Privatisation means more Australian air pollution

This video from Australia is called BOLT MAN Vales Point shutdown concert 2014,

By Martin Scott in Australia:

Massive increase in toxic emissions at Australian coal power plant

15 April 2020

Data released this month by the National Pollutant Inventory revealed that the Vales Point coal-fired power plant on the New South Wales (NSW) Central Coast released 130,000 kilograms of fine particulate matter in 2018-19, an increase of 181 percent over the previous year.

Australians became all too familiar with toxic PM2.5 pollution in recent months, as smoke from the summer’s catastrophic bushfires enveloped large sections of the country for weeks on end.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 4.2 million premature deaths each year are caused by air pollution. Exposure to PM2.5 has been shown to increase the incidence of heart, lung and kidney disease.

A study released earlier this week at Harvard University in the United States found that a small increase in long-term exposure to PM2.5 also is associated with a 15 percent increase in the COVID-19 death rate.

An Australian federal government review board recently ruled against a bid to use $14 million of the federal Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) to upgrade the privately-owned Vales Point plant.

The Independent Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee found that the proposed turbine blade replacement project would cut the power station’s carbon emissions by a mere 1.3 percent, not enough to bring the plant’s emissions below the grid average.

The bid for funding had been rejected in 2018 by the government’s Clean Energy Regulator for the same reason, but the plant’s multi-millionaire co-owner, Trevor St Baker, sought an “urgent meeting” to appeal the decision. Melissa Price, the then environment minister in the federal Liberal-National government, called for the review.

While this proposal was turned down, nothing in the ruling contradicts Price’s 2018 insistence that the ERF was “technology neutral”, and therefore could be used to fund supposed upgrades to polluting coal-fired power stations.

In the first five years of its operation, the government’s $2.55 billion ERF reportedly reduced Australia’s carbon pollution by 44.8 million tonnes, a mere 8 percent of the country’s annual emissions, and less than one-fifth of the emissions caused by the recent bushfires.

More than half of that reduction came from reforestation projects, suggesting a significant portion of projected future gains may have literally gone up in smoke.

Like the earlier Emissions Trading Scheme introduced by the last Labor government of 2007 to 2013, the ERF is aimed at bolstering the very capitalist market responsible for global warming and the environmental crisis.

Rather than forcing big polluters to forgo any of their profits to reduce, or at least pay the true cost of, their carbon emissions, they are rewarded with additional public funds for even the smallest effort to improve their environmental performance.

Vales Point, which has a 1,320 MW generating capacity, is the twelfth-largest power plant in Australia. It was sold to Sunset Power International by the NSW Liberal-National state government in 2015 for just $1 million, the price of an average house in Sydney.

Company documents released in 2017 valued the power station at $730 million. Since 2017, Sunset Power International shareholders have been paid dividends of almost $72 million.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who was the state treasurer at the time of the sale, claimed that $130 million of government money earmarked for future liabilities—mostly staff entitlements—at the site would be “returned” to the government.

Berejiklian said: “With the sale of Vales Point, NSW is no longer exposed to significant liabilities, such as costs associated with decommissioning, estimated to be in the tens of millions.”

It was later revealed that Sunset Power would be responsible only for $10 million of the cleanup costs when the site is shut down, leaving the NSW public responsible for a bill likely to be in the tens, if not hundreds, of millions.

The plant was previously expected to shut down by 2025, but the company now suggests it could run until 2049. Even if the proposed turbine upgrade went ahead, the 24-year extension would result in the emission of more than 160 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Vales Point was not the first NSW power station to be handed over to the corporate sector at a bargain price.

In 2013, Eraring Energy, valued at more than $1 billion, was sold to Origin Energy by the NSW Liberal-National government for just $50 million. Its assets included Australia’s second-largest energy plant, the 2,880-megawatt Eraring power station in nearby Dora Creek, Lake Macquarie. Sweetening the deal even further, Origin Energy was awarded $300 million in compensation for the termination of a future coal supply contract.

The NSW Environmental Protection Agency last month handed down a $15,000 fine for excessive dust emissions from the Eraring station’s ash dam, the third such penalty imposed on the plant in the past three years.

Privatisation of electricity has been promoted on the false promise that it would result in reduced power bills. In fact, average household electricity bills have increased by more than 35 percent in real terms since 2007-08, when this privatisation began. This is despite a reduction of more than 13 percent in average household energy consumption.

At the same time, electricity companies have sought to increase their profits by slashing thousands of jobs. Energy distributor Ausgrid alone has sacked more than 2,000 workers since 2014. That recently resulted in more than 15,000 of their customers in NSW waiting over a week for power to be restored after major storms and flooding battered the east coast of Australia in February.

While the full privatisation of the electricity industry in NSW has been carried out by Liberal-National governments, it was the previous state Labor government that kickstarted the process in 2008. Despite broad public opposition, then Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd backed the plan to sell off the retail side of the state’s power industry.

The selling off of utilities and major public companies was initiated by the Hawke and Keating federal Labor governments, which offloaded the Commonwealth Bank in 1991, followed by Qantas in 1993.

