Action, Not Offsets | Between the Lines


The Wrap with Richard Denniss

At the same time as Anthony Albanese flew into the Cook Islands to discuss climate action at the Pacific Island Forum, the Australian Parliament was passing the new Sea Dumping legislation.

A bill which will allow Santos to pump millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide, 800 kilometres north into the East Timor Sea, just so we can pretend that one day the enormous new Barossa gas field might be ‘carbon neutral’.

My prediction is that, thanks to the Sea Dumping laws, not a tonne of CO2 will ever be buried. But the purpose of the laws isn’t to hide carbon dioxide under the sea, it’s to hide the contradiction between the rhetoric of Australia’s ‘transition to net zero’ and our enormous fossil fuel expansion plans.

The Pacific clearly aren’t buying it. A strongly worded statement from the Pacific Elder’s Voice, a group of former Pacific Presidents and Prime Ministers, declared “we reiterate our calls for Australia to urgently phase out gas and coal and stop opening up new coal mining.”

And the Pacific aren’t alone. Visiting Australia this week, Germany’s international envoy on climate, Jennifer Morgan, made clear that Australia and the world need to phase out fossil fuels, not ramp up their production, saying “if we don’t keep 1.5 degrees in sight… it goes almost out of control.”

She echoed UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who called for the world to “stop the madness” of climate change as he visited Nepal to witness the record level melting in the Himalayas in late October.

The simple and sad fact is that the science of climate change tells us that we need to both stop producing fossil fuels and sequester as much carbon in our trees and soils as we can.

The ‘and’ is the key word. It cannot just be one or the other.

In Australia, successive governments have tried to pretend it’s ok to rely on dodgy offsets and accounting tricks to argue that it’s ok to build new gas and coal mines as long as someone else doesn’t chop down a tree. But the science couldn’t be clearer – after decades of delay, a country that is serious about climate change has no choice but to do all it can to reduce fossil fuels and save our forests.

That’s why we put out a new ad in newspapers to call for Action not Offsets, as part of our research on native forests.  Help us get the message out!

Chip in

While we work to save native forests, the world goes on, and it’s been a busy fortnight for the Australia Institute.

We hosted our third Revenue Summit in Parliament House, which highlighted the consequences of the determination of successive governments to prioritise tax cuts to the wealthy over public services for us all.

In the wake of the Summit and ahead of the inevitable rate rise, our economics team have been busy calling for more equitable and effective ways to control inflation than the blunt force trauma of further interest rate rises.

Wonderfully, our work to save the Mauguean skate from extinction at the hands of the salmon farming industry continues to have impact, with the heartening news of a letter from Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek to the Tasmanian Premier warning the industry of a pause via potential license ‘reconsideration’ in the name of environmental protection.

And of course, Go Home on Time Day is nearly upon us again, a day where we highlight the excessive amount of unpaid overtime that Australians do. It’s a reminder for us to value our time – especially as we steadily approach the end of the year!

Richard Denniss, Executive Director of the Australia Institute

The Big Stories

Australia Under Pressure to Rein in Fossil Fuel Subsidies at Pacific Island Forum

Following important and successful visits to the US and China, this week Prime Minister Albanese touches down in the Cook Islands. Despite the handshakes and smiles, the PM faces real questions about Australia’s continued support for the fossil fuel industry.

The pressure is on Australia to move beyond the symbolic and commit to more ambitious climate policies in line with both established science and the needs and aspirations of our regional allies.

“In the past year, Australia has handed out $11bn (AUD) to the fossil fuel industry. That’s 7x the amount of money it would take to fund a renewable energy transition for 8 Pacific countries.” said Auimatagi Joe Moeono-Kolio, in the Guardian.

As the Pacific Forum unfolds, it will be on Australia to prove it is serious about working together with its closest neighbours.

Read more:

The RBA Strikes Again

The RBA has raised interest rates again, this time to 4.35%, continuing to squeeze people doing it tough.

“Workers are not to blame for the rise in inflation, but they are the ones who have been forced to suffer.”

Greg Jericho explains how this latest shift is putting even more pressure on workers, whose real wages have fallen 3% since last year.

The Intel with Polly Hemming

Climate & Energy director Polly Hemming was asked to contribute to The Intel, a weekly development and foreign policy publication that gathers three expert responses to one question.

This week’s question: The new policy wants a ‘nature positive’ world. What changes should we expect in the next 12 months?

Read Polly Hemming’s answer in The Intel.

We Need Action, Not Offsets

WA and Victoria have already begun the process of phasing out native forest logging. If Australia is to protect what’s left of its precious forests, every other state and territory must follow suit.

But, none of the hard work to protect forests will count if the saved trees are used as carbon offsets by the logging industry.

We took out an ad in The Monthly to spread the word about why we need action, not offsets.

You can also watch – and share – our Action Not Offsets ad here.

Toxic Pollutants | Judy Horacek

All cartoons © Judy Horacek

Plibersek Hovers over Pause for Salmon Industry

Big news in the fight to save the Maugean skate – a blow to the salmon industry could be on the horizon!

This week Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek wrote to Premier Rockliff warning that salmon farming needs to be wound back in Macquarie Harbour to save the endangered Maugean skate.

