22 Oct 2013

It's Abbott Who Plays Politics With Fire

By Adam Bandt

Donning a Rural Fire Service uniform doesn't give Tony Abbott licence to ignore the facts on carbon pricing, climate change and extreme weather, writes Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt

In the days leading up to 7 February 2009, a heatwave hit in Melbourne. Those with the least capacity to insulate themselves from it suffered the most. Victoria recorded 374 deaths, a 62 per cent increase compared with the year before. When Black Saturday itself arrived, Melbourne’s temperature soared, but it wasn’t just the heat that claimed lives. The ferocious and devastating fires took 173 souls and whole communities.

Terror is a much-used word, but it’s surely apt to describe what it must feel like if you’re at risk from an oncoming bushfire. And when you see this picture of a menaced Sydney, you can’t help but notice the fierce sun. It’s a vivid reminder of 2009 in Victoria. At the time of writing, with a declared state of emergency and talk of mega-fires and unprecedented fire-fronts, everyone desperately hopes people in NSW will avoid a similar fate.

We know that these kind of fires will become more frequent, and many fires will become more severe, unless we get global warming under control. Surely, anyone with an ounce of empathy would want to prevent more of these types of catastrophes from hitting our country. We might be a nation prone to bushfires, but why would anyone want us to have more of them?

However, instead of picking the coming fire season to argue for stronger climate action, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his team spent last week arguing ferociously for an urgent repeal of the price on pollution, with no effective alternative scheme ready to put in its place.

He then changed his Facebook photo to show himself in a volunteer firefighter uniform. That’s OK, apparently. But other things are seemingly out of bounds.

In response to my tweet on Tony Abbott’s approach to climate change, there was an outpouring from the Murdoch Praetorian Guard seeking to shield Tony Abbott and his climate policy from any criticism. Creating straw-men and then shooting them down at a rate of knots, critics argued that I said Tony Abbott caused the NSW fires (I didn’t), that Greens oppose hazard reduction burns (we don’t) and that there is no relationship between climate change and increased bushfire risk (there is).

It appears that Tony Abbott and his allies in the tabloid radio and media want to impose a new political correctness on public discussion in Australia. Any discussion of the link between climate change and extreme weather such as bushfires is taboo, but especially identifying any responsibility our leaders might have to address this growing and urgent problem.

They want to be the victors in a new culture war, this time against climate action, with the closing of Tim Flannery’s Climate Commission the first salvo. I don’t recall any reticence from the Coalition (or Labor) when people drowned en route to Australia in 2012. Indeed, as it was happening, politicians were said to have blood on their hands.

In the febrile atmosphere generated in large part by News Ltd and the Coalition, politicians were implored to take immediate action, even if it meant deporting refugees to other countries and/or locking them up indefinitely. Apparently that’s an acceptable response to tragedy as it is unfolding.

According to Environment Minister Greg Hunt, by raising the very real concern about bushfires and climate change I was politicising the fires, but Tony Abbott getting his photo taken in uniform was fine. Perhaps this pinpoints the real reason why supporters of Tony Abbott seem to have a glass jaw when faced with criticism of his climate policy and the reason his cheerleaders jump so quickly to his defence.

Perhaps Tony Abbott’s spruikers like Andrew Bolt and Miranda Devine only want to use bushfires as an opportunity to show Abbott as a hero fighting the fires, not as disasters that remind us that Coalition policy on climate change will help create the conditions for more disasters.

Outside of the Murdoch echo chamber, many are choosing to play the ball, not the man. Wendy Harmer wrote:

"Whether or not it's unseemly for Greens politicians to raise the spectre of future cataclysmic climate change when bushfires are still raging out of control, there's no doubt that many of us who looked up to bruised and belligerent skies swirling with ash and a drift of incinerated gum leaves had to wonder, 'is this what the future will be like?'"

Peter FitzSimons also noted the timing:

“When the Prime Minister says the previous government should ''repent'' bringing it in, even as we break yet another month's temperature record, and the bushfires take hold, it is reasonable for Bandt to put an alternative view. He is not disrespecting those who have lost their homes, nor those heroes fighting the fires. He's saying what needs to be said, to try to do something so fewer people lose their homes in the future.” 

In the face of global warming, every MP should be doing everything they can to stop more bushfires from happening. Fundamentally, as I have argued elsewhere, Tony Abbott is failing to protect the country’s people, which conservatives claim should be the first duty of any government. Pointing this out obviously cuts too close to the bone.  

If Tony Abbott can pick the week of high NSW temperatures to urge the dismantling of climate change action that has already seen pollution fall, he shouldn’t be able to duck the ensuing debate by hiding behind a uniform. 

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Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 11:46

Great read and work Adam. Keep fighting the good fight!

Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 11:54

Okay Adam explain this:

-How exactly is our carbon tax going to stop future bushfires? Australia CO2 emissions are minor globally, all we will do is cause out indiustries to shift off-shore to Asia. If we act in isolation which we are doing now along with the failed economies oF europe then we achieve nothing.

-There is no evidence these bushfires are caused by climate change, Australia has always had severe fires there is nothing exceptional about this, what is exceptional is that more people are living in the bush putting more lives in the line of fire.

-Recent studies show that the benefits of climate change might outweigh the costs, more people die from cold related environmental factors then heat related, also agricultural production is improved in a warmer climate.

In conclusion you are an moronic git Adam and your political point scoring is pathetic, especially as Abbott is actually contributing to fighting the fires. What have the greens done to help anyone? All we see from the greens are idiotic policies (spouted by smug do gooders with a sense a self superiority) that lack logic and would be impractical to implement.

No wonder the greens are a party in decline.

Syd Walker
Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 12:07

Good stuff Adam.

Then there's use by the Daily Telegraph of file photos taken back in January, deceptively used to illustrate Simon Benson's puff piece on Abbott's heroic firefighting escapades: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/tony-abbott-always-set-to-come-out-fighting-fires-that-is/story-fni0cx12-1226740600883

This little Murdochian sleight-of-hand is discussed in some detail by a sharp-eyed blogger on the NSW north coast: http://northcoastvoices.blogspot.com.au/2013/10/is-much-of-media-coverage-of-prime.html - who asks, quite appropriately, how much of the media coverage of Abbott during the fires has been innaccurate, misleading or downright false?

