Archive for January, 2013

Event: Rally for the Reef!

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Across the country, our allies in the campaign are holding media-grabbing events tomorrow. If you are in Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, Yeppoon or Mackay, click here to join in:

At the same time, we will be delivering the petition 127,015 Getup members have signed, to Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke in Sydney. The petition is a massive effort and sends a message loud and clear: Australian people expect more from the Government when it comes to protecting our World Heritage listed Reef.

Rally for the Reef

Unfortunately, the Reef will be in the news tomorrow for all the wrong reasons. Tomorrow the Government has to hand in its homework to UNESCO and it’s looking like an “F” on the Great Barrier Reef.

We wanted to give you a heads-up on the news — all reasons why we must keep fighting in this campaign. It’s already evident that the government have failed to address the “extreme concerns” raised by UNESCO and the IUCN last year. Since then, things have gone from bad to worse for the Great Barrier Reef. Here’s why:

  • The most urgent recommendation still hasn’t been acted on. UNESCO and the World Heritage Committee asked the Federal Government to conduct an independent review into the damage being done to the World Heritage site in Gladstone Harbour and into the dredging, coal ports and CSG plants planned for Curtis Island. Not only has the review not been completed, it is only just getting started.
  • The Queensland Government has been allowed to damage an national icon. It has weakened coastal protections, neglected to enforce pollution control regulations and is backing more coal ports and more dredging along the Reef.
  • The Great Barrier Reef marine park is now being used as a dumping ground by the mining industry. Last year the mining industry made use of new regulations which allowed it to dump over 2.5 million tonnes of dredge spoil into protected marine parks.

Miners have continued to massively expand coal production and new ports. Queensland Premier Campbell Newman is already indicating his government will approve this move despite the fact the strategic assessment for the Reef has not been completed and fierce opposition from UNESCO and the local community.

Despite this bad news, we can’t give up hope, and we can’t give up campaigning. Our negotiations with the Government have already helped secure the independent scientific review, and we have more opportunities for impact in the coming months, which we’ll keep in touch about. We’ll keep defending our unparrelled environmental treasure home to dugongs, dolphins and the most amazing coral anywhere on earth, a job creator for over 60,000 people, a source of recreation and fishing for hundreds of thousands, and a key part of the Australia’s global brand.

Thanks for being part of this,
The GetUp team.

PS – UNESCO has an active Twitter account. Click here to let them know on Twitter that the situation has become much, much worse for the Great Barrier Reef.

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31st January 2013

Reportback: Anti-discrimination Legislation

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Before you check out for the long weekend, we wanted to quickly report back on what’s happening with the campaign for stronger human rights and anti-discrimination protections.

The Senate has just wrapped up two days of public hearings on the draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012 in Melbourne and Sydney. The scene at the hearings was emotional, lively and contentious. Every aspect of our plan for stronger human rights protections was debated, from religious exemptions, to gender and sexual diversity to irrelevant criminal record discrimination. The areas GetUp members urged Nicola Roxon to improve last week are at the crux of this political debate.

Attendees heard some powerful examples, demonstrating exactly why strong, comprehensive human rights protections are so important. The committee heard about a hospital refusing to give information to the partner of a seriously ill woman. The reason? The couple were lesbians. An intersex* advocate talked about how she was moved from the women’s ward to a hospital storage room to recover from a hysterectomy because other patients complained.

So what’s next? The Senate Committee reports back and offers recommendations on 18 February. We’ll find out then if the stories that the committee members heard made a difference and keep you updated on the report. Whatever the outcome, we won’t stop pressuring parliamentarians for stronger human rights protections for all Australians.

Thanks for standing up for human rights,
The GetUp team.

PS – You might have seen this week that the call for comprehensive discrimination laws has even drawn support for narrowing religious exemptions from leaders in the Uniting and Anglican Churches.[1] It’s great to see church leaders speaking up to say that the freedom of religion is not the same as the freedom to discriminate. If you attend church, do you know where your church stands?