Keating boasted in 2008: “From the day the National Electricity Market, established by the Keating government, went into operation in 1995, there was no economic or commercial reason why any state would retain state ownership of power generating capacity.”

Far from a serious effort to reduce carbon emissions and build a reliable, modern electricity network based on renewable energy, the climate policy of successive Australian governments, federal and state, has served to further the profit interests of the corporate and financial elite.

The author also recommends:

Lack of action on climate change leads to warmest decade ever recorded
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Australia’s energy crisis exposes market failure
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The irrationality of capitalism: Millions cut off from electricity, lives endangered by California utility PG&E
[11 October 2019]

A new UCLA study in zebrafish identified the process by which air pollution can damage brain cells, potentially contributing to Parkinson’s disease: here.

Australian bushfire survivors interviews

This 16 January 2020 video says about itself:

Prehistoric Wollemi pines saved by firefighters from Australia’s bushfires

Australia’s Wollemi pines survived the dinosaurs and now firefighters have nursed them through the country’s unprecedented bushfire season to live another day. When seen from above – among acres of charred, native forest – there’s a thin trail of green. Firefighters were winched in by helicopter to activate irrigation systems, while other aircraft dropped water and retardant along the flames’ edge to minimise their impact. The giant trees were thought to be extinct until 1994, when authorities found 200 of them in a national park near the Blue Mountains, north-west of Sydney

AUSTRALIA’S ENDANGERED ‘DINOSAUR’ TREES SAVED A stand of trees with ancestors that date back 200 million years was saved from a series of devastating bushfires, a rare glimmer of good news amid the ongoing disaster. A team of firefighters was deployed to a remote part of the Blue Mountains, about 120 miles northwest of Sydney, as a massive bushfire approached. [HuffPost]

From the World Socialist Web Site in Australia:

Australia: NSW bushfire victims condemn inadequate planning and government responses

By our reporters

16 January 2020

Reporters from the World Socialist Web Site recently spoke to residents from northern towns of New South Wales (NSW) affected by the ongoing bushfire crisis. The region has been experiencing a drought since 2017, which has exacerbated the spread and intensity of the fires. Most areas are still under level-four water restrictions, the most severe, since the WSWS reported a month ago.

Across the country, the fires have resulted in at least 26 deaths, the destruction of more than 2,100 homes and the decimation of millions of hectares of bush and pastoral land. Broad swathes of the NSW coast have been devastated by blazes unprecedented by their size and intensity.

The crisis has revealed the immense growth of social inequality, and the failure of successive governments to put in place measures to mitigate the impact of annual fires. It has also underscored the criminal refusal of the political establishment to address climate change, which is a major contributing factor.

Reg and Usha are retirees living near Taree, 300 kilometres north of Sydney. Usha said: “These fires have unraveled the lie that the economy is separate from the environment. How does the economy work if you can’t grow your own produce? They are very much integrated.

“The drought is in large part due to deforestation and all sorts of anti-environmental policies extending way back to the start of white settlement. It’s all coming back to haunt us. You can’t have infinite growth of this economic system, it’s unsustainable.”

Reg added: “The problem is that the fossil fuel industry is so entrenched in the economy, and politicians are cowards who just want to stay in office as long as possible. I can’t remember the last time a courageous independent thinking person was preselected by the two major parties. The regime is totally corrupt.”

Reg and Usha

Usha pointed to broader political issues, stating: “We’ve come to a position where we have the prime minister openly speaking about crushing environmental activists. I think it all started from the war on terrorism almost 20 years ago. The censorship laws that have built up since have made politicians arrogant enough to be more authoritarian in their approach.

“There could not have been a Peter Dutton or a Scott Morrison before. This has an absolute connection to the persecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the state of politics today. They feel free from public sentiment and scrutiny. Australians like to think we live in a free society but we’re definitely not.”

One member of the Rural Fire Service, the volunteer force that has had to tackle many of the blazes, told the WSWS: “The ferocity of the fires has led to a lot of fatigue-related accidents, with instances of people rolling their trucks. I’ve come to a scene where a fire tornado had picked up a truck weighing 10–13 tonnes and tossed it over a farm fence. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve seen two dead bodies, severe burns. I’ve become numb to it now.

“Fires have been starting overnight, running 40km in one instance. One travelled 5km in one hour. Traditional, 100-foot containment lines have been helpless. I often joke that the only thing that’s going to stop these fires is the Great Eastern Firebreak. People ask, ‘What’s that?’ I say: It’s the Pacific Ocean.

“No white man has seen a drought this bad before. I had 70 head of cattle and I’m down to 30. Most have been lost due to hunger and misadventure in search of food. The cattle have been using the dried-up Manning River like it’s a highway in search of food.

“There are a whole number of factors coming together to create this fire season, and it’s not simply a lack of funding. The RFS is good for rapid response but reacting to this crisis is too late. The fuel load and conditions for severe and widespread fires have been building for a long time.

