Showing posts with label environment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label environment. Show all posts

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Anthropomorphic Global Warming in Australia 2018


Australians have been told repeatedly that global warming leading to climate change is real.

The continent is becomng dryer, record air and ground temperatures are no longer novel, heavy rain events are predicted to become more destructive, mass flora and fauna extinctions are expected and the coastline is beginning to erode faster than at the historical rate.

It's not just happenng in Australia, other continents are also experience climate change and, the one factor most have in common is generations of ever increasing greenhouse gas emissions produced by both households and industries in metropolitan, regional and rural areas.

Everyone bears some responsibility for where the world finds itself......


In the first quarter of 2018 Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions will be over MT 7.3 CO2-e  higher than the national Paris ERT commitment made on our behalf by the Australian Government.

Over one quarter of Australia’s CO2-e budget for 2013 to 2050 has already been spent in the last 4.75 years.

AUSTRALIA’S ANNUAL EMISSIONS, CALENDAR YEAR TO SEPTEMBER 2017*


* This graph includes both published Government NGGI data and Ndevr Environmental projections for Q4/FY2017 and Q1/FY2018

BY  SECTOR 2005-2017
~~~~~~~~~~~

World-wide, land used for non-animal and animal-based agriculture in 2017 was estimated to produce 24% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.


66.3% from enteric fermentation in ruminant livestock (eructation and flatulence)

15.5% from agricultural soils

10.8% from prescribed burning of savannas

3.9% from manure management

2.4% from liming and urea application

and the remainder from rice cultivation and field burning of agricultural residues.

Total greenhouse gas emissions from world-wide food systems in 2012 contributed between 19% to 29% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. By 2030 the combined greenhouse gas emissions from global food production is expected to double.

~~~~~~~~~~~

National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting, Australia’s highest 10 greenhouse gas emitters 2016–17

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Great Barrier Reef Foundation: waiting for the inevitable crash


Mainstream media reports that Australian Prime Minister & Liberal MP for Wentworth Malcolm Turnbull (former director Goldman Sachs), Minister for Environment and Energy & Liberal MP for Kooyong Josh Frydenberg (former director Deutsche Bank Australia) and Chair of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation & Member of the Business Council of Australia John Schubert (former chair Commonwealth Bank) met on 9 April 2018 to discuss the allocation of a grant valued at in excess of AU$487.6 million to the foundation.

It was also reported that no officials from the Department of the Environment and Energy were present at that meeting when the grant offer was made and apparently accepted.

Less than ten weeks later the grant was formally approved without meeting all relevant provisions in the Commonwealth Grants Rules and Guidelines 2017.

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation with a staff of only six full-time employees now has no more than 6 financial years to spend this large sum, which represents est. 69.66 per cent of funds held in the federal government operated Reef Trust since 2014 and 97.52 per cent of additional funds received by the trust on 29 April 2018.

Leaving the Reef Trust with an unspecified amount to fulfil other commitments over the next six years.

Due to obvious time constraints, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation’s board and corporate 'advisers' need to have a detailed financial and project action plan for 2018-19 immediately - if not sooner.

I suspect that I am not alone in waiting for waste of resources, duplication of effort, poorly targeted projects, lack of verifiable outcomes and other instances of  mismanagement to emerge over time, given the slapdash way this grant was put together.

Australian Government, GrantConnect:


GA ID: GA9190
Agency: Department of the Environment and Energy
Approval Date: 20-Jun-2018
Publish Date: 12-Jul-2018
Category: Natural Resources - Conservation and Protection
Grant Term: 27-Jun-2018 to 30-Jun-2024
Value (AUD): $487,633,300.00 (GST inclusive where applicable)

Ad hoc/One-off: Yes
Aggregate Grant Award: No

PBS Program Name: DoTE 17/18 Program 1.1: Sustainable Management of Natural Resources and the Environment
Grant Program: Reef Trust
Grant Activity: Reef Trust grant to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation
Purpose: The project will deliver activities which are consistent with the purposes of the Reef Trust Special Account Determination to achieve the Reef Trust Objectives and assist to protect the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Internal Reference ID: 100000001841

