dam for additional treatment as part of the potable water supply. Reuse of treated wastewater directly into the water supply dam is not only safe, but common in many parts of the world, including Europe.
Many of us have travelled to places like London, drunk the water without hesitation, without ‘taste’ issues and without any ill-effects. The time will come when water management of this kind will be common in Australian cities, but until then there are other water saving options.
The reuse of treated wastewater for irrigation (whether for food production or for maintaining public facilities like sporting fields) is already common place in Australia and is a viable solution for Townsville. It will come at an additional infrastructure cost, but a much smaller cost than the supply side solutions. It will also be more reliable as it will not depend on rainfall
Alternatively, we can maintain our water demand to 60 000 ML/a and these works wills not be required. If we are factoring in population growth, to reduce our total city demand means we need to reduce our per capita consumption by 20%. If, as some are predicting, Townsville grows to 300,000 these reductions would need to be around 50%. The good news is both targets are achievable.
The average Townsville household uses 1,700 litres of water per day, while in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne households use around 210 to 285 litres per day. More than 70% of Townsville's water supply is currently being used on residential lawns and gardens
This needs to be addressed by applying targeted and effective price signals on usage, but also through a range of strategies that give us more benefit per drop of water (more efficient showers and toilets, better grey water reuse systems, less thirsty gardens or less wasteful gardeners)
It is time to have a healthy discussion about Townville’s water use. People need to understand their options along with the pros and cons of every choice. They need to know what are the most cost-effective and responsible courses of action, but they are being badly let down by the media and the major parties. But through forums like this blog the Greens are happy to lead the conversation.
The Greens propose policies which are economically, socially and environmentally responsible. And our approach to a sustainable water supply for Townsville is consistent with this approach.
The same can’t be said for the current election campaign, with the haphazard, expensive and unsustainable solutions being proposed by the major parties and their unfunded and poorly researched proposals.
by Wendy Tubman
Life is complex – socially as well as biologically.
The current, devastating, coral bleaching event Is primarily the result of ongoing warm seawater associated with the climate change happening around us. But climate change also increases the acidity of the ocean, another problem for the coral.
Then again, stresses like nutrient-rich run-off and coastal development, also decrease the extent to which the coral is able to cope with the warm water And the bleaching isn't just an issue for the coral itself but for everything that depends on it.
These dependents are not only fish and other sea creatures which depend on the coral reefs for food and protection, but also many groups of people, including commercial and recreational fishers and those who sell and consume fish, fishing rods and boats; the tens of thousands working in reef-related tourism; those who travel to the reef and experience transformative joy at seeing its beauty, and those who fly them there; those who research the coral looking for things with medical benefits; and those who live on the coast and depend (whether they know it or not) on the coral reef to protect the coastline from cyclones and tsunamis.
To make matters even more complex, the impacts of climate change stretch further than to the reefs around the world and the issues linked to that.
It is estimated that, as a result of the adverse effects of climate change, 400,000 people die every year
The Climate and Health Alliance in their latest report has described climate change as both the “defining health issue” and the “greatest global health threat” of the 21st century.
Worsening levels of health impose financial burdens on individuals, the community and the economy. For example, there are limited funds for health care and, as more funds need to be allocated to dealing with the direct fallout from climate change, less can be spent on the most efficient form of health care: preventative health.
Reduced health has productivity outcomes – from reduced output at work, to chronic illness and work absences, and on to early death, which means skill sets are lost forever.
Poor health also leads to poorer educational outcomes – for children as well as adults.
Lower levels of education not only mean reduced productivity, less innovation, and a reduction in high value work, it also leads to poorer health choices, which in turn mean poorer health outcomes.
As you can see, environmental outcomes affect economic outcomes, they affect health outcomes, which affect educational outcomes, which in turn affect economic and health outcomes. And as we live in the global village, this all has an effect on foreign affairs, and immigration.