The coverage we do have of Abbott actually speaking about the fires had me wondering whether we'd be better off with a 10-year old running the nation.

Abbott's analsis at a time when some 100 fires were raging throughout NSW?

     "This is a very, very big fire!"

Asked about costs, Abbott replied:

      "It's very, very early days"

How very, very sad to have a man like this as PM, at a very, very crucial time in our history.

Let's make sure he's #OneTermTony


This user is a New Matilda supporter. Charlie S.
Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 12:54

@ aaron

According to the climate commision, by 2013, 33 countries and 18 sub-national jurisdictions will have a price on carbon (link). We are not acting in isolation, we're acting in accordance with our international obligation (as a rich country that can act). 

The argument that a carbon tax won't stop bush-fires is correct - I don't think anyone has said that it would. A carbon tax is a market mechinism designed to reduce carbon emissions, which in the long term can reduce the risk of more frequent catastrophic bush-fires. 

When you say that "Recent studies show that the benefits of climate change might outweigh the costs", are you saying then, that we should do nothing? Considering that a majority of the science is pointing to the opposite, are you willing to take this gamble?

I'm not going to respond to your final point, which was essentially a personal attack on Bandt.

Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 13:05

Aaron, Australia has one of the highest per capita emission counts in the world. And as one of the largest exporters of caol, one of the chief causes of CO2 emissions, I think we are responsible for more than just a small share of emissions. Further, scientists have been predicting that we will face hotter, drier weather leading to larger, more dangerous bushfires. It is not rocket science to work out that a warming world is a more dangerous world. Lastly, the research you talk about that cites benefits is rather limited and largely from the climate skeptic camp. Basically, if warming improves the fertility or weather of one area, you can be sure it is devastating another.

Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 13:15

Aaron, go back to school. Carbon dioxide emmissions are everyone's problem. Australia is not only a major per capita emmitter of greenhouse gas and exporter of fossil fuels, we are also among the wealthiest people on earth.

If we can't do the right thing, bring down our emmissions and set a good example, who will?

And Syd, One term is far too long. Tony and band of thugs need to be booted out sooner rather than later.

Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 13:15


With all due respect to Mr Bandt, this appears to be a classic presentation of "attention deficit syndrome" (thanks to Gareth Evens).


Take a few years in the political wilderness and don't call anyone in the morning...!

Mike Dutton
Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 13:23


Most climate scientists & economists agree that an ETS is the most effective way to reduce greenhouse emissions. The price on carbon, was just a lead in to an ETS, which even Johnny Howard supported. That was to begin in July 2015, but KRudd was to bring it forward to 2014. Australia is the highest pollutter per capita in the world and we should lead the world, especially with our lifestyle & natural threats. We will NOT be acting in isolation as the rest of the world is doing the same.

Although there have been bushfires in the past, very rarely in early Spring. Usually in Summer or early Autumn. The last few years have been the hottest ever. There is NO doubt that climate is changing, becoming more variable with a trend to warmer temps. This has been known for 30 years or more. We have really left it too late.

The only places where there may be some temporary benefits from climate change could be in the polar regions, but then only briefly as all current plants & animals will be dead and the sea level will increase by metres.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. rparker
Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 13:42

I entirely support Adam Bandt's connection of bushfires with climate change.

Not all bushfires are caused by climate change but the drying out of our environement in SE Australia and large bushfires occurring in mid October are certainly extreme events of the type caused by climate change.

It is the behaviour of both Labor and Liberals who have politicised climate change and pricing carbon. Rudd stiffed Turnbull and Abbott stiffed Gillard and Rudd and so the distracting dogfight began. All Bandt is doing is to ground us in reality.

Australia domestically burns 1.5% of the World's carbon but bludges on the rest of the world with another 3.5% on coal and gas production. Its like being a nation dependent on pushing an international drug of addiction. We could do better but choose to do worse so that jobs which destroy our environment are not put at risk.

Now if only Adam and his band of Greens would stop promoting an entirely ineffective solution using renewables and get on supporting nuclear power we would be in a much better place.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. tone16g
Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 13:50

I seem to recall Miranda Devine writing a column after the Victorian bushfires, directly blaming The Greens for the fires and for the deaths (allegedly for opposing controlled burning, but without any supporting evidence).

She was supported by the Right-wing commentariat at the time - no fears about "politicising" the tragedy then.


Syd Walker
Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 14:05

Checked back to discover a nuclear power advocate has jumped into the debate.


Now that is a clever way to boil water.

Nuclear power is the "jam tomorrow" energy solution.

It's always the next generation of reactors that will defintely be safe - and safe disposal of waste is always just round the corner.

Heard about what's happening at a place called Fukshima?


Then there's a possibility/probability/liklihood of another Carrington Event. 


There are currently 440 nuclear power plants in 30 countries, so why not double the risk of poisoning the entire planet? RParker might prefer we quadruple it?

Solar power has plummeted in price since we first started debating climate change - see http://kottke.org/13/06/alternative-energy-costs-are-dropping

In that context, it beggars imagination why anyone could argue for a tachnology that just means higher locked-in electricity prices to benefit - only the corporations that build and operate this potentially terminal technology. Cameron just did precisely that in the UK - http://reneweconomy.com.au/2013/uk-nuclear-reactor-gets-go-ahead-at-double-cost-of-electricity-89214

It's the kind of 'Direct Action' plan that Abbott & his mad mates might well like to implement with macho vigour, given the slightest encouragement..

Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 14:37

A good article, but much more needs to be addressed along the lines of "What do we do now?" There have been changes and people living in Australia must adapt to them. We cannot assume that the conditions that lead to highly destructive fire-storms are "once in a hundred years" events. We have become fatally tolerant of building homes where they will be destroyed by fire (and flood). So, what's next for those who have lost homes in these fires, and who are planning already to re-build on the same block? Who knows what the build-up of fuel will be in ten years time? Based on knowledge from Vic-Jan09, Tas-Feb13 and now NSW-Oct13 what are the likely best measures that predict uncontrollable fire? If the conditions are re-created in the same districts in some forseeable time-frame, what's the best advice for land-holders?
We must not let our grip on the desire for more scientific knowledge be loosened by fear of being howled down as "political". We must toughen up. We must remember that the loudest anti-Green polemic comes from the same cauldron that vilifies Nicola Roxon's plain-packaging progress.  Their "freedom" to sell tobacco enslaves children to nicotine.
Know your enemies. 

This user is a New Matilda supporter. rparker
Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 14:49


No Syd, I'm just a guy who cares for the environment and wants effective action on climate change.

Last time I check your cheap as chips PV's had a capacity factor of around 15%. They'd need to be cheap because you need over 6 times their rated capacity to equal a nuclear power station and then let's see them work at night or on cold frosty mornings. They won't power our transport systems or our steel and aluminium production - there's stuff all they can do really. They can't even power our domestic AC systems properly because the sun is going down when the heat really gets going.

And as for Fukushima, we had 3 meltdowns in the midst of one of the greatest earthquakes and NO ONE DIED NOR WILL THEY. People will peacefully re-populate the area around the reactors and life will go on. Can't say the same for the millions poisoned by coal about which you say sod all.

Syd, safe disposal of nuclear fuel is not around the corner - its here but opposition from the hystericals prevents its implementation. We proved (not theorised) back in the 1960's how to transmute the wastes but cheap coal and gas plus public opposition have stiffled real action.

Finally Syd please don't link effective action on nuclear with Abbott. We don't need any more politicising of effective action on climate change.

Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 14:55

Very well said, Adam on behalf of all who haven't signed up for the Murdochracy of Abbottstan.

It is a great pity that Labor are too timid to speak out on so many vital isssues for fear of being rounded on by Murdoch lickspittles. Also they are probably so infiltrated by the Right these days they don't really want to damage Abbott too much.

Perhaps the Greens will end up being the progressive Party that Australia sorely needs now that Labor appears to have dropped that baton.

However, The Greens must learn to stop voting with the Coalition, even when your reasons for doing so differ.

Lay down with dogs and you always get up with fleas, and Tony Abbot is a political dog if ever there was one..

Shannon Oram
Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 15:12

Aaron is one of those climate skeptics that will never be convinced of anything they don't want to see.

Syd Walker
Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 15:20

Nothing would be more conducive to another five-ten watsed years of disgreement and confusion than the suggestion that the only way we can stop using fossil fuels is to embrace nuclear energy.

It's a complete furfhy. If you really believe this stuff, RParker, you have my sympathy. If not, you disgust me.

Even the lead-in time of powering up with nuclear doesn't work - let alone cost and environmental dangers.

Regarding the "no deaths" claim, permit me to quote a couple of paras from a recent article entitled 'Kukushima Forever' in the Huff Post:

The denial that Fukushima has any significant health impacts echoes the denials of the atomic bomb effects in 1945; the secrecy surrounding Windscale and Chelyabinsk; the studies suggesting that the fallout from Three Mile Island was, in fact, serious; and the multiple denials regarding Chernobyl (that it happened, that it was serious, and that it is still serious).

As of June, 2013, according to a report in The Japan Times, 12 of 175,499 children tested had tested positive for possible thyroid cancer, and 15 more were deemed at high risk of developing the disease. For a disease that is rare, this is high number. Meanwhile, the U.S. government is still trying to get us to ignore the bad seed. June 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy granted $1.7 million to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to address the "difficulties in gaining the broad social acceptance" of nuclear power.

One final thing. Please don't tell me I say "sod all" about coal. How would you know? Have we chatted on the phone? Have you read all I've written about energy policy and climate change? 

That sneering throw-away line give me one instance which enables me to say with categorical certainty that you're purveying misleading and inaccurate tosh.


Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 15:21

I suggest you visit www.rmi.org, and have a look at effective solutions to energy flow problems.  Amory Lovins, who founded  RMI, has been working for over 30 years on energy conservation and the supply of appropriate energy for specific needs.  He has probably done more than any other single person to cut back global energy consumption (and, hence, CO2 production contributing to AGW).  Check there for some of the  latest practical applications and ideas of alternative energy sources and technologies.  But you won't find anything much about nuclear electricity.

The difficulties with nuclear electricity are the same now as they were 70 years ago. The waste disposal problem is unsolved, the general public is expected to underwrite the risk with their tax money and their health (which suffers in the event of accidents, and I would be very careful, citing statistics about nuclear contamination and health effects arising from Fukushima, unless you have the expertise to cut through and criticise TEPCO's and other propagandists).  And nuclear reactors are vulnerable to armed attack, as well as natural disasters.  If you ask me, they are a diplomatic and security liability to any country that has them, even the permanent members of the UN Security Council, let alone Iran, Pakistan and Israel..

Your comments about needing coal to provide the heat for metal smelting are quite reasonable, but  how is nuclear electricity going to fulfil this need?  I don't believe it does.

Do have a look at the Rocky Mountain Institute site.  I'd be pleased if the Greens took more of their ideas from there.


Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 15:41

Ah new matilda is certainly a leftie lala land. Firstly I am not a sceptic I just don't believe in pointless action. The carbon tax is pointless action as it will do nothing to reduce emissions and just hurt the Australian economy. Those who claim the world is moving towards a carbon tax are simply wrong, the world isn't moving towards a carbon tax/ETS. Most systems are mere window dressing, for example the EU system with an incredible low carbon price. The only reason the EU is reducing emissions is because the economy is in recession. Until China and the rest of Asia have proper emission schemes and Australian scheme will only result in us exporting our emissions off shore, so will result in no net reduction.

So Adam Bandt is wrong on this, Abbott abandoning the ETS won't increase climate change.

As for climate change causing more bushfires this is also simply wrong, there is no credible evidence that natural disasters will increase due to climate change and specifically bush fires will increase. The climate commission has no credibility, wasn't it Tim Flannery who claimed some years ago we would never again have sufficient rains to fill our dams, as a result we now have alot of expensive desalination plants not being used.

