Archive for November, 2012

Pokies legislation goes from bad to worse

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After the failure of government to take up meaningful reform to curb the harm caused by poker machine gambling our campaign to push the two big players, Coles and Woolworths to make their poker machines safer is even more important. Coles may be at a tipping point, about to make a decision about the future of their poker machines.1 Click here to write to Wesfarmers Managing Director, Richard Goyder to ask Coles to clean up their act on pokies.

The Federal Government pokies legislation compromise has gone from bad to worse. Yesterday the Australian Parliament finally passed poker machines legislation, but unfortunately that legislation is unlikely to have any impact on problem gambling. The poker machine industry had already convinced the Government to abandon its commitment to meaningful reform and instead adopt voluntary pre-commitment – a technology that the evidence suggests will be a failure.  In the last week the clubs movement has been lobbying hard in the lead up to the vote on the legislation. With the help of an amendment from lower house independent MP, Tony Windsor, voluntary pre-commitment won’t be implemented until 2018 at the earliest, more than two Federal elections away.

Some agencies that have been working on poker machine reform over a long period of time have been celebrating this legislation as progress, however small. Sadly, it also represents a huge missed opportunity to make a real difference for addicted gamblers, their families and communities.

Key parts of the package:

  • Voluntary pre-commitment, which gives gamblers the option to decide at the start of play how much they want to gamble, will be in place from 2018 – delayed by 2 years from 2016.
  • Mandatory pre-commitment, which requires gamblers to nominate how much they are willing to lose at the start of play and limits their gambling to that amount, will be trialed in the ACT in 2013 and reviewed in 2014.
  • Electronic warnings on machines will be in place from 2016.
- $250 withdrawal limits on ATMs in hotels and clubs.
  • The technological changes make it possible to activate mandatory pre-commitment in the future but there’s no commitment to that now.
  • The creation of a new gambling regulatory body.
  • establishment and funding for the National Gambling Research Commission.

Now more than ever we need leadership on poker machine reform from outside of government. While Wesfarmers, the company that owns Coles are considering the future of their poker machines business it’s important that they hear from community members asking them to step up and do the right thing. Click here to write to Wesfarmers Managing Director, Richard Goyder to ask Coles to clean up their act on pokies.

1 Sydney Morning Herald, Coles mulls $1 limit on pokies, 26 November 2012.

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29th November 2012

Campaign update: Tasmanian forest peace deal

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It’s the news we have long been waiting to hear. At 11:40 this morning the Tasmanian forest agreement passed the Tasmanian House of Assembly. This is just quick update: everything you need to know about the deal.

If it is implemented, the agreement will protect 504,012 hectares of rainforest and important native forests. Verified by scientists as the most important of Tasmania’s remaining native forests, the protected areas would include the iconic forests of the Styx Valley, Upper Florentine and Weld Valleys, the temperate rainforests of the Tarkine and the unique forests of the Blue Tier.

Importantly, the agreement will support workers and restructure the timber industry towards a sustainable and productive future where it can make certified products we can all be proud to support.

We’re often focused on holding politicians to account, but we should also congratulate them when they do a great job. From the Prime Minister to the Greens to Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings, it took a huge effort from our politicians to come this far. The process was lead and championed by Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke, and we congratulate him on a historic outcome. Click here to congratulate Minister Tony Burke on Twitter, or click here to share the news on Facebook.

The Tasmanian environment movement, in particular The Wilderness Society, Environment Tasmania and Australian Conservation Foundation have put absolutely everything they could into achieving this historic outcome — striking the right balance for the environment and Tasmania’s economic prosperity. We wholeheartedly congratulate them, their members and supporters for their tireless efforts. We also congratulate the union movement, in particular the CFMEU and Timber Communities Australia, who were at the table throughout.

You also played an important role. Dr Phill Pullinger, head of Enviornment Tasmania and one of the negotiators over the last 2 years had this to say about what your actions achieved:

“When thousands of GetUp members signed petitions and wrote letters along the way over the past two years – it has helped to make it clear to our politicians, to the timber industry, and to companies such as Bunnings and Harvey Norman, just how important it is that we protect Tasmania’s ancient forests, provide for a timber industry that all Australians can be proud of, and resolve a deeply divisive generational conflict in Tasmania.”

