Diversity of Voices | Between the Lines


The Wrap with Richard Denniss

The UN Secretary General may think ‘the era of global boiling’ has just arrived, but here in Australia the era of subsidised fossil fuel expansion is already in full swing.

Just one new LNG project being facilitated by the $1.5 billion of public money we have given to the ‘Middle Arm Sustainability Precinct’ in the Northern Territory could result in lifecycle emissions of 81 million tonnes a year – the equivalent of 12 coal-fired power stations.

Sure a lot of those emissions “don’t count” towards Australia’s climate targets, but the emissions here in Australia (that do count) would still be the equivalent of three coal-fired power stations every year. Regardless of where Australia’s fossil fuels are burnt, the climate change they cause will still be felt here in Australia.

Despite approving projects that endanger it, the Australian Government has convinced the UN that the Great Barrier Reef is not in danger. Maybe the latest Honest Government Ad can help you make sense of it all.

It has been a busy week here at the Australia Institute. We put out two public letters, one from a group of retired judges who support the Voice and one spelling out some principles for electoral law reform. Both draw on our research into how to build a better, stronger democracy, and both are based on the principle that a diversity of voices in decision making leads to better and more durable decisions.

I’m often asked why I support the Voice and my answer often surprises people, I’m voting yes because that’s what, after more than a decade of consultation, Indigenous Australians asked me to do.

If you haven’t read the Uluru Statement from the Heart, I would strongly encourage you to. The No campaign are trying to turn a referendum to enshrine a Voice to Parliament in our constitution into a legalistic debate between non-lawyers.

I’m voting yes because Indigenous Australians have asked us for so little and I don’t think voting no will result in us offering to do more.

The clear, concise and compelling words of some of Australia’s finest legal minds will, I hope, help cut through the sea of legalistic red herrings thrashing around in our media debate on this important issue.

— Richard Denniss, Executive Director of the Australia Institute

Authorised by Richard Denniss, The Australia Institute, Level 1 Endeavour House, 1 Franklin St Manuka ACT 2603

Vale Clayton McDonald

We are sad to share with you that Clayton McDonald passed away in June following a battle with cancer.

Clayton was a beloved friend of the Australia Institute over many years, who volunteered his time each month to provide the audio equipment for our Politics in the Pub events from when they began in February 2010 until he moved north in May 2021. He also recorded the audio, which you can still find on his website and which he played on the 2XXfm program he produced.

Clayton was always an absolute delight to work with and not only was he a great friend to the Australia Institute, but an integral part of the Canberra community providing his time, knowledge, and expertise—often on a voluntary basis—for all kinds of events across all kinds of important issues. For 12 years Clayton provided and operated audio equipment for scores of rallies, meetings, fundraisers and other events to ensure that the community, social justice and climate justice movements of Canberra had a clear and present public voice. He was also a music collaborator of Hope Street House.

Clayton was also involved in community radio and for a decade he recorded, produced and broadcasted community voices through the Behind the Lines programme of 2XXfm 98.3. Clayton’s community radio work started at Brisbane’s influential 4ZZZ radio during the peak and subsequent fall of the Bjelke-Petersen regime.

Though softly spoken himself and often operating behind-the-scenes, few people have done more to elevate the issues and stories important to Canberrans than Clayton McDonald.

Clayton is gone too soon and he will be truly missed.

We send our love and condolences to Clayton’s wife Sara Vancea and to his family and friends.

The Big Stories

An Invitation That Should be Accepted

An eminent group of retired judges have published an open letter to the people of Australia in support of a ‘Yes’ vote in the upcoming referendum on the Voice.

The moving letter, penned by members of the National Integrity Committee, emphasises how the Voice will deliver on the call made in the Uluru Statement from the Heart and enrich our democracy.

Australia’s First Nations peoples have seldom been allowed entry, let alone a place at the table. If successful, the referendum on the Voice will not diminish the influence of anyone. But it will help to correct an historic wrong.

The letter was signed by The Hon Mary Gaudron KC, the Hon Carmel McLure AC KC, the Hon Stephen Charles AO KC, the Hon Paul Stein AM KC, the Hon David Harper AM KC, the Hon Anthony Whealy KC, the Hon Robert Redlich AM KC and the Hon Margaret White AO.

Read the letter in full on our website.

Authorised by Ebony Bennett, The Australia Institute, Level 1 Endeavour House, 1 Franklin St Manuka ACT 2603

Please note: an earlier version of the open letter was not correctly authorised. All previously downloaded, printed or otherwise obtained copies of the open letter that were not correctly authorised must not be further communicated, distributed or published.

Political Finance Reforms that Keep the Door Open

We published an open letter in the newspapers this week calling for long overdue political finance reforms to make politics fairer and more transparent.

The letter outlines five principles to guide political finance reform, including: focusing on those who most clearly threaten democracy and accountability; providing a level playing field between party-affiliated candidates and independents; and accounting for the significant taxpayer-funded advantages of incumbency.

We also released a petition calling for stronger donation transparency laws before the next election but warning that any changes to political donation rules must not lock out new entrants from Parliament or create loopholes that perpetuate dark money while reducing the role charities and civil society play in our democracy.

Add your name to our petition.

Climate Fallacies

The announcement from the UN Secretary General last week that Earth had reached boiling point sparked alarm amongst climate scientists and concerned citizens alike.

It came alongside news of scorching July temperatures, heatwaves in Europe, severe bushfire season predictions for Australia, the reminder that an El Nino is just around the corner and the Great Barrier Reef close to being labelled ‘in danger’ by UNESCO (for a second time).