So another point Adam Bandt is wrong on.

Finally a changing climate is not bad especially a warming climate. Latest info from thje IPCC shows the climate won't warm much. And recent studies show a warmer climate will result in less cold related deaths (cold related deaths greatly ounumber deaths cause by heat) and increased agricultural production (CO2 is pant food the the more there is in the atmosphere the more crops we have).

So lefties stop worrying and relax a bit, be positive not negative bores, the climate will always change and humans will adapt and prosper as we always have,  enjoy the warmth and sunshine and go to the beach,after all you only live once.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. rparker
Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 15:43

Ah Syd

I detect rancour

Nuclear power stations use about 1/20th of the resouces required for PV, wind or solar so there is NO basis in fact for nuclear being slow to role out. The Chinese and Koreans do it in 3 to 4 years and at a fraction of the cost of wind and PV.

Its all about having the will to deal with climate change - about treating it as the war it really is.

Last time I checked the Huff Post was not a peer reviewed scientific publication - more of a harem scarem really. We need a bit more in the line of comparative analysis than you have provided. Lets have the normalised thyroid cancer rates and then lets look at pre-existing risk factors.

Currently in Australia we have about 9 per 100,000 so the number you have quoted of 12 is actually below the Australian incidence. Keep in mind it also has about a 96% survival rate. I'm not sure your data maens anything really because you would also have to do a correction for other risk factors such as pre-existing radiotherapy.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. tone16g
Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 16:01

rparker continues the misinformation about solar power. PV is not the only way solar is used to provide power.

In addition to directly converting solar energy to electricity, solar energy is also used to melt salt (not regular table stuff, though) to several thousand degrees. This heat is used to generate steam to drive turbines in the usual way.

Sure PV cell efficiency may currently be at around 12-17%, but it's getting better all the time (latest research claims a 44% efficiency in a new technology, but that's some way off being commercialised).

But once it's built the ongoing costs and maintenance are absolutely minimal. The same applies to other renewables - wind and waves - to varying degrees.

This is why, incredibly, Germany leads Australia in the implementation of PV power. Could we do better? Yes, but it's a pity Abbott is so blinkered that he wants to shut down the Clean Energy Corporation.

I'm not by any means knee-jerk anti-nuclear - I'd love to see fusion developed - but at the moment I'm not convinced. Factor in the actual cost of the disposal of that waste and it's not that cheap at all.

By the way, although it's true to say no-one died of radiation at Fukushima, it's a bit of a stretch to say there will never be any deaths as a result. After all, at Chernobyl there were fifty-odd directly attributable deaths, but 4,000 or so more deaths from cancer in the region, than would normally be expected.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. rparker
Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 16:11

To Vittidinia

Thankyou for your comments. I tend to take a lot of my information about climate change from James Hansen who believes we need to use nuclear power because of the immense problems we face with climate change.

I also suggest you look at the CSIRO's eFutures energy model and note the massive difference between carbon emissions when the nuclear power option is chosen. We have NIL chance of reducing our emissions by 90% by 2050 without the power of the atom.

I'll tackle the materials processing first. Currently we use electricity from coal to make aluminium. This can be done far more cleanly if we use the power of the atom rather than coal. Steel making requires chemical reduction of iron ore using carbon to produce CO2 and iron metal. With nuclear energy we can hydrolise water and reduce the iron ore using hydrogen instead thereby producing water istead of CO2. With unlimited clean electricity we can refashion most of our existing industrial chemical processes.

The "waste" problem has been largely resolved. The minor actinides such as Americium and major actinides such as plutonium are all readily used as fuel in fast reactors such as the BN600 which the Russians have used for more than 30 years and the EBR-II that the US built and operated for over 30 years. This leaves the fission products which have a half life of up to 300 years. They require storage but not into the tens of thousands of years.

The general public pays a vastly higher price now with its use of coal power. Coal kills 161 people per TWh compared to nuclear at 0.04 per TWh. Coal is 4000 times more deadly and solar rooftop is 11 times more deadly than nuclear. Coal annually puts out 20 times the radiation into the globe that nuclear power does but this seems to be forgotten.

Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 16:16

I'd also like to know how much tony abbott claimed from us for the "volunteer" photo op.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. rparker
Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 16:22

To Tone16G

If the sun shines for 12 hours and its daily intensity is sinusoidal how is it possible to ever get PV to exceed even 20% availability?

PV has major ongoing maintenance costs in part because non of it is made to industrial grade quality - as it gets cheaper it has more and more cheap degradable plastic bits and inverters that fail. It needs cleaning of collectors, trees cut back and all manner of ongoing tweeking.

Your confidence about molten salt storage needs to take into account that this technology is not currently used in an large 1000 MW stations anywhere in the World. It is not powering economies. Please provide actual data to support your hopes and desires.


This user is a New Matilda supporter. RossC
Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 16:24

Adam, for once, I think you may have read a little too much into Tony's bushfire narrative management strategy. 

I think it's far more simple.

Tony loves fighting fires. He loves the trucks, he loves the action, he loves the blokey chatter around the end-shift barbeque, but more than anything he loves the uniform. That fantastic uniform. It's that simple.

Tony's got a great fire fighting uniform. It's kept right next to the little army uniform he used when shooting at stationary things in Afghanistan (Leunig wrote a little poem about that - and it was a cracker).

Tony's fire fighting uniform is yellow, it's got shiny reflective bits, and it says that the wearer is a hero. A Hero!!! You even get a proper hat to wear..... 

In fact, I bet Tony is at home, right now, polishing his helmet...........something history shows he does well.  

Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 16:47

I agree with Aaron that the carbon tax is relatively meaningless, so is its effect on the economy by the way but if you want to put a system that can be leveraged in the future and use proceeds to fund investment in new power generation then it makes sense. As to climate change being relatively benign, this sets a new bench mark in delusion....and yes we will periodically in the future have water problems and WA uses its de sal plant. 