Confidentiality - Contract: Yes
Confidentiality Reason(s) - Contract: Other:  Aspects of the Co-Financing Plan and the Communication and Stakeholder Engagement Plan 
Confidentiality - Outputs: No

Grant Recipient Details
Recipient Name: Great Barrier Reef Foundation
Recipient ABN: 82 090 616 443

Grant Recipient Location
Suburb: Brisbane
Town/City: Brisbane
Postcode: 4000
State/Territory: QLD
Country: AUSTRALIA

Grant Delivery Location
State/Territory: QLD
Country: AUSTRALIA



Third Sector, 7 June 2018:

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) has confirmed one of its board directors will step down as he faces criminal charges for cartel conduct.

Stephen Roberts, an investment banker and GBRF board director, has been charged by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for allegedly playing a part of a criminal cartel during a $2.5 billion deal.

ACCC Chairman, Rod Sims, said: “These serious charges are the result of an ACCC investigation that has been running for more than two years.”

The charges, which included other banking chief executives and senior staff, were laid by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions and will be determined in court.

Criminal charges relating to an alleged cartel by Citigroup, Deutsche Bank and the ANZ have been formally laid in relation to alleged cartel arrangements relating to trading in ANZ shares following a $2.5 billion institutional share placement in August 2015.


Friday, 3 August 2018

Supermarket giant Coles’ “bagflip’’ did not go down well and the company was stopped in its tracks


This was typical of the response to the Coles Supermarkets Australia Pty Ltd end of July 2018 announcement that is was indefinitely suspending a full ban on the use of free plastic shopping bags in its stores.

The Daily Examiner, 2 August 2018, p.13:

Supermarket giant Coles’ “bagflip’’ in continuing to hand out free reusable plastic bags is a perplexing move.

After spending the past month getting its customers used to the idea there would be no more single-use bags, Coles management has caved in to the tantrums of some customers unable to get their head around the notion of doing something to help the environment or pay up.

Not surprisingly the environmentalists are outraged.

For a start the so-called reusable plastic bags are just a step up from the tissue-thin, single-use bags clogging landfill and choking marine wildlife.

The smart thing about the proposed bag ban was that the supermarket was using a price signal to reinforce the change, a language its bargain-hunting customers were sure to understand.

No longer.

The customer has come first, ahead of the environment, good planning and common sense.

Without a price tag, customers are going to treat the reusable bags just like the old ones, which will add a splash of colour to the litter.

It has the same logic as trying to improve a child’s behaviour by giving in to its demand.

The “child” in this case does spend millions of dollars in your store, but with Woolworths continuing to charge the 15 cents for resuable bags, shoppers didn‘t have many options.

Twitter 1-2 August 2018:




By midday on 2 August 2018 Coles reversed its backflip and set a new deadline for stores - 29 August 2018 is now the deadline for handouts of free reusable plastic shopping bags.

Hopefully by the beginning of 2019 even reuseable plastic bags will no longer be available for purchase.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

NSW Roads & Maritime Services finally come clean: We don't give a damn about any of the concerns Woombah & Iluka residents have about our asphalt plant, it's only Pacific Complete's bottom line that matters


The Daily Examiner via Press Reader, 1 August 2018:

ROADS and Martime Services has revealed it will build at least two asphalt batching plants near the Pacific Highway, most likely between Tyndale and the Iluka turnoff, next year.

Pacific Highway general manager Bob Higgins said the RMS has pressed the pause button on construction of one plant at Woombah, but the need to supply the Glenugie to Iluka Rd turnoff section with 170,000 tonnes of asphalt would require two plants.

He said the RMS would review the supply strategy for the manufacture and delivery of asphalt on the stretch of highway upgrade after protests from the Woombah community.

But Mr Higgins said if push came to shove when the RMS review decided on locations, residents’ objections would take second place to the technical needs of the project. [my yellow highlighting]

What a travesty Pacific Highway Upgrade community consultations are cannot get much clearer than this.

I'm sure local residents will not be pleased to have their fears confirmed.

