Wednesday, October 20, 2021

NAB targeted by Indigenous group over stake in Canadian pipeline

National Australia Bank has been targeted by Indigenous activists over its stake in a controversial Canadian gas pipeline, ahead of the release of the major bank’s revamped policy on oil and gas investing and increased scrutiny on traditional owner land rights in Australia.

The coalition of more than 100 activist groups, including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Market Forces and BankTrack, have signed a letter to NAB and other global investors of Coastal GasLink – a 670-kilometre gas pipeline project with approval from the Canadian government.

Coastal GasLink has provincial approval to build a 670-kilometre pipeline, but the chiefs say they won’t allow anyone on the First Nation’s traditional territory without their consent.
Coastal GasLink has provincial approval to build a 670-kilometre pipeline, but the chiefs say they won’t allow anyone on the First Nation’s traditional territory without their consent.CREDIT:MIKE SUDOMA

The letter has been organised by leaders of Canada’s Wet’suwet’en nation, an Indigenous group who have fiercely opposed the pipeline for years. The group made global headlines last year for instigating a number of blockades against construction, which triggered protests around Canada.

Now, the activist group is calling on NAB and other investors to divest all holdings in the project, claiming it violates the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People that states, “Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories”.

“We are responsible for decisions regarding our land, and the decision of TC Energy [parent company] to construct the Coastal GasLink pipeline without our consent is an infringement of our title and rights,” the letter states.

“While we are currently in negotiations with federal and provincial government ministers to have our land rights and title [recognised] and upheld, this does not mean there is agreement with respect to Coastal GasLink ... We remain unequivocally opposed to oil and gas pipelines on our territories and are determined to continue to protect our lands, air, and water.”

The letter claims the project will destroy cultural heritage and argues traditional owners have not provided consent for land use, despite a number of other Indigenous groups agreeing to the project.

“It is becoming inarguably clear that projects lacking free, prior and, informed consent from Indigenous communities should not and cannot be built,” the letter states. “We call on you to divest and withdraw investment in the Coastal GasLink pipeline immediately ... In no way is Coastal GasLink a responsible, profitable, secure, or morally sound investment.”

The federal inquiry investigating Rio Tinto’s destruction of 46,000-year-old caves this week called for national laws to protect Indigenous heritage and new powers for traditional owners to refuse projects threatening significant sites on their lands. The Juukan gorge explosion threw the mining giant into turmoil and refocused the debate for reform to give traditional owners greater rights.

The activist group also claims the Canadian project is likely to become a stranded asset, as the global clean energy transition moves away from oil and gas and comes as NAB is re-evaluating its position on the sector.

The Age and Sydney Morning Herald reported in June that NAB chief executive Ross McEwan had pledged to consider the International Energy Agency report released this year, that claimed no new fossil fuel projects could be funded if net zero emissions by 2050 is to be achieved, in an email to the Australian Conservation Foundation.

NAB’s senior leadership was due to review the bank’s oil and gas policy in September, with an updated statement to be released by the end of the year. NAB has already pledged to fully exit thermal coal investments by 2030, following investor pressure and rising risks attached to the sector.

A NAB spokeswoman said the bank was unable to comment on holdings in Coastal GasLink or whether any new climate policies would cause it to divest.

One senior source within NAB, who could not be named because they were not authorised to speak publicly, said the new policy was not likely to include blanket bans against the sector but rather an increasingly detailed focus on heavy emitters’ plans to decarbonise. “I think the theme will be, we’re not denying finance, we need to align with our heavy emitters, hold them to account, have tough conversations,” the source said. “Most importantly we will be actively working with our emitting clients to make sure they are on the right pathway.”


Greenhouse gas dispute

On Sunday, the Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reductions Angus Taylor presented the Nationals with the government’s plan to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, the compounds such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide which contribute to global warming and help trigger climate change.

Under the Paris Agreement, signed in 2015, Australia promised to reduce emissions by 26-28 per cent by 2030.

There were two main components to the government’s plan on Sunday – bringing emissions to net zero by 2050, and increasing our 2030 target.

While there were hopes the Sunday meeting would complete negotiations, after four hours this proved not to be the case, with the Nationals presenting a host of objections.