I have stopped arguing strongly about climate change because the problem is culturally and politically beyond us - the carbon price is a deep compromise made 20 years too late. One thing I did learn from this episode is that much like California the fires coming our way will make climate change undeniable - a big difference we have is vast coal reserves and we rely on cheap electricity for heavy industry. I think the lucky country paradigm will finally flip - and because of our large fossil fuel exports I don't think we will do the right thing - we are headed for a fossil fuel pariah state future - too much money involved.

Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 16:55

I am a student who studies Envrionmental Science, I would like to point out and interesting fact.


The Indigenous People of Australia dealt with bushfires long before white people arived. They dealt with these fires in a very simple way. They reduced the fuel load. This was done by what we now call back burning, and, by moving from one area to another, thus, not allowing fuel loads to build up in any one area.


Other than back burning, one way white people have achieved the same goal of reducing fuel load, especially in alpine areas, is by running livestock in alpine areas. This was a practice that did indeed reduce fuel load in an efficient manner, thus, meaning less severe fires. Its a practice that no longer occurs, thanks to a campaign by a certain political party.


Can you guess which one? Thats right, it was The Greens. 


Food for thought.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. Tokujiro
Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 16:59

Thanks Ross for the preceding comment - Tony and his uniforms and helmets - and an earlier writer wondering how much Tony will have put in for - as a claim for his expenses (being out in the ommunity and all) - another of the coalition Illegals along with mate Morrison. People HAVE died as a result of Fukushima - but TEPCO's masters in the US (those responsible for twisting the arms of the Japanese in post-war post-Hiroshima~Nagasaki to buy their nuclear power technology) know all about spin and blatant misinformation. Adam BANDT is heroic in the face of the shrill attacks by the government and its Murdoch press hounds!

This user is a New Matilda supporter. Tokujiro
Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 17:06

Bill GAMMAGE in his brilliant book on Australia pre-1788 The Biggest Estate on Earth details exactly how the Indigenous peoples right across the continent and in Tasmania farmed with fire in all the climatic zones - so that early arrivals saw only parklands and grasslands and stands of forest and bald hills - all created to serve the people of each "country" - to draw new fresh growth to encourage the kangaroos - to run into blind traps of forest - or fpr a myriad of other purposes. I don't believe I have ever seen a Green policy which dictates against burning off/back-burning in the winter/autumn/other seasons as possible. I wonder about G.THOMPSON 92's course - or the agenda of his teachers. Yes - let's clear huge timber from alongside roadways and either build houses underground in bushfire prone places or come up with better ways for constructing such things.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. rparker
Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 17:06

To G.Thompson.92.

The current fire cricise is in the Blue Mountains. It is not cattle country. Never was, never could be.

The issue at hand is due to:

  1. CO2 emmissions since the start of industrialism now catching up with us and drying out of landscape for too early in the season. I grew up in Katoomba. In the 1950's our house in Govett Street had blistered paint on the walls due to bush fires. These fires occurred much later in the season.
  2. Building more houses in fire prone areas

If you need a scape goat for the lack of backburning try risk averse Council's and State Givernments long before you climb into the Greens. Their protection of the Alpine grasslands was sensible.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. RossC
Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 17:15


Ah the old "alpine grazing reduces blazing" argument. Classic!

Only a few problems with this argument:

Cattle don't eat leaves, either dead or alive. They eat grass. Most grass is in alpine meadows - ie in the regions where wildfire is not a risk. So, the cows stick to the meadow and trash those, reducing the fire risk not one jot. The only benefit is a financial gain to those few landed gentry who claim 'cultural rites' to having their cattle fatten up on the precious Crown land owned collectively by the rest of us (it also helps to be a relative of a recently-departed Premier).      

Big fires, dangerous fires, fast-spreading fires, burn in the crowns of trees. Cows can't get to those, and it wouldn't help if they could - they don't eat leaves, remember.

What we need is an animal with a long neck that likes to eat leaves. I know - lets introduce giraffes! 

Sounds stupid right? Yep, but not as stupid as the cattle grazing arguments.


Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 17:24

Aaron, it is head in the sand gits like you who make us the laughing stock of the world. I can tell you that my grandkids kids will not thank this idiot government for sitting on its hands. And as for Abbott dressed up like a fancy dress party goer - give me a bucket. 

Oh yes and whilst on the subject of gits, your pathetic use of the English language in describing Adam Brandt, indicates exactly where you are at in the food chain of logical thinking. Bottom dweller.

Sorry, but your opinion is worthless when you resort to personal attack and insult. Mine is fine. Good evening

Syd Walker
Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 17:32


I won't debate the epidemiology of nuclear industry with you.

Estimates of deaths from Chernobyl vary widely - and proof is elusive.

The Fukushima saga is far from over - even now, it's way too early to declare, as nuclear promoter George Monbiot did, mysteriously soon after the 2011 disaster, that Fukushima had made him stop worrying about nuclear power and love it! - http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/mar/21/pro-nuclear-japan-fukushima

My main reason for using the quote above was to show that understating casualities has been a long-standing trait of the nuclear insustry - and it has a history of paying quite handsomely for good PR.

I also had regard for James Hansen, so I watched his recent video in which he throws in the towel over the prospects for solar & wind energy and declares his faith in nuclear energy - see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZExWtXAZ7M.

I found it depressing, not because his arguments struck me as strong or well-argued, but because I learnt that this fine and doubtless well-intentioned climate scientist is, at root, a conventional and rather dull thinker on matters political and economic. 

Success in the struggle to avert dangerous climate change is surely a matter of developing a serious global program to decarbonize our economy using safe alternative technology - then going for it, all out!

We haven't really started to try that (blindingly obvious) way forward.

One illustration may help show what I mean by that. 

In March 2011, at the very same time Fukushima was going critical, the world's attebntion was focused on the USA/UK/French attack on Libya. After some 10,000 bombing drops, deployment of mercenaries and the extended use of pyschological warfare techniques, the "regime change" goals of these rogue states was accomplished and Libyan independence came to a bloody end, along with much of Libya's economy. Now Libya is in chaotic ruins. Even oil flows are minimal. It's become another place where westerners venture at risk.