“One of the issues is that people are not as wealthy as they were 40 or 50 years ago. Gone are the days of single-income homes. Now everyone is trying to outdo each other. We are up to our eyeballs in debt. Living costs are so high that many people are uninsured.

“Most RFS members in the past were farmers, but there has been a massive shift in the last 20 years with a loss of experience and knowledge. Volunteers are dwindling in numbers and the average age is increasing. You can’t go flogging these people for 11 weeks of fire-fighting.

“There has been a widespread failure in the duty of private landowners, the council and National Parks to manage properties for fire risk. There needs to be far more resources devoted to mitigation. Funding for social services such as the National Parks and State Forest (NPSS) has been reduced, with limited staff available for hazard reduction burns.

“A large amount of crown land was signed over in the 1990s by Bob Carr’s Labor government to the NPSS when their 99-year leases ran out. This virtually doubled its jurisdiction in size, but without the corresponding funding to deal with it. So they just locked it up, creating a highly flammable forest.”


Matthew is a resident of Gloucester, about 100km west of Taree, who owns a nursery. He said: “They’ve run out of water here. They should have gone on water restrictions a lot earlier, it’s not been well planned. There’s got to be a certain amount of water in the river before they go on restrictions. You can see the river’s not running at the moment. It’s as dry as I’ve seen it, and I’m forty-five.

“The fires didn’t reach where I live, I’ve been lucky. But for the environment and for the wildlife, there’s millions and millions of animals dead. If anything had survived you would think it would be in the small bits that hadn’t burned, but there’s nothing there either, the fires are that hot.

“My brother used to work in the national parks, and the federal and state governments have cut their funding. Over the last four or five there’s been about 130 less jobs. With less jobs and less funding, there’s less people to do back-burning. They need more funding for people to do the burning-off.

“With this drought, some of the fire-fighters have said that even with the burning-off it wouldn’t have stopped the fires. And there are places, like up near Tenterfield, or at Wollemi National Park, where you can’t really burn-off safely any time of year. Every year it’s worse. So climate change is having an effect, and I still think that we need to respond to it.

“I think the government isn’t funding the national parks or the firefighters because it would cost them money, and then they’d have to admit that climate change is real and that they haven’t done anything about it. It’s like the state government who’ve said they’re putting money in and they’ve bought two more water bombers. That’s nowhere near enough, and it doesn’t matter how many water bombers you have, it does nothing to prevent fires in the first place.”


Paul, a farmer at the Gloucester markets, said: “The bushfires near Taree were right up close to us because our property joins up with the Coopernook forest. They had to bring in a lot of resources, including aircraft, that weren’t there at the start.

“There’s been a lot of trouble with the way things are set up. They couldn’t even get water close to here and some of the helicopters had to refuel as far away as Williamtown which is 100km away. They’re getting some salt-water out of the rivers for fighting fires but they are trucking in town water here at Gloucester now because there’s nothing. At our place we’re just relying on dams and wells.

“I also think that those volunteer firefighters should be paid. They are putting their life on the line to save others. We’ve had three or four of them lose their lives.”

Paul noticed the WSWS reporter’s “Free Assange” t-shirts and commented:

“I think Assange should be freed, he’s been set up. The Swedish allegations were false, I’ve known that for a long time. He’s a good fellow from what I know of him. He told the truth. And when the truth is exposed, shit hits the fan as they say. It’s the same all over the world. The truth is, if the people who write for the Sydney Morning Herald or the [Rupert Murdoch owned] Daily Telegraph published what Assange has published, they’d lose their jobs. It’s the same with these bushfires, they don’t want the truth to get out.”

Australian fires have incinerated the habitats of up to 100 threatened species. Scientists warn of an ecological catastrophe as crucial habitats of rare plants and animals burn: here.

Australian magpie sounds bushfire alarm

This 1 January 2019 video says about itself:

Australian magpie mimics emergency siren during New South Wales bushfires

An Australian magpie has been caught on camera mimicking the sound of emergency vehicle sirens during the bushfire crisis affecting large parts of the country. Almost 400 homes have been confirmed as destroyed in New South Wales alone in the past week, with thousands of people told to evacuate coastal communities. The Australian magpie, voted bird of the year by Guardian Australia readers in 2017, is well known for mimicking the sounds it hears most frequently, such as dogs and car alarms.

A commenter writes:

This bird is way better at warning people than the prime minister.

Australia: Climate inaction and budget cuts fuel devastating bushfires: here.