Whether he meant to or not, Bob Higgins has probably just cemented the proposed Woombah asphalt batching site as a March 2019 NSW state election issue in the Clarence electorate for both the NSW National Party and the Berejiklian Coalition Government.

No-one likes to be told their valid concerns - about environmental impact, road safety, air quality and potential reduction in tourism numbers which underpin the local economy - don't matter to the state government down in Sydney.

BACKGROUND






Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Pacific Highway Upgrade 2018: the saga of the unwanted Woombah asphalt batching plant continues


In its latest letterbox drop to Woombah and Iluka communities on 30 July 2018 NSW Road and Maritime Services (RMS) has admitted that, despite a commitment to review the proposed site of the Woombah temporary asphalt plant servicing the Iluka to Devil’s Pulpit section of the Pacific Highway upgrade, it still intends to place 4,000 tons of asphalt on this site by Christmas 2018.

As if from these photographs below locals could not already tell that the plan to use the site for asphalt batching remains active - despite strong community opposition based on road safety, air quality, health and environmental concerns.




Photographs supplied anonymously




This turnoff is the temporary Pacific Highway-Garrets Lane intersection created in March 2018 by NSW Roads and Maritime Services and Pacific Complete as the highway upgrade proceeds along a 27 kilometre stretch. 

It is also the intersection now used by heavy vehicles accessing the proposed site of the temporary asphalt batching plant.

It is an intersection and road Pacific Complete is assuring local residents has been designed and built in accordance with the design criteria.

As the Iluka and Woombah communities were not supplied with a detailed traffic audit for the road design or the change to road design which is set to occur in 2019, they have to take the consortium's word that this is so.

If the complaints by some local residents of being harried by impatient construction truck drivers as they attempt to negotiate the Pacific Highway-Garrets Lane turnoff are any indication, between now and Christmas there may be another collision there.

RMS and Pacific Complete have promised to hold information sessions with the two communities again - one version states sessions commence on 30 July 2018 and another rather obscure document states they commence on 30 August 2018.

July 30 has come and gone without that particular information session taking place.

The deadline for submissions on the temporary asphalt batching plant is 10 August 2018.

Given that deadline, either RMS and Pacific Complete are the most appalling managers of the community consultation process or they are trying to limit the ability to submit fully informed written responses by10 August.

The suspicion that National Party cronyism has played a part in the choice of site is starting to be quietly muttered under the breath as well. It seems Lower Clarence River folk have long memories.

This botched Iluka to Devil's Pulpit highway construction planning and community consultation is likely to be on the minds of quite a few Woombah and Iluka residents as they cast their votes at the NSW state election in March next year.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

It's business as usual as Trump appointees dismantle US environmental law and regulations



5 July 2018:

Scott Pruitt, whose tenure at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was tarred by corruption scandals and hostility to environmental regulation, offered his resignation today, effective July 6.

The EPA’s new interim administrator, Andrew Wheeler, is a former coal lobbyist, 
profiled by DeSmog.

DeSmog's prior profile of Wheeler reports:

Wheeler is the latest former staffer of climate change denier James Inhofe to join the EPA. Prior to joining FaegreBD Consulting, Wheeler worked as majority staff director, minority staff director and chief counsel at the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works for Inhofe. He worked in a similar vein at the Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate Change, Wetlands and Nuclear Safety under the chairmanship of Inhofe and also that of George Voinovich. Before that, he worked as Inhofe's chief counsel from 1995 to 1997.

Under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Wheeler spent four years as a staffer at the EPA's Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics before moving on to his position at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Until mid-2017, Wheeler lobbied on behalf of Murray Energy, the nation's largest privately owned coal company. Run by vocal climate change denier Robert Murray, the energy company has fought against industry regulation and climate change mitigation efforts. According to EcoWatch, Wheeler brought in at least $3 million in income for his firm from Murray Energy.

Murray Energy, while Wheeler's client, produced an “Action Plan” for the Trump Administration including complete elimination of the Clean Power Plan, overturning the endangerment finding for greenhouse gases, and eliminating tax credits for wind and solar energy. In his confirmation hearing, Wheeler admitted to having seen the plan.