Don Henry, CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation said that “when implemented, this agreement will be remembered as a socially, economically and environmentally robust solution achieved by old foes putting differences aside and finding common ground to protect jobs and the environment.”

Now it is up to Tasmania’s Upper House to review the legislation and decide whether to approve the agreement, allow forests to be protected, workers to be supported and the industry to transition to meet the demands of a modern marketplace. As Vica Bayley, who led negotations for The Wilderness Society, put it “everybody is now looking to Tasmania’s Upper House to support this agreement and the long term security if offers for workers, industry and communities.”

Not everyone will be thrilled with this outcome. The negotiations have required compromises on all sides. However, we hope that the Tasmanian Upper House will now seize this hard-won opportunity to move on from decades of division and send a clear message that the forest industry is moving to make products all Australians can be proud of.

In celebration,

Paul for the GetUp team.

PS – The Wilderness Society, who have been working for the protection of Tasmania’s wild forests for many years put together this amazing slide show of the forests which will be saved – enjoy:

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23rd November 2012

Reportback: “Woolworths wins the pokies vote, but loses PR battle”

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Today, we took the pokies reform fight straight to Woolworths Board of Directors.

We’ve just returned from Adelaide, where GetUp members and Woolworths shareholders attended today’s GetUp member-initiated Extraordinary General Meeting of Woolworths Ltd. While the vote for the reform may have been defeated today, this is just the beginning of the fight. Check out some stories, snaps and coverage of the event below.

Woolies wins the pokies vote, but loses PR battle – The Age

Woolies faces Pokies protest at EGM – ABC World Today

Woolworths shareholders reject pokies bet limit – SMH

Woolies confident of win on $1 pokies limit – The Australian

The story has also been covered on: 2UE, 2GB, 3AW, SAFM, ABC World Today, Radio National, ABC PM, 7 News, 9 news, ABC news, Ten news, SKY News, SKY Business, ABC Melbourne, 5AA – twice! – and ABC Adelaide mornings.

Karen, pictured above, is just one of the incredible members who stood up in today to ask for pokies reform.

Today could not have happened without Karen and others members who had the courage to stand up and be counted. Hundreds of GetUp members attended the EGM to stand up to the Board of one of the biggest and most notorious companies in Australia, and that was only possible because of the hundreds of thousands of GetUp members who have campaigned for safer poker machines for more than a year. This is a a true team effort, and a huge thanks is owed to the courageous members, supporters and shareholders who shared their stories – both in the meeting and from afar.

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22nd November 2012

Setting the record straight on the Great Barrier Reef

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The Federal Environment Minister recently criticised GetUp’s latest effort in the ongoing campaing to protect the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Before we address Minister Burke’s points one by one, it is important we cover go over the background of this issue.

The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area is Australia’s most iconic natural asset and a major long-term economic driver. It generates up to $5 billion dollars in tourism revenue and supporting over 60,000 jobs[1]. Yet, for the second time in recent history, it’s threatened by the fossil fuel industry. Over the last year, more than 100,000 GetUp members have been taken action to help protect the area from this latest threat – but it is our latest advertising campaign focused on CSG and coal developments on Curtis Island and Gladstone Harbour which has finally got the attention of Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke.

In the mid-1970s a major political stoush broke out between the Federal Whitlam Government and Queensland Bjelke-Petersen Government. With the price of oil booming Jo Bjelke-Petersen wanted to open the Great Barrier Reef up for the exploitation of gas and oil. Gough Whitlam fought him and created the Great Barrier Reef marine park and which then led, in 1981 to the Reef being listed as World Heritage Site. This listing in effect gave responsibility to the Federal Government to ensure the “effective and active measures are taken for the protection, conservation and presentation of the cultural and natural heritage situated on its territory”[2]. Since then, Australia’s management of the World Heritage site has largely been seen as an example of best practice.