Imagine if, instead of that utterly criminal (and very expensive) war on a formerly independent nation, European countries had invested significantly in solar technology deployed in the Sahara to help power Europe. Such a proposal was under discussion years ago. Now it has been consigned to the dustbin of history, not because it was tried and failed, but because we've fouled the political environment that might have made it possible.

Instead of blaming environmentalists for the destuction of planet earth, Hansen, Monbiot (and you?) might turn your attention to the real villains who have real power and who mould a reality that need not be, a 'reality' that is taking us all to the the brink of ruin.

Hansen waxes lyrical about how the next generation of 'safe' nuclear power. So does George Monbiot, Mark Lynas and all the rest of the nuclear fanboys.

So will they come out and attack the UK Govt for not actually using this much touted 'next generation' technology at Hinckley C?

Doubt it.



Roger Lamb
Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 17:54

Aussies telling other Aussies not to "politicize" (the early) fires in the Blue Mtns by referring to climate change, is like Yanks telling other Yanks not to "politicize" the deaths of children in schools by referring to lack of gun control.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. rparker
Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 18:20


There is clearly a great deal of emotion dwelling in you over this issue. I used to think "renewables" could be the answer but the numbers don't stack up and we have an enormous challenge ahead.

Getting to a 90% reduction in CO2 by 2050 will require the diversion of heavy transport to rail, electrification of all light vehicles, a renewal of electric interstate trains, electrification of our metallic smelting processes, desalination of water, fuel synthesis - the list goes on and on.

For this we need vast power and we can't afford to be buidling duplicate systems such as wind backing up solar backing up geothermal plus tidal  and any number of other as yet entirely undeveloped and fictional technologies. And lets forget completely about backup from "unnatural" gas. At anything over 3% leakage its CO2 emissions are greater than coal.

We also need to be aware that we need to provide economic certainty to businesses. We need to be sure thyat we can deliver the power industry needs, when it needs it and with price certainty.

The magnitude of what I have described is massive - utopian even but at least we have the models of societies such as France, Sweden, Japan and Switzerland who have achieved massive CO2 reductions albeit for strategic reasons using the power of the atom.

And please Syd could you stop vilifying people such as James Hansen, Mark Lynas, George Monbiot and even myself. I know James and I know his passion and commitment. He gives his all to stopping climate change. He lives a modest life and comes under enormous criticism within the USA for trying to turn the tide. Think about their training and the journeys they have travelled to get to their positions in support of nuclear power.

I believe nuclear power has a track record of being the safest form of energy we have available that can meet the challenge we face.Its vital that people such as yourself undertake some objective learning about its risks and benefits.

Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 18:36

regardless of politics perhaps if Me Brandt donned a bush firies kit and fought a fire?

This user is a New Matilda supporter. tone16g
Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 18:50

"... how is it possible to ever get PV to exceed even 20% availability?"
I don't know how technology will develop, but neither do you. Who knew back in the 80s how computers would develop? Who knew 10 years ago there would be smartphones?  What I do know is that research is progressing apace. If someone is claiming to get 44% efficiency now, are you in a position to dismiss it as never being commercially viable? No.

"PV has major ongoing maintenance costs..."
I never claimed it had no ongoing costs. But they're not major, or at least not as major as nuclear. Yes, shoddy materials will fail, but you could say the same about nuclear plants - are you prepared to guarantee that all nuclear plants are, and will always be, absolutely safe?

"It needs cleaning of collectors, trees cut back and all manner of ongoing tweeking (sic)"
Seriously? that's pretty minor stuff, really.

"molten salt storage ... is not currently used in an large 1000 MW stations anywhere in the World. It is not powering economies."
No, not yet. But see my previous para regarding the nature of technological progress.

You claim in another post that the nuclear waste issue is "resolved". It isn't, not as long as nuclear waste storage needs to be regulated, guarded and maintained. Not as long as places where it's stored are off-limits for human habitation. It's not resolved, it's just hidden away.

Syd Walker
Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 18:55


I did not 'vilify' Hansen. I criticized what I observed of his politcial and economic opinions. I have very high regard for his expertise as a climate scientist and long-track record of public advocacy for serious combined action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Yes, decarbonizing is a huge task. Quite unprecedented. This is a globalized world and humanity is in entirely uncharted waters.

The change is so enormous we must be able to build the momentum for change on ther strongest possible consensus. That alone is a good reason against arguing on and on about nuclear energy.

Try pursuading the folk around Fukushima to support more nukes around there.. see - https://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/10/21-5

I have no idea who you are and your bona fides in this debate. I judge only by your contributions. You seem very keen to spruik nuclear power, putting the best spin on nuclear at every opportunity. That's partly what bothers me.

I'm quite willing to admit that decarbonizing the global economy fast enough is a truly daunting task - a huge and unprecedented challenge that will be hard to achieve.

Why are you so keen to suggest that your "nuclear solutions" comes without real disadvantages - when evidence to the contrary is already so copious?



This user is a New Matilda supporter. rparker
Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 19:48

To Tone16g

O.K. You quote a figure of 44% efficiency. Now take a 10kW array and apply that 44% - we get 4.4kW when the sun is shining at maximum. Further, over what spectra are we discussing? Is it wide or narrow? So what are we getting 44% of? Now lets assume the night is 50%. Therefore our 4.4kw now averages 2.2kW. Now of this 2.2kW if we assume a sinusoidal sunshine intensity then maybe you get around 60% of the day time amount so now you are down to 1.32kW or 13.2% of our rated capacity. While the sun rises and sets that's it. Then I forgot about the clouds etc. On the plus side summer may give lots more.

For such a paultry return we have to remove the embedded energy due to the copper, aluminium and the production of the cells - I'd say you need about 8 -10 years to get back to square one on a CO2 balance alone - an so does the report to the British Parliament.

Now these devices are not "top self" bits of gear. They are made to the lowest common denominator so if you get a decade good luck!

Cleaning - minor stuff - tell that to a 60 year old who falls of the roof!

Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 21:58

RossC your comments provided some welcome comic relief.  I found the introduction of giraffe’s idea especially amusing! I’m not sure they would be very fond of our Eucalypts though.

