Friday, August 27, 2021

Why Qantas won't fly non-stop route to London through Perth anymore

Qantas is set to replace Perth as the airline's departure point for its lucrative non-stop flights to London in response to Western Australia's strict Covid border rules.

The airline said it was considering using Darwin as a hub for the route from December when it expects 80 per cent of Australians to be vaccinated against Covid-19 and the international border to re-open.

WA Premier Mark McGowan has declared he intends to keep his state's border shut even when Australia reaches that vaccination coverage level.

'Qantas' ability to fly non-stop between Australia and London is expected to be in even higher demand post-Covid,' a spokesman for the airline said on Thursday.

'The airline is investigating using Darwin as a transit point, which has been Qantas’ main entry for repatriation flights, as an alternative (or in addition) to its existing Perth hub given conservative border policies in Western Australia.

'Discussions on this option are continuing.'

Qantas first started offering the first-of-their-kind non-stop flights to London from the WA capital - a 15,000km journey that takes 17 hours - in March 2018.

The announcement came as Qantas revealed plans to restart international flights from December 2021 - just in time for Australia's Christmas travel rush.

Qantas said it expected the country to reach the 80 per cent vaccination target in December - triggering the re-opening of international borders as part of 'Phase C' of the federal government's path to pandemic normality.

The first available travel routes will be to destinations with high vaccination rates including the United States, Canada, the UK, Singapore, Japan and New Zealand, Qantas told the Australian Securities Exchange.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said Australia's rapid vaccination rollout would make international holiday travel possible again for the first time in almost two years, despite lockdowns in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

'The prospect of flying overseas might feel a long way off, especially with New South Wales and Victoria in lockdown, but the current pace of the vaccine rollout means we should have a lot more freedom in a few months' time,' he said.

'It's obviously up to government exactly how and when our international borders re-open, but with Australia on track to meet the 80 per cent trigger agreed by National Cabinet by the end of the year, we need to plan ahead for what is a complex restart process.'


NSW court makes key climate change ruling

A court has ordered NSW's Environment Protection Authority to develop goals and policies to ensure environment protection from climate change.

The landmark ruling came after a challenge from a community organisation founded in the ashes of a devastating bushfire that swept through Tathra in 2018.

Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action had argued the EPA had a duty to protect the environment from significant threats and climate change was a "grave" and "existential" threat.

The EPA had failed to do this, BSCA contended in the NSW Land and Environment Court, with whatever instruments the agency had developed to ensure environment protection were not enough or even intended to deal with the threat of climate change.

The government said its current measures were adequate, including measures that incidentally regulate greenhouse gas emissions such as methane in landfill. But first and foremost, it said its environmental protection duty was a general duty and wasn't a duty to ward off particular threats, such as climate change.

Chief Judge Brian Preston on Thursday found none of the documents the EPA presented to the court was an instrument that showed it was ensuring the protection of the environment from climate change.

He ordered it develop environmental quality objectives, guidelines and policies to meet their duty on climate change.

But the EPA will maintain discretion on how it fulfils its duty, as the judge knocked back the BSCA's wish for specific objectives including the regulation of sources of greenhouse gas emissions consistent with limiting a global temperature rise to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

"This is a significant win for everyone who has been affected by bushfires," BSCA president Jo Dodds said in a statement.

"Bushfire survivors have been working for years to rebuild their homes, their lives and their communities. This ruling means they can do so with confidence that the EPA must now also work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state"

The Nature Conservation Council said most people would be astonished to learn the EPA had not regulated greenhouse gas but the ruling should "a chill through the state's most polluting industries, including the electricity and commercial transport sectors".

"Allowing politicians to set greenhouse gas emission targets and controls rather than scientific experts has led us to the precipice," NCC chief executive Chris Gambian said.

In a statement, the EPA said it was reviewing the judgment.

It described itself as an active government partner on climate change policy, regulation and innovation and was involved in work that "assists with and also directly contributes to measures to mitigate and adapt to climate change".

"The EPA supports industry to make better choices in response to the impacts of climate change," the agency said.

Last month, a federal judge ruled federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley had a duty of care to protect children from future personal injury caused by climate change.

Ms Ley is appealing the decision, which resulted from her involvement in the approval of the expansion of a northern NSW coal mine.


Electoral laws pass federal parliament

Small political parties will have a tougher test to get registered ahead of the next federal election.