That’s until Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke approved four major coal seam gas-processing plants on Curtis Island within the World Heritage Area — including the largest dredging operation ever undertaken in Australia, and leading to the dumping of millions of cubic metres of dredge spoil at sea. Not long after the dredging started, locals began to notice diseases and deformities appearing in marine life[3]. There were even reports of fishermen getting sick after coming into contact with the Harbour water. It is still not entirely clear how far the impact of the dredging and dumping of spoils may spread. Research conducted by James Cook University for the Gladstone Fishing Fund observed high turbidity levels caused by the dredging 34 kilometres from where the dredging was occurring[4], and diseases and deformities have been reported in a wide range of marine species[5].

UNESCO, the UN body in charge of protecting world heritage sites, was greatly alarmed by these developments and at their annual meeting last year the World Heritage Commission expressed their ‘extreme concern’ and sent a team of scientists to investigate. Over 10,000 GetUp members – from scientists and tourism operators to people who want the Reef protected for future generations – made detailed submissions to UNESCO’s investigative team. Members of the GetUp team recently spent time in Gladstone, meeting with locals he told us of their first-hand experience in seeing the damage the dredging has cause to the harbour. These concerns are backed by a number of scientists, including Dr Matt Landos, who features in GetUp’s advertising campaign.

Dr Matt Landos, director of Future Fisheries Veterinary Service, is as an expert in aquatic animal health with 12 years experience including 5 years as the NSW Government’s fish veterinarian and is a leading veterinarian supporting aquaculture businesses around Australia. His comments are based on evidence he has seen from the impacts on marine life in Gladstone Harbour. Dr. Landos’ research suggests that the immune systems of harbour animals are being overwhelmed by multiple stressors, like noise, turbidity and mixtures of heavy metals from the dredging operations[6].

Minister Burke has claimed that the sickness in fish and fishermen are due to freshwater entering Gladstone Harbour following floods. In response, water quality expert from James Cook University Associate Professor Jon Brodie has said[7]:

“Well, they have no evidence of that at all, that’s all I can say. There was a major flood. We had major floods in Queensland last year all along the coast. True, some barramundi fell over Awoonga dam and that would have damaged them and stressed them a bit. Does that explain why crabs have diseases? Why shrimp have diseases? Why lobsters have diseases? Why sharks have diseases? Why rays have diseases? And other fish besides barramundi? I don’t think so.”

Furthermore, if freshwater was the cause of the fish diseases then the problem would be occurring everywhere as freshwater plumes occur in all estuaries from time to time. However, there is evidence that suggests other causes driven by the dredging of the harbour development project are highly likely to be the cause. The biggest change to the Gladstone Harbour Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area is the western basin dredging and disposal project.

UNESCO presented their report to the Wold Heritage Commission meeting in St Petersburg and called for an independent scientific review into developments and dredging in Gladstone and concluded that the developments were damaging the World Heritage Site. In UNESCO’s own words[8]:

“The mission considers that developments and operations in Gladstone Harbour and on Curtis Island impact on the outstanding universal value (OUV) of the property. An independent review of the environmental concerns of the developments in Gladstone Harbour and on Curtis Island is essential and recommendations from the review need to propose measures that will ensure future management, development and operations in the harbour and its surroundings are consistent with the high standards for conservation of the Outstanding Universal Value as applied in other parts of the property. Resulting recommendations and measures need to have the confidence of stakeholders involved and be in place prior to consenting further developments. The mission also notes that developments on Curtis Island are not consistent with the leading industry commitment to not develop oil and gas resources in natural World Heritage properties.”

GetUp’s advertising campaign backs in calls by the World Heritage Commission, UNESCO, scientists and locals for there to be an independent review into coal and coal seam gas developments in the World Heritage Area. As Colin Hunt, Honorary Fellow in Economics at University of Queensland puts it, the review needs to be independent “given the massive economic and tax benefits to both state and Commonwealth governments of LNG developments, there is a conflict of interest when these same governments make environmental assessments.”[9].

We have previously sought a reply from Minister Burke’s office to confirm whether the Government will deliver this review. We have expressed to Mr. Burke that GetUp would welcome and congratulate such a review, and that we will withdraw our advertising campaign if an adequate review is delivered.

– — – — – — – — – — – — – — – — –

Below are Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke’s criticisms of this ad featuring Dr Matt Landos, and our responses.

Minister Burke: “The images of the marine life appear to be taken within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, but none of the heavy industry images are taken within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.”