According to his profile at Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting, Wheeler “worked on every major piece of environmental and energy-related legislation over the last decade, including greenhouse gas emissions legislation, the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the Clear Skies Act and the Clean Air Interstate Rule.” The consulting firm also notes that Wheeler has worked on 1998 and 2005 Highway Bill reauthorizations, the Diesel Emissions Reduction SEP Bill, and Renewable Fuel Standards. His regulatory work includes “all major fuel related issues including Refinery MACT, Gasoline sulfur, and the NSPS program.”

“Andrew Wheeler’s nomination is very much in keeping with the Trump administration’s agenda of fossil fuel exploitation and climate inaction,” Michael Mann, a climatologist at Penn State University told HuffPost.

Read the full article here.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

NSW Berejiklian Government 2018: How not to conduct a community consultation in the Clarence Valley, NSW



The Daily Examiner, Letter to the Editor, 10 July 2018, p.13:

So Road and Maritime Services intends to establish a temporary asphalt batching plant at Woombah with a heavy truck access road crossing Iluka Road approximately 230 metres from the Pacific Highway T-intersection.

One couldn’t choose a site more unsafe for private vehicles and more disruptive to tourist traffic. One that also is less than 500 metres from a waterway which empties into the Clarence River Estuary.

One couldn’t find a more inadequate approach to community consultation.

The Pillar Valley community were given an RMS community information session scheduled to last one and a half hours in May 2016 ahead of construction of a temporary batching plant there.

In September 2016 the Donnellyville community received a detailed 5-page information document at least a month ahead of construction and this included an aerial map showing infrastructure layout within the proposed temporary batching plant site. Up front the community was allotted two drop-in information sessions.
Most of the residents in Woombah and Iluka appear to have found out about the proposed temporary plant planned for Woombah in July 2018, the same month construction is due to start.

This plant will be in use for the next two and a half years but only a few residents were given some rudimentary information in a 3-page document and initially the community was not even offered a drop-in information session.

Perhaps the NSW Minister for Roads Maritime and Freight, Melinda Pavey, and Roads and Maritime Services might like to explain the haphazard, belated approach taken to informing the communities of Woombah and Iluka of the proposed plant.

The people of Woombah and Iluka deserve better. They deserve a formal information night which canvasses all the issues, with representatives from RMS and the Pacific Highway project team prepared to address concerns and answer questions, as well as a representative of the Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight in attendance as an observer.

They don’t deserve to be fobbed off with a quick patch-up, comprising a drop-in information session and one RMS representative deciding to attend a local community run meeting.

I’m sure that all residents and business owners in both Woombah and Iluka would appreciate a departmental re-think of this situation.

Judith Melville, Yamba

It is also beginning to look as though Roads and Maritime Services is only just getting around to meeting with Clarence Valley shire councillors as a group this week to brief them on the asphalt batching plant site.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Yet another 'temporary' asphalt batching plant rears its ugly head - this time at Woombah in the Clarence Valley


It would appear that the Berejiklian Government is about to wish a temporary asphalt batching plant on the Lower Clarence River flood plain.

Running for two and a half years day and night.

Two years of bitumen odour from the holding tanks, lime dust from the silo, diesel fumes from the generator, sulphur oxides and nitrogen oxides releasing during productionall wafting on the breeze - along with the never ending rumble of dusty heavy trucks belching exhaust fumes.

Then a cleanup of the toxic waste left behind.

With not even the courtesy of a genuine community consultation.


Australian and NSW Government-RMS, June 2018:

The Australian and NSW governments are jointly funding the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade. Roads and Maritime Services’ Pacific Highway Project Office, Pacific Complete and its contractor partners are working together to deliver the upgrade.

To build the upgrade, the project team will be establishing batch plants along the 155 kilometre route. These sites will have different functions and will support the building of the new road.

The project team is proposing to build a temporary asphalt batch plant at Woombah. The batch plant would be located on the eastern side of the existing highway about 700 metres north of the old Iluka Road turnoff. A map has been provided to show the proposed location of the temporary asphalt batch plant.