On Tuesday the Prime Minister told parliament Australia would not be updating its 2030 emissions goal.

He has also said the 2050 net zero goal will become a decision for national cabinet, rather than the Coalition party room.

The Nationals expressed a range of objections, chiefly about the impact of net zero policies on the regions and wanting increased support for existing high-emitting fossil fuel industries such as coal and gas.

A number of Nationals also want the government to explore the possibility of Australia developing nuclear power.

There is also an historical element to the Nationals’ discontent. When John Howard signed the Kyoto Protocol (the forerunner to the Paris Agreement) in 1997, it prompted state and territory governments to ban land clearing.

This measure is regarded as the primary factor that’s enabled Australia to reduce its emissions by around 20 per cent already, as the uncleared land effectively retains carbon in vegetation, which would otherwise be released into the atmosphere.

But many farmers say clearing bans have prevented them from making a decent profit from their land, so there is a sentiment that people in the regions should not be further burdened by further emissions cuts.

There are huge divisions. Some MPs, such as former leader Michael McCormack and Darren Chester, now cautiously support net zero as a global economic and environmental necessity (Mr McCormack was previously opposed).

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud sees himself as something of a centrist on the issue, telling reporters this week that “zealots from both sides need to bugger off”.

Queensland Senator Matt Canavan is perhaps the most hard line opponent, and has threatened to cross the floor if any net zero legislation is to come before parliament.

He has also raised concerns about the lack of detail in the government’s modelling and called for it to be made public. “We’re getting very little details about this and I’m in a position of being asked to marry a girl I haven’t met. That’s not how the Nationals party room works,” he said this week.

Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has himself been a fierce critic of net zero in the past but has cast himself as a broker. On Tuesday he said he would be seeking further input from Nationals MPs over coming days, and he would communicate them to the Prime Minister.

The latest quarterly figures from the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory show Australia has reduced its emissions by just over 20 per cent on 2005 levels.

Mr Taylor has said on current projections, Australia could actually end up cutting emissions by around 32-35 per cent by 2030.


Cairns Hospital wait time extends beyond 30 hours for man in emergency department

A GORDONVALE man left waiting over 30 hours for a wound clean and stitches in the Cairns Hospital Emergency Department says he feels “sorry” for staff.

Sunpreet Johal, 24, was driven to the ED by friends, arriving about 1am Sunday following a motorcycle incident which left him with a painful, but non-serious cut to his leg.

Upon arriving he was told he’d have to wait three to four hours because the department was already dealing with a high number of cases.

“I expected three or four hours because it wasn’t serious but a doctor didn’t see me until 6.15am (Monday),” Mr Johal said.

That doctor advised he received an X-ray and then he waited another three hours before seeing an orthopaedic surgeon who advised him his wound would need to be cleaned in an operating theatre before it was patched up.

“He said there was another one or two cases in front and that mine would happen that afternoon. “But then they were dealing with another surgery that took hours. At 4.30pm they said there was an 80-90 per cent chance I would be in (on Monday).”

Mr Johal said he accepted his injury was not serious but was “not thinking I’d be here 24 hours later let alone almost 36.”

He said staff had been as attentive as possible and he was more “annoyed at the situation they were in.”

“The surgeon actually took time to see me a couple of times and explained he was really sorry. He basically said they had been really busy and just didn’t have the manpower.

“He said a few times, if I was anywhere else like Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane, I would’ve been out in three or four hours with this injury.”

Mr Johal’s procedure was completed about 11am Monday and he was discharged later that afternoon.

Together Union Queensland’s senior vice president Dr Sandy Donald said Mr Johal’s case highlighted the importance of the organisation’s recently launched “Health Needs Urgent Care” campaign.

Dr Donald said that meant funding to increase hospital beds as well as community services. “The capacity of the hospital has not grown to meet the increase in demand,” he said.

“When the ED is having long delays most of the problems are around bed numbers. It can mean there are patients there who really should be in a ward, but the ward doesn’t have enough beds.

“We commonly see patients taking up a hospital bed because a nursing home doesn’t have the appropriate staffing mix.

“But increasing community support services will keep some patients out of hospital and allow others to get home sooner (and free up beds).”