The images used show some of the marine life which can be found in Gladstone Harbour, near Curtis and Facing Island, and the Great Barrier Reef marine enviroment where impacts from dregding and the dumping of dredge spoils is occuring. The impacts from dredging are not just limited to the site of the dredging itself.

Minister Burke: “The images of industry appear to be taken from Gladstone Harbour which has been an industrial port containing both a coal loader and an aluminium smelter for nearly 50 years.

That is exactly why we used that footage. The history of the area and the toxic legacy it has left is why caution is needed in dredging up toxins stored within sediments. The images also show the current impact from the construction of CSG processing plants on Curtis Island which were approved by Minister Burke.

The legacy of environmental damage in Gladstone Harbour should not mean new developments in the area are not properly managed and it should not mean industrial developments are allowed to damage the World Heritage Area.

Minister Burke: “the vet who provides commentary connects dredging to deaths of marine life – this is a view he has put previously but the vast majority of scientific advice concluded the main impacts on marine life in Gladstone were caused by a huge nutrient and sediment load which spilled into the harbour following the Queensland floods.”

There is virtually no evidence to suggest the fish diseases were caused by freshwater as the Minister suggests. However, if the Minister is so certain of this fact, why won’t he conduct an independent review as request by UNESCO and the World Heritage Commission?

Minister Burke: “the list of potential projects referred to are ones contained in a draft plan of the Newman Government, not the Federal Government and you don’t have to do much checking to know that Campbell Newman and I have very different views about protecting the reef.”

The Federal Government has a significant role to play in the management of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. This responsibility was hard fought for by previous Federal Governments. The projects listed will almost certainly come before the Federal Environment Minister for his decision on how they should be assessed, if at all, under the Enviornment Protection and Biodiverstiy Conservation Act given the fact those projects may impact on the World Heritage Area, threatened species and migratory species.

If you would like to view the ad and donate to the campaign please click here:

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21st November 2012

GetUp member stories: Paul’s shareholder activism at the Venture Minerals EGM

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In March this year I travelled to the Tarkine wilderness in North West Tasmania with GetUp members from across the country. As a Park Ranger I’m familiar with some of Australia’s most precious wild places. The Tarkine was breathtaking, the ancient rainforests are like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I felt really inspired to assist the campaign to save the Tarkine from the impacts of mining. I wanted the wonderful experience of being in the Tarkine to be able to be felt by future generations for years to come.

Paul Robb, second from right, with GetUp members (from left) Georgie, Rose and Tony, visiting the Tarkine earlier this year.

We were there because of contentious proposals to mine the area. One company, Venture Minerals wants to build three mines in the Tarkine.

Two of the mines are for iron ore and would only operate for 2 years, the other is for tin and would operate for around 8 years. The mines are being proposed in areas that:

- Have been recommend to be on the National Heritage List by the Australian Heritage Council.
- Were in the area previously covered by the National Heritage Listing, which expired late last year.
- Have been declared as having World Heritage values and recommend to be declared a World Heritage Area by Dr. Peter Hitchcock who was engaged to verify the values of the area as part of the Intergovernmental Agreement on Forests.

Two of the mines occur with the Meredith Range Regional Reserve, an area that was protected on the 27th of December 2000 by the Howard Government as part of the Regional Forest Agreement; and two of the mines occur within rainforest.

Last week I was privileged to be asked to represent GetUp by proxy at the Venture Minerals company AGM. I was there to help ensure that Venture’s shareholders are aware of why the mines they are proposing are not the right way forward for the company and would have a massive environmental impact.

The AGM was an interesting experience for me for a few reasons, including not used to being in a room full of expensive suits.I was a bit nervous as I stepped out of the lift on the 11th floor to be met by security guards who were stationed on the doors into the AGM, even though it was a small gathering in a small room.

The Chair of the Board was talking about mining the Tarkine as I entered and sat down, not knowing anyone in the room.

The Wilderness Society held a protest out the front of the venue and the coordinator of the Tarkine Coalition campaign, Scott Jordan, had just flown in from Tasmania for the AGM and asked a few questions of the Board. He asked whether shareholders had been fully informed of the proposed locations of the mines and the associated risks given the areas to be mined had previously received National Heritage listing and met World Heritage listing criteria. The Board said they were aware of all the risks including the expected public protest action. This fired up one old shareholder who told the Board to ignore the comments from Scott.