Federal parliament on Thursday agreed to back three changes to electoral laws, but a fourth proposed reform dealing with charities has been put on hold.

Under one bill, small parties will need to provide evidence of 1500 members rather than the current 500.

The same bill tightens rules around the registration of party names which replicate a word in the name of an existing registered party.

The Greens opposed the registration change, saying it will stifle the voice of smaller parties, entrenching the two-party system.

Independent senator Jacqui Lambie said she was "disgusted" by the changed rules, which would undermine democracy.

Labor supported a change to the rules to impose a fixed pre-poll period of up to 12 days before an election.

A further change will provide for a jail term of up to three years for "interference with political liberty", such as violence, property damage, harassment or stalking in relation to an election.

However, the government has put on hold a more controversial bill to reduce the amount of "electoral expenditure" an individual or organisation can spend before they are required to register as a political campaigner.

This amount will decrease from the current $500,000 to $100,000 during the financial year, or for any of the previous three financial years.

The government argues it will bring groups closer in line with the transparency imposed on political parties, candidates and MPs.

But charities say they are not like parties and the move would effectively silence community voices.


Banks to be grilled again over coal and gas lending as Nationals turn up the heat on climate target

The major banks will be called to a federal hearing into lending disputes over coal and gas projects in a new push by the Nationals to back the resources industry amid a debate with the Liberals over whether to set more ambitious targets on climate change.

Queensland Nationals MP George Christensen wants the banks and the nation’s competition regulator to appear before a parliamentary inquiry next week, extending the controversial review into the lead-up to a United Nations climate summit in November.

With Prime Minister Scott Morrison yet to decide whether to take stronger climate change targets to the summit, the longer inquiry will give Nationals and some Liberals a forum to criticise climate action and urge banks to lend to projects like the Adani coal mine.

Big lenders including the Commonwealth Bank and ANZ Group have infuriated the Nationals by choosing not to lend to the Carmichael coal project in central Queensland, which is run by Bravus Mining, a subsidiary of Adani Group.

Resources Minister Keith Pitt slammed the “corporate activism” in those decisions and asked Mr Christensen to set up the inquiry, which began in February after overcoming objections from Labor, the Greens and some Liberals.

But the attacks on the banks are at odds with Mr Morrison’s remarks two weeks ago about the way all lenders were taking climate change into account in their decisions, something governments could not control. “I mean, financiers are already making decisions regardless of governments about this,” he said when asked about his climate targets.

“I want to make sure that Australian companies can get loans. I want to make sure that Australians can access finance. I want to make sure that our banks will finance into the future so they can provide the incredible support that they provide to Australians buying homes and all of these things. The world economy is changing. That’s just a fact.”

Mr Christensen held a meeting with other members of the parliamentary committee on Wednesday morning to put plans for further hearings, with the discussion including the idea of hearing from former Nationals Senate leader Ron Boswell, a strong critic of banks that do not lend to coal projects.

The move for another hearing, planned for Friday of next week, surprised some committee members because they questioned executives from the four biggest banks on July 27 and did not believe another hearing was needed.

Mr Christensen said there were unasked questions that should be put to ANZ Group, the Commonwealth Bank, the NAB and Westpac.

“There will be one more hearing of the inquiry next Friday where we hope to have the big four banks before us again as well as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and some other individual submitters,” he said.

“There are questions for the banks that were unasked due to time constraints at the last hearing, plus new questions that have emerged.”

The committee has already heard from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

Another committee member, Queensland Liberal Senator Gerard Rennick, said the banks had a social license that obliged them to provide finance on commercial terms rather than pursuing other objectives.

“They should lend to anyone who has a legal product,” he said.

Mr Pitt has been strongly critical of calls on the government to go further than its stated target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 per cent by 2030, a stance adopted by other Nationals ahead of the UN summit in Glasgow in November.

While Mr Morrison has signalled he wants to set a target of net zero emissions by 2050, he is yet to get an agreement from Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who would be expected to take the terms to a full meeting of the Nationals’ party room.

One Liberal on the committee, Katie Allen, declined to comment on the inquiry but has advocated greater action on climate change in the past.

“Climate change is real and affects us all,” she wrote in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald in November 2019. “This means the long game of transitioning toward renewables and a carbon-neutral future is not just an environmental imperative for this country– it is also an economic inevitability.”




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