A BILLION ANIMALS FEARED DEAD IN AUSTRALIA’S FIRES Chris Dickman, an ecologist at the University of Sydney, told HuffPost that his original estimate of 480 million animals was not only conservative, it was also exclusive to the state of New South Wales and excluded significant groups of wildlife for which they had no population data. [HuffPost]

AUSTRALIA BUSHFIRES HAVE THEIR OWN WEATHER SYSTEMS  The bushfires ravaging Australia are generating so much heat that they are creating their own weather systems, including dry lightning storms and fire tornadoes. On Saturday, the New South Wales Rural Fire Service warned that a fire on the coast was generating its own weather system 178 miles south of Sydney. [Reuters]

AUSTRALIAN MP Craig Kelly was forced to apologise to British meteorologist Laura Tobin today after he received backlash for calling her an “ignorant pommy weather girl.” The Liberal Party MP from Sydney appeared on Good Morning Britain on Monday and told Ms Tobin, the show’s weather presenter, that there is no link between climate change and Australia’s current bushfire crisis. Mr Kelly also claimed that a push towards renewable energy would not have prevented the crisis. Ms Tobin called him a “climate denier” and said: “Australia has just had in 2019 its highest year temperature-wise ever recorded and its driest year ever record with forecast temperatures that go back over 100 years”: here.

This 7 January 2020 video is called Wildfires in Australia Cause Half a Billion Animals Deaths, Literal “Fire Tornados”.

Australian bushfire catastrophe exposes the contempt of the ruling elites for working people: here.

Confronting a wave of public anger over its initial indifference to the country’s bushfire crisis, the Australian government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison is now engaged in an exercise in damage control to salvage its standing with limited promises of aid and assistance. The federal Coalition government rejected expert advice that the 2019–2020 fire season would be catastrophic and refused to finance even limited increases in firefighting capabilities. Moreover, working people have watched with growing fury as Morrison and his ministers responded to the outbreak of unprecedented blazes by dismissing overwhelming evidence that the fire crisis is linked to global warming: here.

A new study with over 3,700 people in India associates air pollution with a higher risk to develop osteoporosis: here.

The decommissioning of coal-fired power plants in the continental United States has reduced nearby pollution and its negative impacts on human health and crop yields, according to a new study: here.

Prime minister ‘idiot’, Australian bushfire survivors say

This 2 January 2020 video says about itself:

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was branded an “idiot” and was told to “p*** off” as he was heckled by furious residents of a town ravaged by the devastating bushfires.

Mr Morrison, who was heavily criticised for taking a family holiday to Hawaii as the crisis erupted last month, was forced to cut short his trip to Cobargo, on the New South Wales South Coast, 280 miles south of Sydney.

Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs: don’t travel to dangerous eastern Australia.

Sydney, Australia surrounded by bushfires ring

This 19 December 2019 video says about itself:

Australian bushfire crisis deepens with record-breaking temperatures

Two volunteer firefighters have been killed fighting blazes south-west of Sydney in a worsening bushfire crisis facing Australia. A seven-day state of emergency was called in New South Wales, with more than 100 fires burning across the state and only half of then contained. Record high temperatures across have exacerbated the already dry conditions. South Australia is also preparing for devastating fires amidst the heat and drought. Sydney has again be blanked in bushfire smoke, triggering protests outside prime minister Scott Morrison’s Sydney residence.

This 18 December 2019 video says about itself:

Swarms of protesters are camping outside Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Kirribilli House in Sydney where they say they will wait until he returns to “confront the climate crisis”.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

Sydney surrounded by fire: roads closed, residents have to stay home

Heat and forest fires are making the situation in southeastern Australia more and more acute. Various roads have been closed around Sydney, trains have been shut down and residents of the metropolis are being advised to postpone all journeys at the start of the Christmas holiday.

In Sydney, the fires and the heat have been the talk of the town for weeks, says correspondent Eva Gabeler from Sydney. “Everyone is talking about it. Today we woke up here with a smoky sky. It also causes fear among the population. You see more and more people with mouth masks. Unreal in a city like Sydney, where air quality has traditionally been super. Suicide line emergency services also receive more calls from people who are anxious or depressed. ” …

There are more than a hundred fires in the region, two of them near Sydney. They cause a life-threatening situation.

Today there was a cooler wind, but the wind was strong with gusts of wind up to 90 kilometers per hour. This means there is a risk that the fires will move quickly. “It was a terrible day”, a fire chief said, summarizing the day. “We can’t control these fires unless there is a decent amount of rain.” Some rain is expected in the coming days, but no large quantities.

Eight dead

There are 3000 firefighters and other emergency services working to deal with the crisis. Since September, eight people have died in fires in Australia. More than 700 houses have been destroyed.

One of the firefighters is the Dutchman Jeroen van Veen. He lives in the state of Victoria but is now fighting the fires near Sydney.

Yesterday he said in the NOS Radio 1 Journal that this week he and his colleagues were fighting “against a wall of fire that entered a residential area”. The wind is a big problem for the fire brigade: “Every time we have a fire out, you get gusts of wind that cause new fires. If one valley is safe, there is fire again in another one.”

According to Van Veen, it is a new experience, especially for his youngest colleagues. “They had never seen such a big sea of ​​fire, with fire tornadoes coming straight at us.”

Scott Morrison downplays climate change link to wildfires and says government will not change course: here.

Desalination plant attracts Australian fish

This 2015 video is called Between Ferries: Fish under Manly Wharf in Sydney Harbour.

