Pressure Works | Between the Lines

General view of Al Wasl during the UN Climate Change Conference COP28 at Expo City Dubai
Photo by COP28 / Mahmoud Khaled CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


The Wrap with Ebony Bennett

It can be easy to forget this. Often, the path to change isn’t linear and there are setbacks along the way.

But the Australia Institute has been a part of three undeniable recent wins.

Our work to save the endangered Maugean skate has triggered an EPBC review into salmon farming in Macquarie Harbour, in light of new evidence about its environmental impact. This review could see an end to salmon farming in Macquarie Harbour.

Our campaign to build support and awareness for voluntary water buybacks in the Murray-Darling Basin, including an ad campaign delivered in partnership with farmers and other organisations, and Kate McBride’s on-the-ground efforts, helped deliver the Water Amendment (Restoring Our Rivers) Bill 2023. Now, there will be more water for the river and communities that need it most.

Finally, key recommendations of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, examining the 2022 federal election, reflected our long-standing work to improve our democracy. The report brings us a step closer to electoral reform and truth in political advertising laws – two things crucial to ensuring that our elections are fairer and that new voices can enter our parliament.

Not every day is a win, but it’s important to mark the days are.

Pressure works.

Ebony Bennett, Deputy Director of the Australia Institute

The Big Stories

It’s Getting Hot in Here

Recent climate news is proving that Australia and the world still have a long way to go in effectively combatting climate change.

Australia is attending COP28, hosted by one of the world’s ten largest fossil fuel producers, run by UAE state oil head Sultan Al Jaber, as the third-largest fossil fuel exporter in the world. Meanwhile, it continues its bid to host the COP31 in partnership with the Pacific, despite repeated requests from Pacific Nation leaders to stop the expansion of fossil fuels.

Read more: Tripling renewables is necessary – but not enough on its own. It’s past time to phase out fossil fuels

Polly Hemming, Climate & Energy Director, appeared on ABC to talk about Australia’s growing reputation as a captured petrostate, and the parallels it shares with the United Arab Emirates.

Back at home, Minister Bowen’s Annual Climate Statement contained some glaring omissions about the true state of our emissions reduction process. We outlined eight key points the Minister missed, explaining why they are so important to Australia’s emissions reduction target.

Read more: 8 Things Chris Bowen Didn’t Tell You about Australia’s Climate Failure

The Northern Territory government, led by Chief Minister Natasha Fyles, has walked away from a net zero policy on new projects in the region after objections from the gas industry, highlighting its extraordinary influence over the region.

This comes just one month after it was revealed that Chief Minister Fyles owned 169 shares in the gas company Woodside, which she has since divested.

And of course, we can’t forget Resources Minister Madeleine King texting into an ABC radio interview with Richard Dennis to admonish the Australia Institute for not recognising the value of gas expansion.

Read more: “That’s a great text!” – A Message from the Minister

The New Face of Climate Denial

Old-fashioned climate change denialism is the risk you run when you hold an international climate conference in a Middle Eastern petrostate and hand the reins to an oil baron, writes Stephen Long, but in practice, is Australia really much better?

Read now: The New Face of Climate Denial

Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, COP28 President (L5), and participants applaud at the UNFCCC Formal Opening of COP28 during the UN Climate Change Conference COP28 at Expo City Dubai on November 30, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
COP28 / Christopher Pike CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Real Action Please | Judy Horacek

All cartoons © Judy Horacek

The Salmon and the Skate

Research from the Australia Institute has triggered an Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act review of salmon farming in Macquarie Harbour after we highlighted new evidence about the extinction risks faced by the endangered Maugean skate.

The EPBC Act review is a result of ongoing work of the Australia Institute Tasmania, which helped put the Maugean skate on the national agenda. Media coverage has included The Australian, The Guardian and ABC’s flagship 730 program.

While the review is a win, it is not the end of the story. The salmon industry will not be paused while the review takes place, and the Tasmanian EPA has renewed licenses for operators in Macquarie Harbour despite significant scientific evidence presented by the Australia Institute setting out clear grounds for their refusal. Our work goes on.

Submissions for the EPBC review are now open, and you can have your say as part of the public consultation process.

Read more: The Timeline of the Australia Institute’s Fight to Save the Maugean Skate 

New Murray Darling Legislation Holds Water

The Water Amendment (Restoring Our Rivers) Bill 2023 passed the Senate last Thursday, after years of gridlock, promising more water for the Murray-Darling Basin river system.

Cooperation from Minister Plibersek, the Greens, and independent senators David Pocock, Lidia Thorpe and David Van achieved 450GL a year of water for the southern basin to be recovered by 2027, $100m for First Nations water, $50.5m to improve the health of the Upper Murrumbidgee, more power to cancel unviable water projects and greater flexibility for water recovery including voluntary buybacks from farmers.

Farmers and irrigators joined the Australia Institute in a national campaign to support voluntary buybacks, featuring an ad leading rural newspapers. Our research shows that 63% of Australians in regional areas support the policy to reinstate voluntary water buybacks.

Popularity Fix for Labor

New Australia Institute research shows that voters trust Labor over the Coalition to deal with the cost of living crisis, despite a growing backlash over their insistence on pursuing the Stage 3 tax cuts.

Read more: Voters Trust Labor over Liberals on Cost of Living: Polling

Rejigging the tax cuts is one way to capitalise on this voter trust and deliver more money to those who need it most.

Senior Fellow and Contributing Editor Stephen Long explains.

Dollars & Sense with Greg Jericho

This week on Dollars & Sense, Greg Jericho explains that new GDP figures show that while Australia is clinging to slight economic growth, under the surface a recession is already being seen.

Christmas Waste Expected to Top $900 Million

More than six million Australians expect to receive presents they will not use or wear this Christmas, and the bulk of these unwanted gifts are destined for landfill, new Australia Institute research shows.

“Most of us love buying gifts for our loved ones, but 275,000 tonnes of them – or $921 million worth – are set to go unused or unworn,” said Nina Gbor, Director of the Waste & Circular Economy Program at the Australia Institute.

One way to cut back? Gifting experiences, homemade presents, gift cards or donations in someone’s name are great alternatives to presents that would otherwise gather dust or go to waste.

Read more: ‘Oh, you shouldn’t have’ – Christmas gift waste expected to top $900 million

Reducing the Influence of Money in Politics

The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters’ final report into the conduct of the 2022 election.

The findings of the report echo key recommendations established in Australia Institute research, including expanding the number of MPs and territory senators to deliver more equal representation.

Read more: Sweeping Changes Needed to Reduce Influence of Money in Politics: Report

The Quote

We cannot save a burning planet with a fire hose of fossil fuels.

António Guterres, UN Secretary-General at the COP28 Summit in Dubai

The Win

The Australia Institute’s tireless work has triggered an EPBC review into salmon farming to protect the endangered Maugean skate in Tasmania’s Macquarie Harbour.

Read more: The Timeline of the Australia Institute’s Fight to Save the Maugean Skate 

The Bin

Making Fossil Fuel Deals at the COP28

The BBC has reported leaked documents that show the United Arab Emirates state oil company Adnoc planned to use the connections made at the COP28 summit to make fossil fuel deals.

When questioned on the documents, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, president of the COP28 and head of Adnoc said, “These allegations are false, not true, incorrect and not accurate.”

The documents were obtained by journalists working for the Centre for Climate Reporting alongside the BBC.

What’s On

Australia’s Biggest Book Club | Webinar 11am Friday 8 December

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