PPS – You might also consider signing a campaign started up by Kimberley Ivory over on CommunityRun. Kimberley is taking on the ‘right’ of religious groups to discriminate. She’s got the support of Former Australian Medical Association President Dr Kerryn Phelps and more than 3000 others. Click here to take a look and sign the petition.

[1] Peter Sandeman, “If we believe all people are equal we must live this”, The Age, 17 January 2013. The Rev’d Peter Sandeman is chief executive officer of Anglicare SA. Elenie Poulos, “Injustice not an article of faith for all churches”, The Age, 20 January 2013. The Reverend Elenie Poulos is the is the national director of UnitingJustice Australia, the justice policy and advocacy unit of the Uniting Church in Australia Assembly.

* For a detailed explanation of “intersex” check out the FAQs on the website of the Organisation Intersex International Australia.

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24th January 2013
24th January 2013

Latest campaign: strengthening our anti-discrimination laws

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Discrimination Hero

You might have already read about the teacher who, after deciding to have a child, was fired by the school she taught at just because she wasn’t married.[1]

She’s not alone. If you or someone you care about is a single parent, gay, divorced, transexual or have ever been accused of a crime then you could find yourself being discriminated against with no legal right to fight back.

We can stop this and ensure all Australians receive the protections they deserve.

Right now a bill to protect all Australians from discrimination is in draft form under review by the Government. Attorney-General Nicola Roxon has the power to make the changes necessary to ensure it protects all Australians regardless of race, sex, age, ability, sexual orientation or gender identity. Will you take a minute to read about the important changes that need to happen and then ask Nicola Roxon to strengthen the bill?

These laws are important because they will affect you and every person you know. The proposed legislation is well worth getting over the line – for the first time in Commonwealth law there will be legal protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The majority of the human rights and legal community agree that this piece of legislation is a vast improvement on the previous set of laws and offers broader human rights protections for vulnerable Australians.

BUT, we can’t just ignore the glaring areas that still need work, including the exemption for religious groups to discriminate despite receiving Government funding to provide services. If we don’t use this once in a generation opportunity to ensure that every Australian can make a contribution and have the opportunities that they deserve we may not have the chance again for a very long time.

Nicola Roxon needs to know that while the improvements they have made to the bill are good, there are areas that still need strengthening. Will you write to Nicola Roxon, and ask her to ensure the proposed anti-discrimination legislation protects all Australians?

Creating the kind of strong, healthy and cohesive communities we all want to live in requires that we continue to push for better human rights. If we don’t do everything we can right now to strengthen and pass this bill before the Federal election, it is in real danger of never making it over the line. The opposition has already promised to gut these important protections if they get elected. Let’s get it right and fight for something we can be proud of.

Thanks for standing up for human rights,
The GetUp team.

PS – This is not an easy issue to get your head around and recent media coverage – heavily influenced by a concerted lobbying effort by the conservative media, some vocal religious groups and the opposition – is making a complex subject even more convoluted. We’ve tried to fix that. Over the past two weeks we’ve spoken with leading human rights advocates, policy makers and legal experts in order to understand exactly what’s on the table and how it differs from what already exists. We’ve prepared an FAQ and a position paper that dispels the misinformation being put out there and clarifies what needs to happen to achieve the best possible outcome for human rights. Click here to learn more:

[1] Teacher sacked over pregnancy, Brisbane Times, 1 May 2012.

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19th January 2013

Campaign update: CSG in Sydney’s suburbs

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DId you see the news? The Sydney Morning Herald has revealed that NSW is at greater risk from “fracking”* as energy companies push to set up gasfields in suburbs according to NSW’s Chief Scientist1. Contact your local State government member now and let them know you expect them to proect your community from CSG:

CSG broken promises homepage

Coal seam gas giant AGL has broken its pledge to not use fracking, a risky and damaging gas-mining technique, in the Sydney suburbs. This promise not to frack was backed by Premier, Barry O’Farrell, who said the plan was to “horizontally drill under people’s homes”2.

But it’s not just AGL that has misled us and it’s not just Sydney under threat. Premier O’Farrell has broken promise after promise when it comes to coal seam gas and mining and we can’t let them get away with it any longer.