From the American Chemical Society in the USA:

Australian desalination plant attracts fish

December 18, 2019

With growing populations and climate uncertainty, water security is a global concern. Many nations operate desalination plants, which remove salt from seawater to make it drinkable. These facilities typically discharge excess salt as hypersaline brine back into the ocean, with uncertain ecological effects. Now, researchers in Environmental Science & Technology report that a large desalination plant in Australia has the unexpected benefit of attracting some species of fish, increasing their abundance at the discharge site.

The city of Sydney, Australia, began operating the Sydney Desalination Plant in 2010 to improve water security for Australia’s largest city. Because of an ongoing drought, the plant is now supplementing Sydney’s water supply with up to 66 million gallons per day. During operation, the Sydney Desalination Plant releases hypersaline solution from two outlets above a rocky reef about 328 yards offshore and 26 yards below the ocean surface. Brendan Kelaher and colleagues investigated how this hypersaline discharge impacted reef fish community structure and abundance.

The researchers used scuba divers to take videos of fish at the outlet sites and at multiple reference sites a couple of miles away over a 7-year period before and after the desalination plant’s operation, as well during a timeframe when the plant temporarily ceased operations. Fish, including some commercially important species, were three times more plentiful around the outlet during hypersaline discharge than before or after. The largest increase was observed for fish, such as the one-spot puller, that feed on zooplankton. These differences were not observed at the reference sites. Because local changes in seawater salinity and temperature were relatively small following hypersaline discharge, the team says that the turbulence caused by the high-pressure release of the salty solution could have attracted the fish. Careful regulation of fishing around desalination discharge outlets might be needed to prevent local depletion of fish populations on the broader reef complex, the researchers say.

Australian bushfire survivors interviewed

This 11 December 2019 video from Australia says about itself:

Bushfire and smoke prompts Liberal [the Australian right-wing governing party, basically climate change denialist] politician to break ranks on climate change | 7.30

For days on end bushfire smoke has choked cities on the east coast obscuring the sun, and forcing people indoors. Now one New South Wales Liberal MP, Matt Kean, has linked the extreme conditions to climate change.

From the World Socialist Web Site in Australia:

Australia: New South Wales residents speak out on bushfire crisis

By our reporters

19 December 2019

A WSWS reporting team recently spoke to residents of the New South Wales (NSW) mid-North Coast, which was devastated by bushfires in early November. At least 121 homes have been destroyed in the area, roughly 300 kilometres north of Sydney, while one person tragically lost their life.

Residents are currently on Level 4 water restrictions, the most severe level which limits water use to essential indoor purposes only. The Manning River, which provides the region with 90 percent of its water supply, has reportedly stopped flowing, and other tributaries have dried up.

Almost 2,000 firefighters are currently battling around 108 blazes across NSW, amid extremely hot weather. The state Liberal government today announced a week-long “state of emergency.” Catastrophic fires have also been raging in the neighbouring states of Victoria and Queensland, as well as in Western Australia.

Severely dry conditions, high temperatures and low humidity are combining to enhance the impact and speed of bushfires. At least 724 homes, 49 facilities and 1582 outbuildings have been destroyed in NSW so far. Six people have died.

The crisis has exposed the evisceration of firefighting services by successive state and federal governments, Labor and Liberal alike. It has underscored the criminality of the refusal of every capitalist institution to take any action to alleviate climate change, which is resulting in an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events.

The WSWS spoke to Jai Allison, a resident of the town of Elands, north of Taree. Allison is also a researcher at the University of Newcastle studying a PhD on the emergency response of local communities.

Pacific Highway south of Taree

He commented: “The scale of this disaster is unprecedented and has been compounded by the approach to disaster management by the federal government. For years, the fire brigades have warned of the risk and threat levels, appealing for the state and federal government to take action. Instead, they have been confronted with denial along with consistent cuts to funding for fire services.

Jai Allison

“There was once a depoliticised concept in emergency management known as ‘community resilience.’ This is a term for better preparing and managing disasters through the empowering and training of communities who have access to local knowledge, support networks and relationships that have built over the years. This was meant to be complementary to government assistance, but over time this has been seized upon by a neo-liberal agenda to justify a shift of funding and responsibility away from the state and federal government to small communities and individuals.

Firestorm approaching Bobin, supplied by local resident

“Much of the work pertaining to disaster response is now contracted out to agencies such as the Australian Red Cross and Anglicare and a lot of support comes from charities. In fact, there has been a viral breakout of support from minority groups such as the Lebanese community.”

One local resident confirmed that there was upwards of $200,000 of product donated by the Muslim and Lebanese community of Sydney, stating: “They were phenomenal. They would ring, ask what we wanted and in two days we would have it by truck.”

Bobin area

The WSWS also spoke to residents of Bobin, south of Elands, who were hosting a Christmas party to thank volunteers from the Rural Fire Service and State Emergency Services. The town lost 18 homes, as well as the local public school.

The fire hit Bobin rapidly and without forewarning. According to the Manning River Times, the Bobin School principal had declared the school closed on a “gut decision” the night before the fires raged through on November 8. If this action was not taken, the 17 students may have been in the school when it was burnt down the following day.