I asked the Board when had they informed shareholders of such risks and when was their Bankable Feasibility due to be released. The CEO said the Bankable feasibility study was completed recently. The night prior to the AGM I hadn’t seen it mentioned on their website- only a pre-feasibility study. The Chairman was not too keen to allow any more questions as it was obvious that tension was rising in the room between a shareholders. Sighs and sniggers were becoming increasingly louder.

It was a relatively short meeting and all the agenda items were passed with me holding up my proxy voting card, voting against all motions as directed by the shareholder I was representing, being GetUp. The Board members stared at me while I asked questions and voted against their motions. I couldn’t help but wonder whether they had ever been to the Tarkine or had any idea of the fate they were imposing on such an amazingly beautiful part of our country.

After the meeting the Chairman came over to shake my hand and thanked me for attending.

Paul Robb,
Western Australia

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21st November 2012

Member stories: why Kylee asked Woolworths for pokies reform

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Below is a story from a GetUp member, Kylee, who joined hundreds of others in turning out to her local Woolworths on Saturday. She asked them to clean up their act with dangerous poker machines – and with great reason. Read her story & join the campaign here:

Kylee with GetUp’s National Director, Sam Mclean.

After handing out leaflets to customers and passers-by, we delivered a petition to the area manager at Woolworths Sydney. We told the manager about the facts of the campaign, and then Marc (a fellow GetUp member who joined the action) and I told him our personal stories about pokies.

A policewoman accompanied us. She cried as we spoke. The store manager was really moved as well and said he’d do what he could.

I told him about how my father passed away last year. He struggled for years with addiction to poker machines. Dad sold our family home (that he worked decades of overtime to buy) in order to clear his debts and start again. He was determined to beat the addiction, but he couldn’t. Within months nearly $200,000 went into those same machines. Dad was consumed with self hatred; he felt weak, out of control, a failure. He continued to gamble and despite earning an income above $100,000, was dependent on me to buy him food until cancer made him too sick to play the machines. It’s a sad indictment of the pokies that my Dad, in immense pain and confronting his own mortality, was mostly happier in those last 12 months than in the 15 years before combined because he stopped playing the machines and allowed himself to be loved again.

I met Marc, a fellow GetUp member, at Saturday’s action and found out we shared past that was marred by pain inflicted by poker machine addiction. He is an only child, and his single mum was addicted too. He told me about his childhood memories of hunger and isolation, for it meant that Marc was left to fend for himself at a young age, coming home from school to an empty home and an empty cupboard, his mother unable to extract herself from the machines. Night after night, he would await the tell-tale sound of her footsteps after midnight, in the hope of a proper meal. Unable to admit her addiction, she explained to him that this is what he deserved.

As Marc’s story illustrates, the victims we often don’t hear about are those indirectly affected by pokies. For every addicted gambler, there are many more lives impacted: friends, employers, partners, parents and in particular, the most vulnerable of all – the children of addicted gamblers. For me, meeting people like Marc, sharing our stories and taking action together is cathartic, hopeful, and so powerful. Thanks to everyone who is part of the campaign for safer poker machines.

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19th November 2012

Events: Pokies reform action around the country

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This Saturday is your neighbourhood’s chance to let Woolworths know that it’s time to clean up its act. Can you join us at events in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide?

Woolworths is Australia’s largest owner and operator of dangerous high-loss poker machines, pulling in profits from more than 13,000 machines. Despite a broad community campaign by passionate GetUp members, Woolworths continues to deny the the harm its poker machines cause and refuses to consider evidence-based reforms that could make its machines safer.

We can change this. Woolworths retail business relies on its loyal customers – customer who support reforms to make Woolworths pokies safer. So it’s time to hit the streets and tell Woolworths customers what the company who makes its living on its family-friendly brand is really up to.