CHHHS acting executive director Cairns services Marie Kelly said there were 242 presentations to the ED on October 17, compared to the average this year for a Sunday being 235. “He was seen within seven minutes, compared to the average waiting time in the ED of 16 minutes.

“Mr Johal’s surgery was delayed because of a high number of urgent trauma surgeries that required urgent action on Sunday. Despite our hopes that Mr Johal would be operated on quickly, we can never predict types of trauma that may arrive at emergency departments at the same time.”


Mike Cannon-Brookes launches world’s largest solar farm in NT

A power cable from Darwin to Singapore sounds very vulnerable to attacks and accidents

Take 125 square kilometres of solar panels, a battery that’s 150 times bigger than the biggest in the country, three billion people and a giant extension cord. Then call it “Sun Cable”.

It sounds like a sci-fi scheme cooked up by a Bond villain. In fact it is Mike Cannon-Brookes’ plan to power Asia with energy from the Australian sun and it is fast becoming real.

The Atlassian co-founder and tech guru is an investor in the world’s biggest solar farm in the middle of the Northern Territory and what is literally a giant power cable from the Simpson Desert to Singapore.

Once complete the project will give the 5.5 million-strong island metropolis up to 15 per cent of its total power needs but for Cannon-Brookes that is only the first step.

He says the AAPowerLink project will just be the first of many. He predicts that soon there will be power lines from Australia to all over Asia, selling them our cheap and abundant solar energy.

“Think about it as a giant extension cable that runs from our sunny deserts up to Asia,” Cannon-Brookes said. “There are two or three billion consumers that want cheap energy and want a lot of that energy and we have it and can provide it. “I’m hopeful it’s the first of many, many, many cables that we string across to neighbouring countries.”

If the scale of the ambition seems staggering, that’s because it is. But everything about the Sun Cable project is on a staggering scale.

The initial stage of the project alone involves 5,000 kilometres of power lines stretching from the middle of the NT to Darwin and then 4,200km underwater past the full length of Indonesia to Singapore.

This alone will be the world’s longest High Voltage Direct Current cable system.

There it will provide up to 15 per cent of the island city-state’s electricity needs – all clean, all green and all from a single power plant in Australia.

As well as being the world’s largest solar plant, it will also feature the world’s largest battery, capable of storing 36 to 42 gigawatt hours. By contrast Australia’s so-called “Big Battery” in South Australia is just 129 megawatt hours, currently being expanded by 64.5 MWh.

In other words, when Cannon-Brookes says his is 150 times bigger he is actually underestimating it.

The whole project is expected to cost upwards of $30 billion, with construction to start in 2024. Sun Cable says it will be providing power to Darwin just two years later in 2026 and to Singapore the year after that, with the whole project to be completed by 2028.

If true that would be an astonishingly fast build.

Approximately 2,000 direct jobs are expected to be created in the development, construction and operation alone and over $8 billion of investment is expected to be ploughed directly into Australia.

Once complete the project is expected to generate up to $2 billion in energy exports for Australia per year.

As well as being a cheap energy source for the giant Asian market, it will also flood the Australian market with cheap energy, starting with far cheaper rates in the NT.

“Australia should have the cheapest power on the planet,” Cannon-Brookes said. “We have so many resources opportunities in our sun and wind. We are the lucky country in terms of where we sit geographically in the world and our natural resources when it comes to renewables. “We can turn that into by far the cheapest energy anywhere in the world – which we should have, by rights.”

And when it comes to exports, Cannon-Brookes said Australia had all the ingredients needed to be an energy superpower.

“We have, as I mentioned, these two to three billion consumers to the north of us who are rapidly coming up the economic curve and what happens when a country gets wealthier is its average salary goes up and its energy consumption also goes up, and energy consumption goes up faster than salary,” he said.

“And so that is the market for it. Think about us creating this energy and then we have that market right up close to us.

“That is just a beautiful position to be in, and we should take advantage of that. I would say it’s the biggest economic opportunity than Australia has ever seen. It’s such an amazingly large opportunity.”




1 comment:

Paul said...

Every time Cairns Hospital is upgraded, it attains parity with where it needed to be five years before.

They had enormous staffing problems even before the COVID stand-downs.