The NSW Cabinet has the power to prevent AGL and other CSG companies from fracking under our homes, on our best farmland or near drinking water catchments that sustain us. It’s up to us to let them know we won’t stand for the lies and the risk to our most valuable assetts. Not now, not ever.

Will you take 5 minutes to email your local Liberal and National MP, and ask them to pressure Barry O’Farrell to prevent gasfields in our suburbs and most important agricultural and environmental areas?

We know AGL owns dozens of CSG wells between Liverpool and Campbelltown, areas that are home to tens of thousands of Australian families. These communities are now no longer protected from a risky form of drilling for coal seam gas that may cause gas leaks, water pollution, damage aquifers and pollute water with its mix of potentially toxic chemicals. Nowhere is protected, despite the promises.

In his ‘Contract with NSW’ before the election Barry O’Farrell said that if he didn’t deliver on his election promises he would be ‘happy to resign’. Yet, through the Strategic Regional Land Use Plans, he’s allowed CSG mining to occur in our precious agricultural and drinking water catchment areas despite promises to the contrary.3 Some of these pristine sources of drinking water carry fines of $11,000 if someone even walks through them but the O’Farrell government has approved mines in these very same areas. Now he’s about to let the industry get away with what is widely considered the most risky drilling technique for human health in a parts of NSW where there are homes, schools and hospitals.

Don’t let Premier O’Farrell backtrack on his promises. Tell your Liberal and National MP that you expect Cabinet to tell the Premier that CSG is not worth the risk:

The frightening truth is, we don’t yet know enough about the potential health and environmental impacts of coal seam gas mining – particularly fracking – to move ahead at the speed with which we’re currently accepting development proposals. We need to take the precautionary approach to this industry and protect our most at-risk places; urban areas, agricultural land, water catchments and high conservation value natural areas.

Let’s stand together against the vested interests of coal seam gas companies and ask the O’Farrell government to stand up for our community – as he promised.

Thanks for fighting the good fight,
The GetUp team.

PS — In what can only be viewed as a major win for the coal seam gas industry, the NSW government has replaced the entire board of the Sydney Catchment Authority. Who chairs the new board? Only the former director of two of Australia’s largest mining companies. Click here find out more and email your local MP to lobby Premier Barry O’Farrell to uphold his promise to prevent NSW’s most important places and neighbourhoods being fracked:

* Fracking is a technique used to create fractures deep under ground. These fractures allow gas to travel more easily from the rock pores to the production well. In order to create fractures, a mixture of water, proppants and chemicals are pumped into the rock or coal formation at high pressure. This practice is highly controversial as gases can make their way to the surface endangering human health; aquifers can be irreparably damaged; and water sources contaminated.

1 Sydney more likely to become a hot spot for fracking, says Chief Scientist. Sydney Morning Herald, January 17, 2013.
2 Andrew Moore interviews NSW Premier about a range of topics including coal seam gas. 2GB, Wednesday January 2, 2013.
3 Barry O’Farrell press conference, February 2009.

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17th January 2013

International scrutiny on Australia’s CSG industry

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Hearing mixed messages on coal seam gas? This documentary might help to explain why. Al Jazeera’s “A Risky Business” includes the stories of locals affected by CSG, including locals from Tara, QLD, who featured in GetUp’s 2011 campaign video “Don’t Risk CSG”. Check out Al Jazeera’s documentary here:

“A few years ago hardly anyone in Australia had even heard of coal seam gas, now the industry finds itself under intense public scrutiny as it plans to drill thousands of new gas wells a year – many of them under farms and rural communities in the middle of the nation’s agricultural heartland. Coal seam gas could make Australia an energy superpower, but at what price to the nation’s health, environment and land?”

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14th January 2013

Climate update: The “new normal”

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“The abnormal is the new normal…from the United States to India, from Ukraine to Brazil, drought (has) decimated essential global crops. No one is immune to climate change – rich or poor. It is an existential challenge for the whole human race – our way of life, our plans for the future,”[1]

U.N Secretary Ban Ki-moon, addressing delegates at the Doha climate talks in December.