But more seriously, zeroxcliche I tend to agree with you on this. I don’t believe we are effectively framing the ‘problem’ of climate change. I believe that yes, it is a problem and it is affecting us and will continue to do so. Climate change is merely a symptom of a broader issue related to our current energy use and consumption. The policy tools that have been developed to deal with climate change globally are not enough.

We have framed the issue around the equation that climate change is bad and reduced emissions are good. The solutions that are then proposed are market based (to reduce emissions) that don’t deal with the underlying problem of our lifestyles, our consumption and ultimately the incredible global inequities that exist.

What is occurring with global carbon markets is a business as usual approach that allows continued fossil fuel extraction and use while creating a global carbon market of which the same power structures benefit.

The carbon price in Australia has created a minor dent on emissions reductions. The oft quoted emission reductions have occurred from reduced electricity demand (mostly from energy intensive industry) and the increase in rooftop PV. Yes it has made some coal fired generators less economic as well, which has been beneficial.

Vittidinia, I would also advocate for Amory Lovins approach and his work on decentralised energy (Small is Profitable) is very important. Australia would do well to start seriously considering this option. Our energy networks are already starting to adapt to the fact of more decentralised renewable energy. With our ageing infrastructure, investment in nuclear energy is a mute-point. It's unnecessary and expensive. It also has very little public support in Australia and the recent Fukushima disaster continues to cement public perceptions against nuclear energy.

Douglas Chalmers
Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 22:38

Boring BANDT: "We know that these kind of fires will become more frequent, and many fires will become more severe, unless we get global warming under control..."

This is utter NONSENSE, uhh! Its the King Canute wannabe flip-trip fantasia that has become so typical amongst PC 'green' pseudo-environmentalists in Auz... delirously imagining that they (+ only they) can actually 'turn back the tide' of global warming. 

But worse, the assumed inevitability of worsening bushfires is also utter nonsense + an excuse to again do nothing to maintain a safe rural environment by periodic burning instead of leaving highly flammable undergrowth to accumulate because of the inconvenience of some smoke every couple of years.

Then there are the fools who want to live (aka DIE) among the gum trees... something that early white settlers learned but naive 'tree-changers' are unable to comprehend... because it doesn't suit their delusional dreams of country life. So amusing to see the Western white man roast himself + his family because of his own compulsions!?!? A fitting end for an invader settler society, uhh!

This user is a New Matilda supporter. rparker
Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 22:44


To reply to your question and quote Marius Jedburg in "Edge of Darkness" - I'm on the side of the angels. To me nuclear power represents the enlightenment - It has challenges but if we are to sustain a population on this planet of 7 to 9 billion with a growing and equitable share of wellbeing we need massive energy.

Solar, wind and tidal are all low grade technologies that promise nothing more than an ugly industrialisation of our landscape. Mechanised pollution on a grand scale with every hill and quiet place covered by marginally efficient machines. With wires and poles cluttering everything as far as the eye can see. Mankind can do much better than this.

Climate change will create massive disruption to our water ways. Nuclear power offers us the opportunity to desalinate seawater and remove dams and give our rivers back to nature so that it can recover.

Nuclear power as currently deployed is still in its infancy. Already we have proven how to reduce the wastes to about 2% of that currently generated by our light water reactors. We know how to build reactors that passively shut themselves down and can't meltdown. We know how to harvest limitless fuel from seawater. None of this is fanciful - the reactors have been built and proven. We just lack the conviction to proceed because the fossil fuel lobby has our politicians hobbled and our population scared.

We know from Fukushima that even when the cores of 3 reactors melted the emitted radiation caused no harmful effects to the inhabitants. This was despite near chaos across the land caused by the Tsunami. Fear is one thing, the truth is quite another.

We know with certainty that unless we get on top of carbon emissions that humans will have destroyed not only their future but also that of the innocent animal and plant species.

France fixed their electricity production over a twenty year period by going nuclear and we in Australia could do the same with a fleet of 29 x 1200 megawatt reactors. We could go further by changing our industrial processes and transport sectors with another 50 reactors.

Syd, you state that evidence to the contrary is copious but does your perception take account of the greater harm caused by fossil fuels which cause millions of deaths through air pollution and mining accidents. Against that Chernobyl has resulted in 60 deaths with a larger number of non lethal thyroid cancers. Three Mile Isalnd caused no deaths and negligible external pollution. Fukushima has recorded no deaths due to radiation and none are likely.

It seems our fear of radiation is a debilitating distraction fron saving our environment. I believe we need to face our fears head on by getting properly educated and use our inventiveness to fix our environment.


Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 23:52

The Kinglake fires happened because of the Greens, red tape.. That's it..

This user is a New Matilda supporter. tone16g
Posted Wednesday, October 23, 2013 - 09:04

Wow rparker, you're really stretching the logic now.

On one side, you take an output rating and reduce it by x%, assume that every solar panel is shoddily made from crappy materials and is located on a suburban roof just ripe for old blokes to fall off. Sure, if you compare that with an idealised nuclear plant, built for practically nothing, completely fail-safe with no waste to worry about... well, nuclear is going to win.

That's the great thing about fiction - it can be whatever you want it to be. Next up, time travel...



Posted Wednesday, October 23, 2013 - 09:34

it is very unsavoury in a time like the present to turn a serious situation into a joke of other arguments, solar panels, baddie Greens, slagging matches...pulling in Black Saturday into some ridiculous side argument...pull your heads out of your own bums people!

Simple fact - do we want massive fires like the ones we saw a few years ago where i and my friends lived, or that people are experiencing in NSW as we type? 

Do people and deadbeat politicians realise how much effort goes into local communities to sustain and maintain their communities before fires make them national headlines?  No they don't we are invisible and unimportant until something like this happens.  Do politicians have any interest in volunteer fire fighters, SES, support networks, community organsations etc before a great photo opp in a bright jacket?  No you don't!  You people only value games, bullshitting over serious people (and the private lives of your citizens), facades, images, and playing with other people's money behind your facades.  How many volunteers do your policies target through centrelink...because we might not be pulling in a wage, a "drain" on society through welfare...but out there volunteering and contributing valuable roles and services to locals' lives?  How much serious value and worth do you give us when you cut our funding or take it away altogether, or force VOLUNTEERS to buy their own kit?

