August 28th 2013
Should local scientists now fear for their jobs?
Last night, at an environmental forum in Townsville, a retired scientist, Mr David Cassells, sought a guarantee from the Liberal Member for Townsville, Ewen Jones, that, with Liberal Party threats to possibly 20,000 public service jobs, local scientists working at institutions like the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Australian Institute of Marine Science and the CSIRO, would not have their jobs cut. Ewen Jones’s responded saying, “12,000 (jobs) and we’ve said that’s in Canberra,” then immediately switched focus to say, “6,000 federal health public servants do not treat patients” and “5,000 federal education public servants do not run schools,” as evidence of wastage to be eliminated. But today, his party’s shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, who has also said that the 12,000 figure was a “starting point,” told the National Press Club there would be no cuts to health or education. Mr Cassells fears now seem well founded.
The question was one of many raised at the North Queensland Conservation Council’s Election Forum held at the Old Townsville Courthouse.
Mr Cassells’ question led to one of the few point-scoring comments of the night, by Greens’ candidate, Gail Hamilton, who reprimanded Mr Jones for "a melt-down" over the impacts on jobs if coal mining was to to lose its $3 billion in government subsidies while at least 12,000 public servants were to lose theirs under the coalition.
Ewen Jones, who believes that environmental issues were mostly a matter of “managing risk”, did however surprise the mostly green-supporting audience when asked about the plans to expand the Port of Townsville. “I don’t see the business case for it - even if there was a rebound in commodity prices.” Mr Jones was also against any possibility of coal being exported from pristine Princess Charlotte Bay, believing Abbot Point to be the most viable option.
It was however a depressing reminder that the overwhelming evidence which underlies the science indicating human induced climate change was still lost on Family First’s Michael Punshon and Rise-up Australia’s Nino Marolla, whose leader, preacher, Daniel Nalliah, claims to have raised people from the dead and blames Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires as divine punishment for that state’s abortion laws.
Labor’s Cathy O’Toole was definitely against coal being exported through the Port of Townsville but admitted that, “In some circumstance dredge disposal at sea is the only option.”
The Greens’ Gail Hamilton claimed that all the other major parties were weakening on environmental issues except for the Greens. She was scathing of any dredging which was not disposed of on land saying that is smothered corals and beaches and that we cannot be sure how it will travel through the ocean. “We need to use the precautionary principal,” she said and “The Graet Barrier Reef is not as resilient as it was and is no longer as able to recover from human impacts.”
A fascinatingly independent viewpoint was heard from Katter’s Australia Party’s Bronwyn Walker, who commented on the “strong connections between the coal/oil industries and our major parties,” wanting to “break the nexus and promote renewable energy.
Some of the same old criticisms of solar energy being incapable of providing base load power were repeated by Ewen Jones (see counter position here)
Mr Jones was also keen to promote the interesting local breakthroughs in algae being used to clean carbon dioxide from coal fired power stations and pressed that we should export this technology along with our polluting coal. The great uses of algae as seen at James Cook University should however be seen within the context of them only saving 40 - 50% of CO2 from emissions to then be put to use most significantly in bio-diesel which would then, presumably, be burn’t later in vehicle emissions.
One issue all candidates agreed on however was their total opposition to the expansion of nuclear power.
Perhaps as yet another insight into the bias featured so prominently by the Murdoch press in this election, at an event where it was unlikely the Liberal candidate would clearly shine, the Townsville Bulletin was absent. Fortunately WIN, Channel 7, the ABC and JCU media staff and students were on hand with Magnetic Times to report on this fine example of democracy close-up.