Monday broke Australia’s record for the hottest average maximum temperature ever recorded, at 40.33 °C.

Tuesday marked our third highest average maximum and set the record – at 7 days – for consecutive days where the national average maximum daily temperature exceeded 39°C, [2] almost doubling the previous record of 4 consecutive days in 1973.

Welcome to our “new normal.”

Our country is still in the middle of a record-smashing heatwave with temperatures soaring above 40 °C and hundreds of fires blazing out of control around the country. We’re being told to “get used to it”[2]but while the nation rallies to fight fires, repair damage and console loved ones we’re struggling to have the conversation about our warming planet, let alone get used to it.

The growing mountain of evidence tells a sobering story – a story that needs frequent and urgent repeating if we’re to have a chance of preventing the worst of predicted catastrophic climate change.

That’s why we’ve created this shareable image with the latest confronting but, hopefully, action-spurring facts. Click here to view, share and start the conversations we all need to be having at dinner tables, pubs and BBQs around the country as we face the heat and help our friends and neighbours deal with loss of property and a very difficult situation.

Over 70% of Australians had a taste this week of the kind of conditions scientific modelling clearly predicts will worsen and occur with more frequency over the coming decades.[2] It should come as no surprise to those of us who have been heeding decades of warnings by climate scientists and fighting hard for stronger action on climate that our warming world will – as we’re seeing – lead to more severe summer heatwaves and fire danger. But it won’t be until the entire country, from Broome to Hobart and every town in between, are connecting the dots and coming to the same conclusions that we’ll see a real and urgent demand for stronger action on climate change.

And while short heatwaves and fire danger are not unfamiliar during an Australian summer, what we’re experiencing this week is an unsettling harbringer of things to come – a taste of the new normal in a rapidly warming world:

Click here for a more detailed glimpse of what we’re facing in Australia and around the world.

The reality is confronting; we’re currently on track for at least 4°C more warming[4], marked by extreme heatwaves as we’ve experienced this week; increased fire danger; declining global food stocks; human health risks; loss of ecosystems and biodiversity; and life-threatening sea level rises. The US just confirmed 2012 was its hottest year ever – beating its previous high in 1998 by a full degree.[5]

So let’s face the facts, together, starting now. Share this infographic on Facebook, Twitter and over email. Print it out and put it on your fridge. Put it on your work bulletin board. Let’s talk about how human caused climate change is exacerbating the extreme events we’re facing and are likely to face with greater frequency in the future. Let’s once more make it part of our national dialogue:

We all remember the horror of Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires. As we support our brave firefighters, provide shelter for friends and hope for relief we must do everything we can to ensure catastrophic fire events like that don’t become the new normal. It’s time to have a level-headed conversation about the reality of climate change.

Thanks for helping to change the conversation,
The GetUp team.

PS – We’ve all encountered those tough conversations with people who are skeptical about climate change and the science because of how politicised the issue has become. Whether it’s over the Christmas dinner table with a cousin or aunt or at a pub with a stranger – it’s often a difficult conversation to have. For some help answering questions we’ve compiled a list of recent research and news articlesto help to explain why this heatwave is an indicator of a warming world and what’s to come.

PPS – Regardless of your feelings on climate change, severe heat and fire danger puts our safety and loved ones at risk. For politically neutral tips on dealing with severe heat and fire danger, please read “Tips for Staying Safe” at the bottom ofthis page.There’s information about who to contact in your state if you need help and what are the prudent steps to take during extreme conditions.

[1] “Extreme Weather The New Normal,” The Sydney Morning Herald, September 5, 2012.
[2] “Get Used to Record-Breaking Heat: bureau” Ben Cubby, The Sydney Morning Herald, January 9, 2012.
[3] “If you’re 27 or younger, you’ve never experienced a colder-than-average month” – Philip Bump, Grist, November 16, 2012.
[4] “Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided,” World Bank commissioned report by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics, November 2012.
[5] “2012 Was the Hottest Year in U.S. History. And Yes — It’s Climate Change,” Bryan, Walsh, TIME, January 8, 2013.

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10th January 2013