When: 2pm – 2.30pm, Saturday 17 November 2012
Where: Cnr Park & George Streets, Sydney

When: 2pm – 2.30pm, Saturday 17 November 2012
Where:Woolworths, Redfern – 261-265 Chalmers Street, Redfern NSW 2016

When: 2pm-2.30pm, Saturday 17 November 2012.
When: Safeway, Wattle Street, Prahran VIC 3181.
Map: Safeway, Prahan

What: 2pm-2.30pm, Saturday 17 November 2012.
Where: QV, Swanston Street, Melbourne VIC 3000.
Map: QV, Swanston ST, Melbourne

When: 2pm – 2.30pm, Saturday 17 November 2012.
Where: Woolworths, 16 Ashgrove Avenue, Ashgrove

When: 2pm – 2.30pm, Saturday 17 November 2012.
When: Woolworths poker machine action.
Where: Woolworths, 80-88 Rundle Mall, Adelaide.
Map: Woolworths Rundle Mall

We know weekend time is precious so this event will only take about 30 minutes of your time. All you need to bring is yourself, sunscreen if it’s nice out, rain gear if it’s not, and your family and friends if you think they might be interested. We’ll provide the materials but we encourage you to bring a handmade sign if you have time to make one!

Can’t wait to see you there!

Thanks for standing up,
The GetUp team

PS – Please keep in mind that this is intended to be a safe and friendly demonstration. We certainly don’t want to prevent your neighbours from doing their weekly grocery shopping so we will be careful not to crowd the sidewalk or entrance to the store. We also discourage the defacing or damaging of property. Thanks, and I’ll see you on Saturday for a peaceful, lively action together!

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16th November 2012

Campaign update on the Great Barrier Reef

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We just got back from filming this video in Northern Queensland, and we can’t believe what we saw. The damage being done to the Great Barrier Reef World World Heritage Area will shock the country. Check it out here:

The Great Barrier Reef is already under great pressure from climate change. But to make things worse, the Australian Government is giving Gina Rinehart and others the green light to build the world’s biggest coal export facility at Abbot Point, right on the edge of the Reef.

Near Gladstone they’re literally cutting channels through the seafloor for huge coal ships in a practice known as dredging. It releases toxins trapped in sediment which then find their way into our food chain. Locally, the effects are clear: fishers are bringing in catch that are so sick it’s not safe to sell. Globally, we are losing one of the natural wonders of the world, and doing it so we can export more coal to warm the planet. It’s absolutely crazy!

There’s something we can do about it. Environment Minister Tony Burke keeps saying publicly that he wants to save the Reef. He’s trying to walk both sides of the street – saying he’ll save the Reef but at the same time approving massive new coal and coal seam gas terminals – and so far he’s getting away with it, because only locals know what’s really going on. Together, we’re going to change that, and show both major parties that voters will know what they doing to the reef:

In our new ad, new footage and scientific interviews show Australia what’s really going on. Please watch and join the campaign now.

Here’s the plan: there’s an election not far away. Queensland is full of important marginal electorates. The Great Barrier Reef employs 10 per cent of the population of Gladstone and adds $5 billion to the State’s tourism economy annually – we’re talking major economic ramifications, not just conservation – and politicians know it.

That’s why we’re kicking this campaign off by blanketing cinemas across Queensland. If we raise enough we’ll screen it in Tony Burke’s electorate too. Are you able to help this thing go big?

Our Environment Minister Tony Burke and his government really don’t want destroying the Reef to become their legacy. Neither do we.

Thanks for standing up for the Reef,
the GetUp team.

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14th November 2012

Events: Refugee Action Coalition holds solidarity protests

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As the mass hunger strike by asylum seekers in Nauru continues, here’s some important information from the Refugee Action Coalition about solidarity protests that are taking place in four Australian cities today:

The mass hunger strike by asylum seekers on Nauru enters its seventh day today with around 300 people refusing food.

Refugee groups have called solidarity protests for Thursday, 8 November in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, and Darwin (details below). The Sydney protest plans to make phone contact with the hunger strikers on Nauru at the rally.

Solidarity Protests – Thursday 8 November

Department of Immigration, 22 Lee Street, Sydney (near Central Station)
Thursday 8 November, 12:30pm
RSVP on Facebook:

Department of Immigration, cnr Lonsdale and Spring Sts City
Thursday 8 November, 12:30pm

DIAC office, 836 Wellington St, West Perth,
Thursday 8 November, 12:30pm

Darwin Airport Lodge Vigil
Thursday 8 November, 5:30pm

Around 10 of the hungers strikers required medical attention yesterday (Tuesday), but the figures for Wednesday were unknown. Unconfirmed reports say that up to 50 the asylum seekers stopped drinking after midday yesterday.