This facility would make asphalt for the upgrade between Maclean and Devils Pulpit. Batch plants are facilities where raw materials are brought in, mixed together and then loaded into trucks and transported to site for use.

If approved, we would start building this site in July, with the batch plant operational by mid-August 2018. This site is proposed to be operational for about two and a half years with the land to be rehabilitated after completion in line with the project’s conditions of approval…..

There would be up to 500 heavy vehicle movements and 100 light vehicle movements per day at peak…..

Typically work would be carried out during the project’s approved construction hours which are:
9am -  6pm Monday – Friday
8am – 5pm Saturday

In areas where residents live more than 200 metres from the work area, extended work hours are allowed between 6am and 7am and 6pm and 7pm from Monday to Friday. Additionally, work outside or normal construction hours is also allowed where the impact to residents is predicted to be low, including no greater increase in noise levels than 5 decibels above the existing background noise level. 

The batch plant would need to be operational whenever asphalting work is required on the road. To minimise the impact on the Pacific Highway and ensure the work sites are safe, some of this work would be carried out at night. The temporary batch plant would need to operate at night to support these activities. Residents would be notified in advance of this taking place.

We are seeking your feedback on the proposed building and operation of the temporary asphalt batch plant at Woombah. To have your say, please fill out the attached feedback form by Wednesday 4 July 2018.

You can return it by:


Alternatively, you can provide your feedback over the phone by calling 1800 778 900 (toll free).

Google Earth snapshot of Woombah site and surrounding land, an est. 2.5kms as the crow flies from the Clarence River estuary and est. 1km from residential dwellings.


Woombah batching site boundaries.


The Daily Examiner, Letter to the Editor, 29 June 2018, p. 9:

Iluka Road problems
THE safety of Iluka road users is being put at risk by increasing truck movements to an additional 500 truck and trailers as well as 100 cars per day. That’s an additional truck or car travelling on Iluka road at a rate of one every 50 seconds! A situation that will continue for two and a half years.
The NSW Government has put out a letter seeking feedback on a proposed asphalt batch plant at Woombah for the Pacific Highway Upgrade from Mororo to Devils Pulpit.
However speaking with other locals in the Woombah area I found out quickly that very few residents of Woombah, let alone IIluka have received this letter. It is something that will affect all the 2500 residents of Iluka/Woombah area, as well as tourists and service vehicles. The letter has only just been sent out, but the site is already being prepared. Another case of community consultation and feedback after the fact, and the decision has been made!
The new temporary turn off from Iluka Rd onto the highway is already a difficult and dangerous turn-off because of the short turning lanes, additional turns and give way signs. Along with increased truck movements and road blockages associated with the construction of the Iluka road overpass, the dangers associated with navigating this entrance and exit to Iluka Road has increased.
Now all the traffic for an asphalt batching plant is to also travel on Garretts Lane, coming from the Old Pacific Highway and crossing Iluka Rd onto this new temporary turn-off.
This will cause traffic congestion problems for all Iluka Rd users. It will create further problems entering and exiting the highway. It will increase that danger of motor vehicle collisions and possible injury. We must stand up for the safety of our loved ones, our children, and for the many families who holiday here.
Locating the batching plant where it has its own dedicated access road to the highway, one which could adequately accommodate this large number of truck movements is the only sufficient solution. They should not be placed on busy local roads.
There are several areas, including Mororo Rd, which have already been blocked to public access, which could easily be fitted out for this purpose without endangering people.
Also with the plant being on the Western side of the Pacific Highway, these fully loaded trucks that are all going north will not have to cross the busy Pacific Highway but instead only need to merge with traffic. This would also solve the problem
Davild Wilson, Iluka

Monday, 11 June 2018

The Turnbull Government is about to decide what is in the "public interest" and what is "fair and accurate reporting"...


And how the Turnbull Government couches these definitions in relation to national security and classified information may decide if a whistleblower or journalist ends up spending two years in an Australian gaol.