Bobin public school during the fire, supplied by local resident

Christine is a 77-year-old who has lived in the area for 40 years. “They put a phone tower on the mountain, but you only receive reception if you’re positioned well,” she said “Some friends got very upset as there was no communication. No landline, mobile phone reception or internet.”

When asked about the refusal of the Morrison government to link climate change with the fires, she replied: “To say that it has nothing to do with global warming is amazing! We may not pollute greatly here but we export coal to countries around the world. It is easy for Scott Morrison to say these things, he lives in a bubble in Canberra.

Bobin school of arts

“There has been no rain since March. There have been two or three tiny drops but that’s it. A lot of platypuses have gone away. The creeks are completely dry. We don’t have a lot of cattle, but we had to sell half as there is no more feed. Now there’s no water, let alone feed.

“The cuts to the firefighters have been ridiculous. This is a very small community. Five firefighters are alone in this district and they had to fight so many fires at the same time.”

Tracey, 53, is a sales representative for a local retirement village and has been living in Bobin for five years. She recently lost her house in the fires.


“I went to all fire departments in the area asking what the major problems were,” she stated. “I was told it was a lack of communication between the trucks. Every kid in the country has an iPad, so I’m flabbergasted that these people don’t have them in their trucks.

“Wouldn’t you think, satellite communication, navigation? Even down in Old Bar on the coast, the fire chief said it was so stressful and terrifying because he would have fire trucks going out in the flame zone and he would lose contact with them, even if they were only a kilometre away from the command centre.

“The way I see it, we have the military capability to watch someone eating a sandwich in the Middle East, and we don’t even know where our fire trucks are. If a tree fell over, there would be no way of getting on top of the situation. Completely surrounded by fire, they were uncontactable.

“They should have satellite phones in every truck and iPads with maps. We would still have a house if they did, as there was a communication breakdown over where it was. Not that I’m in any way I’m ungrateful. I’m extremely grateful the shed was saved, but ultimately it’s their lives that we should be worried about.”

Reporters also spoke to residents in the state capital of Sydney, which has been hit by unprecedented smoke hazes as a result of the fires. Medical experts have warned that the smog contains toxic particles that are extremely hazardous to health.


Jad, who works at an airport, stated: “It’s a real disgrace. The volunteer firefighters are doing most of the work, and the government is saving taxpayer money and using it on unnecessary things. I’m more than certain that the Australian government has money to purchase planes to fight the fires, instead of wasting money on military jets and military equipment.

“It’s a disgrace that this toxic environment is now one of the worst in the world. People are getting sick and are going to hospital. We blame it on the government 100 percent. These fires will happen every single year and they know that.”

Garoufalia, a high school student, said: “We have a lot of smoke in the area, particularly in the mornings and afternoons. A lot of our sports and outdoor time has been cancelled. A number of students have been experiencing asthma attacks.

“I think we have all the solutions right now. We have scientists and the resources, but those in charge, our government, aren’t doing anything to stop it. They have the financial ability, they have the power to do everything, but they’re not doing anything.

“Instead they’re agreeing to a large new coal mine in Queensland and putting extra money towards weapons and war. I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.”

Vesna, a factory worker, said she was shocked by the early bushfire season: “It’s a disaster. I’ve lived here for 34 years and I’ve never seen anything like this. I don’t know what to say or who to believe anymore. Why are bushfires starting like this, one after another? People are trying to help but it seems like every day there’s a new fire.”

Australian woman saves koala from bushfire

This 19 November 2019 video says about itself:

A woman risked her own safety to rescue a burnt koala from an Australian bushfire.

In the dramatic video, you can see her rush to the animal’s aid as it crossed a road near Long Flat in New South Wales.

She wraps the koala in her shirt, then gives the poor thing some water.

Its cries for help had been answered.

The local woman told an Australian news outlet her name was Toni.

She said she would take the koala to the nearby Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.

BuzzFeed News says over 30 surviving koalas have been taken to the hospital to be treated for burns and dehydration.

More than 350 koalas are thought to have died from the flames in a major habitat.

Luckily, the marsupials have a canine on their side.

This is Bear, the Cattle Dog crossbreed from Queensland.

Bear is trained to find and save koalas hurt in Australia’s bushfires.

The hot, dry summers in Australia are a perfect storm for bushfires.

But drought conditions and high temps have sparked fierce blazes early.

In November, bushfires have taken the lives of at least four people, burnt about 2.5 million acres, and ruined more than 300 homes.

There are good people in Australia. Unfortunately, these people are not in the government; which denies climate change, the main cause of these lethal bushfires.

This 5 November 2019 video from Australia says about itself:

Koalas rescued after NSW north coast fires kills hundreds of others, destroys habitat | ABC News

After bushfires razed a critical koala habitat south of Port Macquarie on the NSW north coast, several surviving koalas are being tended to by volunteers to help them heal. But while it will be months before they’re ready to go home, the recovery of their habitat could take much longer.

Read more here.