Everything is co-dependent and interconnected. What this should mean is that policy frameworks are likewise interconnected. As we develop educational policy, we must have an eye to economic policy and health policy; as we develop health policy we should be mindful of how this might affect or be affected by environmental policy, education policy, economic policy, foreign policy. Etc, etc.
You get the picture... interconnectedness.
But does government policy take this into account? When the health minister announces policy changes (like the $7 co-payment) do they mention the impact this will have on workplace productivity, educational outcomes, or economic outcomes (outside of the direct savings they believe this change will drive).
They don't. Not just because they don't know (the modeling is never that robust) but because it hasn't been a consideration in the policy development process. Instead, policy has been developed by adhering to particular philosophies – like 'living within our means'; 'small government'; 'only doing for people what they can't do themselves'.
You hear the philosophies repeated again and again... which is symptomatic of the problem with the major parties.
The budget will be delivered soon. It will outline where the spending priorities lie. It will present all the expected benefits of addressing those priorities. But will it be a coherent statement that highlights the interconnectedness of our everyday lives?
It may, but the signs aren't good.
Ewen Jones appeared on Q&A on Monday. Ewen can be relied upon to repeat the governments talking points, push their key themes, and, at the same time, say as little as possible. On Monday Ewen was asked about youth unemployment and the future for North Queensland.
You can watch his answer by clicking on the video below
Basically... mining, coal, coal fired power, poles and wires, dams... if you build them the jobs will come (including for youth), and the country towns will thrive.
Very narrow. Possibly it represents where the government's thinking is. But don't take my word for it. Decide for yourself when the budget is released
by Wendy Tubman
The Blog has been offline for some time but has returned just in time - to provide an alternative perspective in Townsville in a Federal election year.
Expect the blog to post well referenced articles, to propose innovative ideas for our region, and speak up for those who have been long abandoned by the major parties.
A lot has happened since our last post - we've seen the back of the worst PM in Australia's history, we've seen him replaced by an egalitarian republican who believes in equality and climate science but does nothing on marriage equality, the republic or avoiding dangerous climate change.
Australian politics is still difficult to fathom, but has been nothing was more ridiculous than Greg Hunt being awarded best Minister in the Whole Universe... or something to that effect. First Dog on The Moon can make more sense of it than I can.
Stay tuned for even more interesting time ahead.
by Mark Enders
It is widely accepted that you can't unscramble an egg. But I'd suggest that you can... we just haven't worked out how, and no one has been able to apply themselves to the task for long enough to succeed.
In some ways this is an analogy for addressing the issues of both climate change and energy security, two issues that seem to be working at cross purposes at present. But is that really the case, or is it in some people's interest to maintain this supposed opposition
As mentioned in the previous blog post, an oft used strategy by those who are seeking to subvert the national conversation on climate (because they don't have a good story or because the facts don't support their assertions) is to muddy the waters... or scramble the egg. But despite their best efforts, the climate change discussion egg is not scrambled.
There are a number of websites and organisations which aim to provide the honesty and the clarity which are essential in such an important international debate. Among them the ABC has done a fine job with its Fact Check unit in clarifying some of the public arguments which are being made against action on Climate Change.
The ABC have recently confirmed:
They have debunked the scare campaign that serious action on climate change will bankrupt us. While the government and the Murdoch press screamed that real action on emissions reduction will cost $600B, the treasury modelling they claimed to quote actually said that the economic effects of all scenarios considered “are small compared with the ongoing growth in GDP and GNI per person over time”. In other words - serious action is affordable, while delay and inaction is very costly.
Greg Jericho has also done some excellent modelling which show the real impact of a 45% emissions reduction on the economy, and finds Abbott's assertion about a $600B hit as 'breathtakingly stupid'.
While the entry of real authorities into the debate has ensured that the '$600B scare campaign' has disappeared very quickly that's not to say we won't see it trotted out as a desperate government looks to get re-elected.
