The next six months are shaping as a grim time for the environment based on recent events.
While Julia Gillard and Christine Milne duke it out over jobs or the environment, Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke appears to have lost his reformist urge and has been overwhelmed by his attempts to reconcile the schizophrenic impulses of his party.
Which at times wants to be seen as the friend of the planet, or the workers, but never the same thing at any one time.
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Blinky Bill, Caramello and Sam the Thirsty Koala would be well satisfied this week.
Thanks largely to The Greens, koalas will be better protected in three states. Their status is now officially “threatened”, which is one rung below endangered on the uh-oh ladder, but several rungs above “fend for yourself, buddy”.
The Greens don’t get an enormous amount of love on this website. That’s mostly because the writers and commenters who set the tone of our dialogue largely believe that The Greens should stick to saving bits of the environment we can actually see and touch and interact with.
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There was movement at the station for the word had got around that the Feds might have finally gotten something right for a change.
Late yesterday, news filtered through that Tony Burke, Minister for Sustainability, Environment and a bunch of other stuff, had put the kybosh on Victorian premier Ted Baillieu’s absurd, cynical and dangerous plan to reintroduce grazing to the High Country. Good.
Minister Burke rejected a proposal by the Victorian government to allow cattle into the Alpine National Park for five months a year, arguing it was in breach of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. He’s right, too. Parks Victoria is just one reputable body which has produced scientific evidence showing that grazing is detrimental to the High Country.
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There’s a rather odd immigration debate taking place in this election, characterised appropriately enough, by today’s immigration debate between Tony Burke and Scott Morrison.
Minister for (*sustainable) Population Tony Burke began his address talking about all those things that Labor have been stressing in the population debate: sustainability on region by region, arguing that the Coalition are all over the place with their policy and refusing to be pushed into naming a goal population figure: “A sustainable Australia involves a level of detail that will not be solved by finding a glib magic number,” Mr Bourke told the National Press Club today.
Then Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison got up and made his pitch on immigration: it involved talking about boat people almost the entire time. At one point exciting a group of student don John Howard masks and start screaming at Morrison.
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Over Easter, the then Prime Minister quietly upgraded one of his Mandarins. It was the second time in as many weeks that a Mandarin has been invited into the bunker to receive new instructions.
This time it was the NSW Right Faction which scored a prize. The part-time Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Tony Burke, has been asked to come up with a cunning plan to have a cunning plan, and was even given a new moniker to go with the job. Mr Burke, who has always aspired to have his Who’s Who subscription waivered because of Who he was, is now to be know as: The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry, Minister ‘Sustainable’ for Population.
Three days into the job, the Prime Minister’s first actual policy announcement was to add the word ‘Sustainable’ to the Population Minister’s title. It really does sum up the way Labor is driven by spin.
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It is easy to dismiss the growing backlash to population growth as a case of national NIMBYism, but the story could have more to do with the capacity of our major capital cities to deal with any extra people.
While there was lively debate over the idea of a new city in yesterday’s Punch the latest Essential Report shows the real issue is whether the government should tell new arrivals to go bush.
In what could be a real clue to the Federal Government in how to handle this difficult issue, most Australians actually support an increase in the population of major regional centres and smaller regional towns.
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Welcome to sunny Big Australia, the land of opportunity, where you’re welcome to be one of 36 million of us by the year 2050 - as long as you’re prepared to live, oh, about 4,000 kms from the Opera House.
The Punch set out last week to find out just how tolerant Australians are of the idea of the kind of population growth being considered by the Federal Government, and more to the point, how it should be managed.
What we found on the streets of Sydney, the country’s most under pressure city, is a political nightmare for both sides of politics. While Sydneysiders are quite open minded about welcoming more Australians, 70 per cent said we’d need a whole new city to house them, and that city should be far, far away.
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Today there will be thousands of Australians losing an hour of time with their kids for the privilege of sitting in traffic gridlock in our major cities. Somewhere else there will be an employer looking at a business, which could generate much more money if only a worker could be found.
The concept of Australia running at two speeds couldn’t be starker than it is with population. One group of Australians are flying at high speed to work at a mine while others may as well put the handbrake on.
Developing a sustainable population strategy means finding a way forward for both groups. So far a lot of the debate has dealt with national population figures and presumed all we need to do is arrive at a total number.
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There are plenty of vast, empty spaces on this continent and many Australians The Punch spoke to last week would like to see them filled.
In a survey The Punch ran testing Australians’ thoughts on population growth, the majority of respondents were open to the idea of building a new major city somewhere on the continent to relieve population pressure on other cities.
They were resolute about its ideal location: anywhere but near Sydney and Melbourne. John, 20, from Cronulla agreed with many survey respondents that Australia’s next Canberra, if built, should go somewhere on the country’s Western coast: “It should be somewhere between Perth and Broome.”
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Proponents of chaos theory would have enjoyed being in Sydney this week where an unremarkable collision between two trucks generated a spirited public discussion about population policy.
The accident itself and its comical aftermath was merely the latest demonstration by the NSW Government that it would be flat out organising a chook raffle, with the hated Roads and Traffic Authority playing the starring role.
Late Tuesday morning and well out of peak hour, two trucks collided on the F3, the busy northern freeway which connects Sydney to the Central Coast. No-one died, but one of the truck drivers had to be taken to hospital by helicopter, and there were concerns for public safety as one of the trucks was carrying fuel. It took the RTA almost five hours to decide that the fuel needed to be siphoned from the truck.
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