Australian cities bathed in smoke from hundreds of bushfires: here.

Australian Amazon worker treated unfairly

This May 2018 video says about itself:

According to Business Insider, who spoke with numerous Amazon warehouse employees, conditions for workers are so bad, they pee in bottles out of fear of getting their pay docked for taking a break. The Resident discusses.

By Oscar Grenfell in Australia:

Australian Amazon worker alleges unfair dismissal

13 December 2018

A worker who was employed by a labour hire firm at Amazon’s Sydney warehouse has launched legal action alleging that he was unfairly dismissed for joining a trade union and asking management for a greater number of hours per week.

According to an article in the Guardian on Tuesday, the worker, named only as Raj, has initiated a general protections case in the Fair Work Commission, the federal industrial tribunal, demanding reinstatement. An initial hearing, held on November 29, did not resolve the dispute, and the case is likely to come before a federal court next year.

The allegations shed further light on the draconian regime that prevails in warehouses operated by the global retail giant around the world. It follows dozens of reports of workplace injuries and unfair terminations, along with onerous working conditions and poverty-level wages.

According to the Guardian, Raj worked as a forklift driver at Amazon’s Sydney facility after being hired by Adecco, the labour hire firm that provides the company with the bulk of its workforce.

Raj was reportedly the first employee at the Sydney warehouse to join the SDA [Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association]. Raj, and the union, claim that he was directed by management not to wear an SDA cap and lanyard during work hours. Management also allegedly objected to union organisers distributing leaflets to workers.

The Guardian stated that Raj became involved in a dispute with Adecco after asking for more work hours. On October 5, he met with a union official at the Amazon centre while a member of management was in the room. Four days later, on October 9, he was dismissed by Adecco. …

In a video produced by the SDA, Raj stated: “It is unfair treatment just because I’m in the union. I need to pay the bills, so I need a job, without a job you can’t survive. What happened to me was not fair. I just want to get back to work at Amazon.”

The case points to the extreme nervousness of Amazon over the prospect of any opposition emerging from its super-exploited workforce.

The company has a global contract with Adecco to supply labour. As a result, the vast majority of its workforce is not employed by Amazon. This is aimed at suppressing any push for wages, minimising Amazon’s liability and employing Adecco’s “labour management” practices to suppress any unrest.

Amazon began operations at its Melbourne warehouse at the end of 2017, at a 24,000 square metre facility in the working-class suburb of Dandenong. A substantial proportion of its workforce, numbering several hundred, is made up of lowly-paid migrant workers.

The company launched a Sydney facility earlier this year. Workers are employed on the Road, Transport and Distribution Award, which provides for a minimum wage of just $19.37 per hour. As casuals, they are not entitled to sick pay, holiday pay and other entitlements.

In comments published in the Sydney Morning Herald last September, one Australian Amazon employee described his workplace as a “hellscape”.

“I’ve never worked anywhere as harsh, and it’s frustrating because the head of Amazon is the richest man on the planet”, the worker said. In July, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ personal net wealth surpassed $150 billion, making him the richest individual in modern world history. Bezos’ fortune grows by around $US3,000 every second.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald article, Amazon workers, termed “associates” by the company, begin each day with group stretching exercises. They are then required to share “Amazon success stories”, before being led in a team chant extolling the company by managers.

Workers told the Fairfax-owned publication that they are given electronic scanners which direct them to aisles in the facility to collect products.

The scanner has a black bar at the bottom of the screen, counting down how much time they have left to reach the next item. If a worker fails to reach the product quickly enough, their pick rate is marked down. Workers who do not meet their targets have allegedly had subsequent shifts cancelled. Because the employees are casuals, they can also be instructed at short notice that they are not required to work when orders are down.

A worker stated that the targets meant, “You end up not being able to function because you’re so nervous and stressed out.” Another said it was common not to drink water, or use the bathroom during gruelling shifts, for fear of falling behind. They alleged some workers did not report injuries for fear of losing their job.

The conditions are a microcosm of the brutal character of modern capitalism, with millions of workers facing low-paid, casual work and unbearable conditions, at companies owned by a tiny corporate and financial elite. There is undoubtedly widespread opposition among Amazon workers.

Angry New Yorkers confront Amazon execs at city council meeting: ‘You’re Worth $1 Trillion. Why Do You Need Our $3 Billion?’ The online retail giant has said its new headquarters in New York will create 25,000 jobs for residents—a claim one protester derided as “smoke and mirrors”: here.

Young Australian climate activists interviewed

This 29 November 2018 video says about itself:

Thousands of students join climate protest

Australian students have gone on strike from school and have converged on urban and regional centres demanding the government take action on climate change.

From the World Socialist Web Site in Australia:

Australia: Newcastle participants in high school climate strike speak out

By our reporters

3 December 2018

Last Friday, around 2,000 high school students in Newcastle, a New South Wales port city 160 kilometres north of Sydney, took part in a national strike against the refusal of governments to address climate change.