The government celebrated the draft decision to stop short of labelling the Great Barrier Reef in danger calling the outcome ‘terrific.’ They did not however, announce a ban on new coal and gas, as has been recommended by scientists if the reef is to be protected.

Instead, amidst this climate crisis, the Australian government is committed to making friends with fossil fuel companies by expanding and approving new projects, spending more on fossil fuel subsidies, resisting strengthening the PRRT and relying on methods like carbon capture and storage instead of taking real climate action.

Read Rod Campbells OpEd in Crikey: You must be coking! Are new coal mines OK if they help make steel?

The government is also making a bid to host the COP31, and wants to do it in partnership with the Pacific Island Nations. Even when it hasn’t met their climate expectations.

Check out Juice Media’s Honest Government Ad to get a clear picture of the irony of Australia’s Pacific COP bid against its climate action record.

*Warning – adult language used*

Workers Not Rewarded

Workers have not had an easy time of late. From struggling with low wages through a cost of living crisis, to being blamed for causing inflation spikes, it seems that they have become the scapegoat for economic shifts.

Read Jim Stanford’s Off the Charts: Workers Cause Inflation, but Owners Don’t?

Now, they are being told their wages are rising in line with productivity, when unfortunately that’s not the case.

Head of the Australian Industry Group, Innes Willox, said in his speech at the National Press Club this week,

“Over the medium term, we find wage rises have risen broadly in line with productivity. The link with productivity is the key – the more productive we are the more we can be sustainably compensated.”

The problem is that while this should occur, the reality is that workers are only properly compensated for productivity gains when they have the ability to bargain with employers. The increase in wages does not occur by some magic invisible hand doling out wage rises.

Greg Jericho explains what’s really going on with workers, wages and productivity.

Tune In: Nation in a Nutshell

Don’t forget to tune in to our fortnightly, live, YouTube program, Nation in a Nutshell, where economist Matt Grudnoff and friends answer all your burning econ questions!

It airs live every second Friday but you can find previous episodes on the YouTube page.

To ask a question during the show, simply write your question in the ‘chat’ function of whatever social media you are watching it on.

The Quote

“The call for the Voice was made in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which is the product of the widest survey of the views of First Nations peoples ever undertaken and which is a deeply respectful call “from all points of the Southern Sky”. It includes an invitation to all Australians to create a better future. We think this invitation should be accepted.”

From the Judges in the Open Letter on the Voice to Parliament 

The Win

‘Duty of Care’ Senator Pocock’s Private Members Bill

Independent Senator David Pocock introduced a private member’s bill this week which proposes the government must consider their ‘duty of care’ when making decisions that could enact climate harm on future generations, especially when it comes to facilitating or funding projects that could significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions.

The government spent $11.1 billion of taxpayers money in the 2022-23 period subsidising fossil fuels [not project], including $1.5 billion for infrastructure that would support gas exports in the Northern Territory.

If successful, Senator Pocock’s bill would be legislated in the Climate Change Act and apply to decisions made under six other pieces of legislation, potentially altering how climate policy is made, and projects like Middle Arm are approved.

The Bin

Bad Mouthing Teals over Middle Arm

The NT chief minister Natasha Fyles has accused ‘teals and trolls’ of trying to shut down the Darwin Middle Arm Development.

“And the teals and the trolls can spread their nonsense about it all they want but they should know it’s going to take a lot more than a couple of tweets for us to back down.”

The minister’s comments came amid a push by alliance of cross benchers to strengthen the PRRT, as well as ongoing critiques by the Greens, independent senator David Pocock and independent MPs including Zali Steggall and Monique Ryan who called it “a 1.4 million tonne carbon bomb that will accelerate climate change” and risk creating a “new ‘Cancer Alley’”.

The minister defended the Middle Arm project, arguing that gas is the transition fuel, “part of our responsible, reliable and realistic pathway to a net zero economy” and was a key part of Australia’s energy security.

“It’s really important for people to understand on the east coast, we care more about our environment than anyone” the chief minister said.

Just one new LNG project from the ‘Middle Arm Sustainability Precinct’ could result in lifecycle emissions of 81 million tonnes a year – the equivalent of 12 coal-fired power stations.

What’s On

Integrity & Accountability with Bridget Archer MP | 1pm Monday, 14 August

Bridget Archer is known for expressing her views on integrity related issues, even when they do not align with Liberal Party policies.

She joins Australia Institute Tasmania director Eloise Carr and Australia Institute deputy director Ebony Bennett in a webinar for a discussion about integrity and accountability in politics.

Register Now 

Get Involved

Politics in the Pub: Fracking Our Future | 7pm Tuesday 8 August

All Australians concerned about global heating should know about fracking in the Northern Territory, and the Australian Government’s role in it.

Join us for a Politics in the Pub to discuss why fracking in the NT is a climate and health disaster for all Australia.

7pm Tuesday, 8 August 2023, Verity Lane Market 

Free, RSVP essential

Global Worker Solidarity for a Peaceful Sustainable World | 6pm Wednesday, 16 August 2023

The 2023 Laurie Carmichael Lecture will be held at 6pm Wednesday August 16, at RMIT University in Melbourne.

Sharan Burrow AC, former General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (2010-2022) and President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (2000–2010) will speak on ‘Global Worker Solidarity for a Peaceful, Sustainable World, ’ and then answer audience questions, facilitated by ACTU Assistant Secretary Joseph Mitchell.

6pm Wednesday, 16 August 2023, RMIT University Melbourne 

Free, RSVP essential

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