Excerpts from National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017 currently before the Parliament of Australia:

122.4 Unauthorised disclosure of information by Commonwealth officers and former Commonwealth officers
 (1) A person commits an offence if:
(a) the person communicates information; and
(b) the person made or obtained the information by reason of his or her being, or having been, a Commonwealth officer or otherwise engaged to perform work for a Commonwealth  entity; and
(c) the person is under a duty not to disclose the information; and
(d) the duty arises under a law of the Commonwealth.
           Penalty: Imprisonment for 2 years.
(2) Absolute liability applies in relation to paragraph (1)(d)
Note: A defendant bears an evidential burden in relation to the matters in 10 this subsection (see subsection 13.3(3)).

122.5 Defences
Powers, functions and duties in a person’s capacity as a 4 Commonwealth officer etc. or under arrangement……
Information communicated in accordance with the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013
(4) It is a defence to a prosecution for an offence by a person against this Division relating to the communication of information that the person communicated the information in accordance with the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013.
Note: A defendant bears an evidential burden in relation to the matters in 24 this subsection (see subsection 13.3(3)).
Information communicated to a court or tribunal
(5) It is a defence to a prosecution for an offence by a person against this Division relating to the communication of information that the person communicated the information to a court or tribunal (whether or not as a result of a requirement).
Note: A defendant bears an evidential burden in relation to the matters in this subsection (see subsection 13.3(3))......

Information dealt with or held for the purposes of fair and accurate reporting…
(6) It is a defence to a prosecution for an offence by a person against this Division relating to the dealing with or holding of information that the person dealt with or held the information:
(a) in the public interest (see subsection (7)); and
(b) in the person’s capacity as a journalist engaged in fair and accurate reporting. Note: A defendant bears an evidential burden in relation to the matters in this subsection (see subsection 13.3(3))......


SECRECY OFFENCES - DEFENCES AND OTHER MATTERS

Recommendation 26
5.87 The Committee recommends that the following proposed defences be broadened to cover all dealings with information, rather than being limited to communication of information:
§ proposed section 122.5(3) – relating to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner,
§ proposed section 122.5(4) – relating to the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013,
§ proposed section 122.5(5) – relating information provided to a court or tribunal, and
§ proposed section 122.5(8) – relating to information that has been previously communicated. 

Recommendation 27
5.90 The Committee recommends that the Attorney-General’s proposed amendments to the defence for journalists at proposed section 122.5(6), and the associated amendments at 122.5(7), be implemented. This includes expanding the defence to all persons engaged in reporting news, presenting current affairs or expressing editorial content in news media where the person reasonably believed that dealing with or holding the information was in the public interest.
The Committee also recommends that the Government consider further refinements to the proposed defence in order to
§ make explicit that editorial support staff are covered by the defence, including legal advisors and administrative staff,
§ ensure editorial staff and lawyers, who are engaging with the substance of the information, be required to hold a reasonable belief that their conduct is in the public interest, and
§ allow administrative support staff working at the direction of a journalist, editor or lawyer who holds the reasonable belief, to benefit from the defence.

The Australian Attorney-General and Liberal MP for Pearce Christian Porter sent out this media release on 7 June 2018:

Attorney-General, Christian Porter, welcomed the release today of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security on the Government’s National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017.

"This is a major step forward in securing passage of this critical legislation and protecting Australia’s democratic systems from Foreign Interference, and it is my expectation that the Bill will be considered and passed during the next sitting period later this month," the Attorney-General said.

"The Committee has made 60 recommendations, the large majority of which are minor changes to definitions and drafting clarifications. The most substantive changes are those that adopt the Government’s proposed amendments which I submitted to the Committee as part of its deliberations earlier this year.

"Those Government amendments expanded the public interest defence for journalists and created separate graduated offences for commonwealth officers and non-commonwealth officers. The amendments were designed to strike the best possible balance between keeping Australia safe and not impeding the ordinary and important work of journalists and media organisations.