The efforts we are seeing now in NSW and efforts that stupid people commenting flippantly on this article of volunteers linked to Black Saturday...largely self-funded, volunteers, local fund raising...

Tony Abbott you don't deserve to wear any symbol of a volunteer hard working, honest, genuine authentic member of a volunteer group or community organisation - you don't even know what they stand for, what they go through, and you WON'T be there when people suffer in the aftermath...you won't give adequate funding for mental health services for PTSD or lost commuinty services will you....these valuable services have been under-funded and then cut-off last year in the areas affected by Black Saturday...apparently you magically recover from PTSD after 2 years...

This user is a New Matilda supporter. douglas jones
Posted Wednesday, October 23, 2013 - 10:09

Oh boy what an outpouring.

May I just note Germany has a useful green policy and has maintained its economy!


Posted Wednesday, October 23, 2013 - 10:18

That's a good article. But anyone who wants to slam Abbot for making his profile DP should check the date it was posted as his DP, 10 August, 2013 well before the fires began. Agreed the government needs to do more about climate change. But if you want to campaign for this slamming a man for volunteering and accusing him of a reckless publicity stunt when your facts are completely unchecked is not the way to go about it. This is an ill thought display of journalism. If you want to be taken seriously do your research first instead of creating a lie that suits your story. You are contributing to a big part of what is wrong with the media today. 

Syd Walker
Posted Wednesday, October 23, 2013 - 12:15


Oliver Tickell has an article about Hinkley C in The Ecologist - see http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2127599/with_nuclear_power_truth_is_the_first_casualty.html

The nuclear industry is delighted that at last the orders are coming in. Savvy British taxpayers are less delighted. Tickell explains why:

The deal is a disastrous one for the UK, its taxpayers and energy users. We will be locked into a punitively high electricity price, index-linked, from 2025 until 2060, and the cumulative cost of this one nuclear power station will be well in excess of £100 billion, or around £1 billion per year in today's money.

The deal is also built on a lie - that nuclear power is not receiving any public subsidy. The "strike price" offered to EDF is a subsidy in all but name. And it's only the beginning of the UK's largesse, which also cover Treasury financing guarantees covering 65% of the construction cost (£10 billion), underwriting of decommissioning costs and waste management liabilities stretching millennia into the future, and limitless insurance against nuclear catastrophes of the kind that struck Fukushima. EDF will only be liable for the first €1.2 billion of costs arising from accident. Fukushima is conservatively estimated to have cost Japan over £300 billion. With free market insurance costs estimated at between €0.14 and €2.36 per kWh produced, the UK Government's insurance represents an additional subsidy worth €3 billion to €60 billion per year.

Now @rparker, since you apparently believe nuclear energy decommissioning issues have essentially been solved - and there is no risk from new nuclear power plants - please explain why the British PUBLIC has to cover those costs? (yet again!)

If you, like me, believe it's outrageous that builder-operator corporations get guaranteed profits from locked in high electricity prices - while evading responsibility for the great unknown costs - perhaps you'd like to write passionately against the Hinckley C decision?

Remember, the cost of grappling with the Fukushima debacle, while still unknown, certainly runs to hundreds of billions of dollars - see http://newsonjapan.com/html/newsdesk/article/89987.php - or for a truly frightening estimate see http://agreenroad.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/fukushima-crisis-total-cost-up-to-10.html

A few hundred billion dollars could build a few new nukes - what a shame the builder/operators won't guarntee the cost of fixing things if they ever go badly wrong.

Of course, Hinkley is not Fukushima and the Bristol Channel never gets tsunamies, does it? History tells us it doesn't - not since 1607 when a tidal wave flooded inland as far as Glastonbury. So that's OK then..


I'm sorry so many of the comments on this article about bush-fires and climate change are about this seemingly unrelated topic of nucelar energy. It was not my choice to lob it into the discussion.

I hope I'm wrong, but I fear that in the pro-nuclear arguments advanced by @rparker we're getting a taste of the real future of Abbott & co's Climate Change 'Direct Action' policy. It's a policy that's currently utter flim-flam, but could be re-crafted to put lipstick on the nuclear pig. 

Posted Wednesday, October 23, 2013 - 14:04

The assertion that an increasing average temperature globally isn't linked to the increasing frequency of, and damage by, bushfires is farcical. There's a reason that bushfire warnings are issued on days of high temperature.

As for the bizarre piece of misinformation making the rounds that the Greens are against hazard reduction burning is demonstrably false. Not that I expect anyone with an axe to grind to be swayed by a perusal of their actual policies.

Aaron employs a particularly nasty form of sophistry when he claims that Australia is responsible for an insignificant proportion of carbon emissions. Australia exports an enormous amount of coal, specifically to a number of countries that make up some of the biggest polluters in the world. Given that we provide them with the coal they burn we hold a share of the responsibility for their emissions; given that we provide them with such a large proportion of the fuel for their industries Australia is uniquely capable of having an impact should we ever decide that it's in our long term interests to do so.

In regards to debate concerning "green" vs nuclear energy? First I'd like to observe that there's no reason that it has to be an either/or equation. Second it's quite simply a reality that nuclear energy has benefited from funded research and subsidies that are so vast that it's almost absurd to ever compare them to solar or wind power research and operation, we have barely scratched the surface in the field.

Posted Thursday, October 24, 2013 - 13:10

By voting in such a wilfully ignorant idealogue, Australians have elected a man who's policies will send the economy backwards, and contribute to the most dangerous existential crisis the country has ever seen.

Well said Adam Bandt. The person playing politics with the bushfire's here is Tony Abbott, who shamelessly dons firefighter's clothes so that he can pose as some kind of hero. In view of the criminal damage he is promising to do to Australia and it's economy with the removal of the Carbon tax, his opportunistic use of these fires to publicise and promote his political career is hypocrtical in the extreme.

Thomas Fields
Posted Thursday, October 24, 2013 - 14:55

Deep down "progressives" want there to be more bushfires so they can be proven right.