“We remain extremely concerned with the deteriorating conditions on Nauru,” said Ian Rintoul, from the Refugee Action Coalition. “The asylum seekers are in a desperate situation. They feel they have nothing to lose. Over 6000 asylum seekers have arrived in Australia since 13 August. Dumping 377 asylum seekers on Nauru has done nothing but put their mental and physical health at risk. It is a disgraceful abuse of human rights for them to be victimised for coming to Australia to seek protection. It is no crime to seek asylum.”

For more information, or to read the latest statement from the hunger strikers, click here.

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8th November 2012

Update: Three great GetUp stories

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– Update: In the past weeks GetUp members have thwarted an attempt to scrap Australia’s renewable energy target, prevented factory farming of chickens being labeled “free-range”, helped get the Tassie forest negotiations back on track, and ramped up the pressure on Woolies to stop pushing pokies on problem gamblers.

It’s been one of those months where everything seems to be happening at once. All over Australia, GetUp members have been working hard – and their efforts have paid off in some important breakthroughs on long-running campaigns. Here’s a quick snapshot of what’s been going on:

Animal Welfare
Turn on images to viewRemember back in August, when the big chicken producers lodged an outrageous fake free-range application to the ACCC? If approved, their proposal would have allowed farms to cram over 140,000 birds into one hectare and label it ‘free-range’. Over 17,000 GetUp members swung into action, writing submissions to the ACCC and sharing our campaign infographic on social media. And it worked: the ACCC informed us that the Australian Poultry Industries Association has withdrawn their application for the free-range trademark. For now, we have stopped a significant step backwards for animal rights.
Climate Change
Turn on images to viewGetUp members got in the way of another vested interests campaign – this time a concerted push by coal-fired power stations and their allies to weaken or scrap Australia’s renewable energy target of 20% by 2020. 7,813 GetUp members wrote passionate submissions to the official review instigated by the Climate Change Authority, standing up to support renewable energy. Their efforts paid off: a week ago we learnt that the Authority had refused to cave in to pressure to weaken or scrap the target. We also discovered that 90% of submissions to the review came from GetUp members!

Forest Negotiations
Turn on images to viewLast weekend we heard that negotiations between industry, unions and environmentalists to protect Tasmania’s ancient forests had stalled at the very last moment. 29,703 GetUp members sprung into action. We called on two crucial players: hardware giant Bunnings and retailer Harvey Norman to declare their support for the agreement. Within days we heard from Bunnings that they did exactly that. Congratulations Bunnings, and to everyone who took action!
Turn on images to viewOver the past few weeks thousands of brave GetUp members have downloaded letters to hand-deliver to their local Woolworths store protesting against the supermarket giant’s involvement in the pokies industry. Like Brett (pictured), Victorian GetUp member Barbara took part in the campaign and wrote to us describing her experience: “Handed it to check-out woman after paying for shopping: she was surprised (not used to old ladies handing her mail) and said she would see it got to [the] Manager… She was pleasant and polite, and I wasn’t anxious to cause a stir – timid old me! – and that was that. Really quite enjoyed it.” Pressure on Woolworths continues to mount in the weeks before their Extraordinary General Meeting on pokies reform, prompted by 257 plucky GetUp members who own shares in Woolies.

There’s still a long way to go before we’ve moved Australia to 100% renewable energy, overhauled animal welfare standards, and convinced Woolies to cease making profits from problem gambling. But the past fortnight has reminded us of our movement’s strength – and its diversity.

GetUp members from all walks of life do their bit week after week, in all sorts of ways. From visiting a local supermarket, sharing an image on Facebook, or writing to submissions to Government, together we truly are bigger than the sum of our parts. So thank you for all that you do, and keep up the great work. We’re in it for the long term.

Have a great weekend,
The GetUp team

PS – All of this is possible because of the kind contributions of GetUp members. Together, our small change adds up to social change on a national scale. If you’d like to be part of that, chip in here.

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5th November 2012