Another scare campaign is being built around 'green vigilantes' who are supposedly looking to shut down the mining industry through litigation. A threat so serious it requires legislative changes to further weaken environmental protections.
Thankfully this scare and these legislative changes seem to be leaving Senate cross-benchers unimpressed. But the push by our government to reduce accountability and oversight is alarming as it risk removing protections that restrain authoritarian governments. It comes with consequences of limiting public interest litigation in defence of the environment. And it should be remembered that Greg Hunt's approval was struck down by the courts because due process was not followed. Asking governments to follow legislated process is hardly the actions of a vigilante. Cristy Clarke from Southern Cross University outlines these hazards on The Conversation website.
The resources industry claims Green groups are seeking to delay mining projects so that they become unprofitable, and Andrew Bolt claims Green groups are 'strangling our future'. Delay tactics have been a part of the fossil fuel industry's play book since the earliest days of Carbon Capture and storage, and after more than a decade of government support this fantasy technological solution is really no closer to commercial scale.
The Conversation often also touches on subjects that are not currently a part of the public conversation, but should be. In relation to Climate change and energy policy, rather than buying into arguments about baseload power, whether coal is good for humanity, whether renewable targets are unaffordable or unachievable, they address the need for energy efficiency. There is a great article which offers up new areas worthy of debate by following this link.
Going back to the scrambled egg analogy... it's possible that we are thinking about the issues associated with both climate change and energy security in the wrong way. After all, a young man worked out how to unscramble an egg back in 2013.
by Mark Enders
As was suggested in the first blog, there is a great deal of misinformation out there which is designed to confuse people, muddy the waters, and subvert the debate. If people aren't sure of the facts, it is easier to shift the debate or even to shut it down completely (by suggesting it is a non-issue).
A perfect example of this can be seen in the approach some take to talking about global temperatures. The classic argument for warming being a non-event as put forward by those who want to shut down debate includes using 1998 as their reference point. They then suggest that as no warming has occurred since, the issue is a fantasy. They use this reference point because 1998 was the hottest year of the entire 20th Century. In comparison to an unusually hot year, other temperatures appear relatively benign. But when looking at long term trends, the rise is unmistakeable... as in the diagram below.
This argument seems to have been recently abandoned as 2014 was the hottest on record, and that has now been trumped as we are currently in the hottest month and year on record globally. You'll find an excellent article on this so called 'Warming hiatus' here.
The same approach has been taken to reducing global emissions. The initial reference period was 1990 emissions, which was agreed to under the Kyoto protocol. Australia was very late to the party and only signed the Kyoto protocol in 2007, when the Howard government was finally removed. Under the Rudd government we committed to a 5% reduction in emissions based on 2000 emissions. And now under the Abbott government, the goal posts have shifted yet again... to 2005.
Why 2005? Well if you believe Tony Abbott (and to be honest nobody does) it is so we can compare 'Apples with Apples' on the international stage. But the truth is that 2005 was a year for unusually large levels of emissions... making the current targets look better than they actually are.
How much have things changed since 1990. According to the graph below sourced from the US Environmental Protection Agency - global emissions have risen by about 35%
But just looking at Australia - A 28% reduction (as recently announced by the Abbott Government) based on 1990 levels takes us from 550,777 Gg of CO2 down to around 396559 Gg. Based on 2005 levels, to get down to that level would require a 35% reduction in our emissions - a much more respectable target
This intentional deceptiveness is well laid out by Mike Seccombe.
The Abbott government keeps doing as little as it can by setting low-ball targets in comparison to other nations with comparable economies, and by moving the goalposts. A 28% reduction based on 2005 levels, translates to only a 20% reduction based on 1990 levels.
The Abbott government has never played it straight with the Australian people... so why would they start now?
by Mark Enders
The Townsville Greens will publish blogs considered to be of merit. The opinions expressed are those of the Author.