Like rallies on the same day in Sydney, Melbourne and other areas, the Newcastle protest was attended by high school students of varying ages, along with parents and teachers.

In addition to expressing their anger over environmental destruction, students spoke out against war, social inequality and the turn to authoritarianism. Newcastle has been hard hit by decades of job cuts, and the closure of entire industries. As in other regional centres, youth face a future of insecure and casual work, unemployment and associated social problems.

Part of the Newcastle rally

Campaigners from the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) at Newcastle University distributed hundreds of statements at the protest, explaining that climate change is the product of a systemic crisis of the global capitalist system and calling for a turn to the working class.

The IYSSE stressed that the danger of climate change could only be resolved through the socialist re-organisation of the world. …

In Newcastle, James, a year 10 student, told IYSSE campaigners: “We’re here to display a message, to get the word out there. I’m disappointed that the people in charge haven’t taken climate change seriously.

“I had hoped that the people might be able to elect someone who could make a difference, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.

“The people in power aren’t going to do anything to stop climate change, war or inequality. Young and old, students and workers all over the world need to come together, see that there’s a problem and form their own movement to fight to resolve it.”

Serina and Jessica

Serina said: “Climate change doesn’t just affect a small group of people in Newcastle, it affects everyone. The government doesn’t respond because they want to make a profit and industries such as coal are profitable for them. The mainstream media pushes the idea that young people are lazy and don’t want to take any action because they want to discourage us from fighting back and speaking out.”

Jessica added: “All the evidence shows that climate change is real and is a problem. It comes back to profit. The government doesn’t have any interest in improving conditions for the majority of people.”

Jayden and Eduardo, year 12 students, said they were increasingly attracted to socialism. Jayden commented: “We debate all the time about socialism. We look at things regarding socialism in our spare time when we aren’t studying for school. We both definitely agree that the capitalist system is not beneficial to the world or humanity, whether in ‘third world’ countries or here.

“It is a human right that we have a sustainable world to protect the environment for future generations. Governments don’t have a plan for sustaining multiple generations and preserving the environment.

“It’s because they make money from the use of natural resources. They’re greedy. They do it to benefit themselves and their friends: the CEOs, managers and heads of massive companies that get paid a lot of money.”

Eduardo added: “The richest people in the world are hoarding trillions of dollars, it’s insane. I read a report earlier this year that over half of the world is in extreme poverty. There is a small number of people living with obscene wealth, while so many people are starving without adequate clothes, shelter and medicine”.

Jayden and Eduardo

Imogen, a year 10 student, said: “There’s a massive problem that we have in our society and our political system. We have a right to protest, to protect our generation and our children’s future as well. This is our home, this is our planet and they are not doing anything about it. They are consumed by their own personal ambition, building themselves up and pushing all of us down.

“It’s ridiculous that Jeff Bezos of Amazon has $160 billion. That money could be going to much better sources and providing for people.

Imogen, Ed and Sam“I think a plan should be put in place to stop using fossil fuels. We have the resources to create renewable energy. Why can’t we have solar panels on the roofs of every single building in the world? The money exists for this to happen.”

Her friend Sam said: “The money owned by the top 10 percent, the wealthiest people in the world could resolve a lot of society’s problems. It could provide decent food, water and shelter for the world population.”

Sam opposed denunciations of the student strike made by senior figures in the federal Liberal-National Coalition government, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison. “Morrison raised that we’re becoming activists, I’m thinking, what’s wrong with us being activists,” Sam said. “This is a major issue. There’s a problem with the environment and we want to speak up about it.”

The protest in Maitland

At a smaller rally in Maitland, close to Newcastle, Steph, a 17-year-old student said she “could not believe” Morrison’s remarks “belittling young people. It was just pure ignorance. The government obviously sees these strikes as a real threat. The mining companies are some of the biggest donors to the Liberal Party.”

Gener, a parent whose child participated in the Maitland rally, said: “The system we live under is pillaging the planet. We used to live in Darwin, and when flying over to the east coast we saw the scarring of the mining. It’s like an open wound. We need to overhaul the whole system. Right now, we’re driven by money values.”

INACTION over climate change will lead to the collapse of civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world, Sir David Attenborough warned today. The naturalist delivered a message on behalf of people around the world to the United Nations climate talks in Poland, calling on leaders to drive down greenhouse gas emissions: here.

ATTENBOROUGH: CLIMATE CHANGE ‘OUR GREATEST THREAT’ Nature broadcaster David Attenborough told world leaders that climate change could lead to collapse of civilizations, and much of the natural world. Speaking at the opening ceremony of the COP24 UN climate conference, in Katowice, Poland, Attenborough called climate change “our greatest threat in thousands of years.” [HuffPost]

USA: SANDERS HOLDS CLIMATE CHANGE TOWN HALL Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) packed two rooms in the Hart Senate Office Building for a star-studded town hall meeting on climate change. “Tonight we are dealing with what the scientific community tells us is the great crisis facing our planet and facing humanity,” Sanders said in his opening statement, ahead of a possible 2020 run. “That is climate change.” [HuffPost]