"In addition to minor drafting amendments and the adoption of the substantive Government amendments that I provided earlier this year, the additional substantive changes now recommended include that:

*There be a reduction to the maximum penalties for the proposed new secrecy offences, and to require the consent of the Attorney-General to any prosecution under these proposed new secrecy offences;
* That all secrecy offences in other Commonwealth legislation are reviewed; and
* Clarification that the journalism defence extends to all editorial, legal and administrative staff within the news organisation.

"Even in the time that it has taken to consider the Espionage and Foreign Interference Bill, the threat environment has changed and become more acute. As senior ASIO officials have said repeatedly in recent months, we now live in a time of unprecedented foreign intelligence activity against Australia with more foreign agents, from more foreign powers, using more tradecraft to engage in espionage and foreign interference than at any time since the Cold War."

"Given the rapid change in the threat environment it is the Government’s intention to consider the report and recommendations for amendments very quickly and my expectation is that the Bill, in essentially the form now recommend by the Committee, should be passed through Parliament during the next sitting period later this month; noting of course the primary and most significant recommendation of the report is that the Bill be passed."

The Attorney-General said this Bill and the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Bill were both critical to modernising our national security laws as part of the Turnbull Government’s commitment to keep Australians safe and the Attorney-General wanted to make particular note of the hard work of the Committee in the last two weeks to produce this most recent Report.

"Safeguarding Australia’s national security will always remain the Turnbull Government’s number one priority and the Committee’s role in considering and making amendments to national security legislation is at the centre of a process that has seen ten tranches of national security laws passed since 2014, with the Government accepting 128 recommendations of the Committee, resulting in 293 Government amendments," the Attorney-General said.

"This process was conducted squarely in the national interest and represented a real fulfilment of Australians expectations for cooperative bipartisan conduct when serious national security issues are at stake. On this point I would like to personally thank the Chair Andrew Hastie MP, the Shadow Attorney–General, the Hon Mark Dreyfus QC MP, and Deputy Chair, the Hon Anthony Byrne MP, for their skilled and good faith dealings with my office to deliver recommendations which ultimately improve the Bill."

It goes without saying that incorporated community organisations, grassroots activists and social media bloggers/commentators are not afforded the protection of any detailed set of defences set out in the bill or in report recommendations.

On 8 June 2018 this was how the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) and World Wildlife Fund - Australia saw their position under the provisions of this bill and review recommendations:

WWF-Australia and the Australian Conservation Foundation say charities who hold the Australian Government to account on its environmental record, could be charged under proposed foreign interference and espionage laws.

Both groups say changes recommended by a bipartisan committee, to address “overreach” concerns with the Bill, don’t go far enough.

“We could still be charged with espionage just for doing our job, which is a ridiculous situation,” said WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman.

Charities such as WWF-Australia and ACF are often sought out by international bodies to provide independent analysis and a scientific assessment on the Australian Government’s environmental performance.

If either organisation briefed the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on failings to address threats to endangered species they could be charged with espionage. 

Or if they gave evidence to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on shortfalls in Australia’s record on the environment they could face espionage charges. 

“Providing independent analysis is core business for environmental organisations trying to save Australia’s forests and threatened species,” Mr O’Gorman said.
“Would the 2050 Plan to save the Great Barrier Reef have happened without attention from UNESCO?”

ACF Acting Chief Executive Officer, Dr Paul Sinclair said: “Protests and advocacy may make some politicians uncomfortable, but they are essential ingredients of a vibrant democracy and healthy environment.

“Our security is of course important. But restricting civil society advocacy in its name is dangerous and would limit the community’s ability to hold the powerful to account for any damage they cause to our clean air, clean water and safe climate.

“All parties must work to rewrite this bill to strengthen protections for the public oversight, free expression and peaceful protest that makes our democracy strong.”

These conservation organisations have some reason to be concerned as committal for trial for an espionage or foreign interference offence is essentially a political decision taken by the Attorney-General, given s93.1 of National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017 requires consent from the Attorney-General to proceed.

Given the antipathy displayed by the Abbott and Turnbull Coalition Governments towards any form of organised political, social or environmental activism, it is not hard to imagine a scenario in which a federal government would act maliciously against those opposing its policy positions or actions and use the provisions in this bill to effect such an act.