The letter was triggered by the Australia Institute’s concerted efforts to address the impacts of fish farming on water quality that scientific evidence has shown is having an adverse effect on the population of the skate.

The hold of the salmon industry on the Tasmanian Government is concerning, but Plibersek’s letter strengthens the case for Tasmania’s Environment Protection Authority not to renew salmon leases in Macquarie Harbour when they expire at the end of November.

It’s promising news, good work Tanya Plibersek! 👏

Eloise Carr, director of Australia Institute Tasmania, joined ABC Hobart to discuss the latest in this exciting development.

Collapse of the Murray Cod Population

Alarmingly, a recent NSW Fisheries survey found only two juvenile Murray cod in the 128-kilometre stretch of river from Menindee to Pooncarie.

In the seven months since the mass fish death in March, the cod are continuing to die, creating a crisis in the waterway.

Water researcher Kate McBride said that the immense frustration lies in the gap between the dire situation and the total lack of action by the government to investigate what’s causing the deaths.

“A lot of the Menindee community and people within the Darling-Baaka … more broadly, are asking, ‘What now? We know what’s going wrong and we know what needs to be done, but we’re not seeing any action on the ground.”

Read more: Calls for Action Amid Fears of More Fish Kills on Darling River

Go Home on Time Day

Wednesday 22 November is Go Home On Time Day!

It can be easy to go over the clock when you’re working hard, but as those hours add up, you might not realise how much you’re losing.

Go Home On Time Day is an annual reminder that a lot of employees are working unpaid overtime in Australia, losing billions in unpaid wages – and it shouldn’t be that way.

Visit Go Home on Time Day and use our unpaid overtime calculator to see how much of your time (and money) is stolen.

Nine Takeaways from the Revenue Summit

Each year, the Australia Institute’s Revenue Summit brings together leaders from across the community to discuss and explore raising revenue, tax reform and building an economy that funds Australia’s public services into the future.

This year was no different, with the Australia Institute hosting a number of renowned politicians, economists and leaders, who discussed improvements in tax reform, cracking down on consultants, revenue’s role in civilised society, lessons from the pandemic and why we need to scrap the Stage 3 tax cuts.

You can watch and read the speeches and panel discussions from the day or read the Nine Takeaways from the Revenue Summit 2023 here.

The Quote

If the reconsideration finds that the salmon industry in Macquarie Harbour does not have the necessary environmental approvals, the EPBC Act … would require operations to pause while approvals are sought.

— Environment and Water Minister Tanya Plibersek in a letter to Tasmanian Premier Jeremy Rockcliff concerning the damage caused by salmon farming in the Macquarie Harbour, which risks the endangered Maugean skate

The Win

Progress on Criminalising Stealthing Across Australia

On November 1, 2023, Chanel Contos gave a National Press Club address, speaking on sexual violence prevention and the importance of consent education.

In her address, the founder of Teach Us Consent and former director of the Australia Institute’s Centre for Sex & Gender Equality highlighted the progress made on criminalising stealthing nationwide, and reflected on the work of the Australia Institute.

Stealthing refers to the non-consensual removal of a condom during sex.

Initially, stealthing was only illegal in the ACT and Tasmania, but concentrated efforts to disseminate research and meetings with policy makers helped minimise the prevalence of this harmful practice through nationally consistent laws.

Chanel Contos gives a National Press Club address, 1 November 2023

The criminalisation of stealthing was adopted across multiple states thanks to the work of the Australia Institute’s Centre for Sex & Gender Equality, Teach Us Consent, Chanel Contos and the co-authors of the report Sienna Parrott and Dr Brianna Chesser, .

Queensland and South Australia committed to criminalising stealthing, the Northern Territory indicated it would move towards criminalising it and in WA it was put forward as a recommendation by the WA Law Reform Commission.

Read more: Making Stealthing a Crime

The Bin

Sea Dumping Bill: The Dirty Favour for Santos

A government bill that paves the way for Santos’ controversial Barossa offshore gas project looks set to pass the Senate with the support of the opposition.

The Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Amendment (Using New Technologies to Fight Climate Change) Bill facilitates cross-border carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects.

Gas company Santos has publicly stated it has been working with the Australian Government to progress regulations to allow it to transport carbon dioxide from its Barossa Gas project to its proposed Bayu-Undan carbon capture and storage facility.

“It seems particularly convenient that the Australian government is now in a rush to ratify and pass this sea dumping legislation when the only company it serves is Santos,” said Polly Hemming, director of the Climate & Energy program at the Australia Institute.

The bill will cause widespread damage, opening Australia up as a carbon dioxide dumping ground for other countries.

Despite Santos and the government’s claims, the CCS project associated with this bill would do nothing to reduce emissions, as CCS projects have failed to sequester significant emissions despite decades of government and industry support.

What’s On

Pathway Out of Native Forest Logging | 1pm (AEDT) Tuesday 14 November | Hobart

The Future of Free Speech – Book Launch | 6:30pm (AEDT) Wednesday 15 November | Canberra

Tasmanian Ocean Summit 2023 | Friday, 17 November | Triabunna

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