While their approach to the environment has in recent times become one of the few points of difference between the major political parties, this election has seen a frustrating similarity in their policy platforms on climate change and other environmental issues.

As a result, voters from both sides of politics who want to see an environmentally responsible government are turning to the Greens in record numbers.

So why is this happening, and just what exactly has been offered up by our Liberal and Labor leaders on the environment?

Climate change or policy change? Both major parties say they are committed to achieving a 5% reduction in Australia’s carbon pollution by 2020, even though the science tells us that 25 – 40% cuts are required by developed countries in this timeframe to stabilise the climate.

Given the massive expansion in polluting industries including 12 new coal fired power stations  planned around Australia (3 in WA), it is very difficult to see how even this inadequate 5% target will be reached at all, especially without a price on carbon.

When the nation’s most respected advisor on the economics of climate change, Professor Ross Garnaut was asked, he said the 5% target was achievable without a carbon price, but it would come at a much greater (and unnecessary) cost to Australians and our economy.

Tony Abbott has at least been clear with the Australian public on this issue: an Abbott Government would not introduce a price on carbon in the next term.

Rather than criticising this for the economic recklessness this represents, in typical Labor form, Prime Minister Gillard has attempted to dress up a delay tactic as a credible policy, announcing that a Labor government would form a ‘people’s assembly’ to discuss the issue for a year before a decision on a carbon price will be made.

Australians know that another year of delay and inaction on climate change will put even the 5% target out of reach for Australia.

In WA alone, a lack of climate policy for the last two years at both State and Commonwealth level has created a window of opportunity for polluting industries, with the EPA projecting a massive 75% increase in carbon pollution from the state over the next few years.

Given this knowledge, it is unsurprising that Gillard’s policy on rebuilding ‘community consensus’ for another year went down like a lead balloon with the electorate.

Since that time, the ALP have struggled to come up with some other pollution-busting initiatives to fill the credibility vacuum.

After announcing a cash-for-clunkers program that looks more like a subsidy to the car industry and an energy efficiency policy that looks more like a subsidy to the commercial property sector, Gillard finally got on to the main game – new coal fired power stations.

But don’t be fooled here either; Gillards policy to prevent new ‘dirty’ coal fired power stations will not apply to the three recently approved by the Barnett Government, and will make little difference to cleaning up the other 9 planned around Australia.

Now, on the eve of tomorrows election, the Australian newspaper has reported that:

“Julia Gillard is prepared to legislate a carbon price in the next term of Government [and that] she would view victory tomorrow as a mandate for a carbon price, provided the community was ready for this step”

This is better than Tny Abbott ruling out a carbon price altogether, however the PRime Minister’s comments can hardly be taken as a committment, and leave maximum wriggle-room for the ALP and the coal industry to continue their appalling inaction for yet another term.

Given this bleak scenario, the substantial number of Australian’s who agreed with Kevin Rudd that climate change is the greatest moral challenge of our time have little choice but to desert both major parties this election.

Predictably, the polls tell us that is exactly what is happening with record numbers reporting their voting intention as supporting the Greens.

Given the lack of action on climate by Gillard and Abbot, one would have thought that other environmental initiatives would be in focus as both sides of politics scramble for opportunities to attract swinging voters. Even here we have been bitterly disappointed.

“Green Army” Before the campaign, Abbott recycled an old Howard policy, announcing a ‘green army’ of people receiving social security benefits who will be put to work planting trees and repairing environmental degradation.

This idea no doubt has some appeal to conservative voters; however it lacks credibility as an environmental policy without any commitment to tackle the fundamental root causes of environmental destruction such as vegetation clearing, pollution, weeds, feral animals and climate change.

Forests or Firewood? On the issue of forests, traditionally a fraught policy area at election time thanks to a powerful forestry industry with many workers in marginal Tasmanian seats, policy announcements have been even more disappointing, with both Liberal and Labor policies a disaster for the environment. Almost 80% of Australians (Galaxy poll) support an end to native forest logging, however instead of delivering this both major parties support the disastrous proposals to burn native forests for energy, and have both made commitments to an extra $20million in taxpayer subsidies for an unsustainable industry that can’t stand on its own without ongoing government assistance.

Saving our Marine Life. On the critical area of marine protection, Abbott filleted a fish for the TV cameras while announcing that he would put Labor’s marine protection process ‘on hold’ if he won government.

With less than 1% of our marine life in Western Australia protected and our fish stocks collapsing, all Labor had to do to better Abbott’s dog-whistle to the fishing sector is announce that they would continue the current process to create marine protected areas off the coast of WA.

Sadly for our environment, this meagre announcement could in fact be the best environmental policy from either major party during this campaign.

Support the Conservation Council – your independent voice for the environment by clicking here

Written and authorised by Piers Verstegen, City West Lotteries House, 2 Delhi St West Perth



Hon. Donna Faragher MLC, Minister for the Environment; Youth

Western Australia’s peak environment group today responded to the launch of a new ‘website program to help students combat climate change’ by pledging to release their own online program to help Ministers to combat climate change.

Conservation Council Director, Piers Verstegen welcomed the new website launched by Environment Minister Hon. Donna Faragher but said “The future of our climate is in the hands of the Minister.”

“It is ironic that the ‘operation climate change’ website contains tips for reducing household energy use by school children, while Minister Faragher has just approved a massive expansion in coal-fired power stations that would contribute to a 75% increase in carbon pollution in WA.”

“Perhaps the Minister does not realise that anything that can be done to reduce emissions by school children will be totally eclipsed by her own recent decisions to support further expansion of our dirtiest form of energy generation in WA”

“The Barnett Government came to power with a promise to develop a ‘Climate Change Strategy for Western Australia’, however so far there has been no progress on this, creating a dangerous window of opportunity for Australias most polluting industries to expand in WA.”

“While a website aimed at school children is worthwhile, we suspect the level of understanding of climate change may be greater among school children than among our current Ministers and political candidates.”

“We call on the Minister to allocate resources to the critical task of developing policies for the State to dramatically reduce greenhouse emissions, rather than developing websites for children who will bear the future costs of the Ministers decisions.”

To assist the Minister, the Conservation Council will develop a new website program to help Ministers combat climate change. Tips will include:

  • How to say NO to new coal fired power stations
  • How to stop subsidising polluting industries and instead make them clean up their act
  • How to purchase renewable energy for government agencies
  • How to protect our native forests from logging to preserve natural carbon stores

Comment: Piers Verstegen 0411 557 892

On August 15, thousands of people will attend the Annual Walk Against Warming. This year the event will be held at the Esplanade Reserve Fremantle, where participants will plant a sea of windmills to show their support for renewable energy. For more information on the event visit www.conservationwa.asn.au

Please support the Conservation Council’s renewable energy campaign by making a tax-deductable donation here

Photo: steve Mckiernan

Media Release – Friday 30 July 2010

Western Australia’s peak environment group today suggested that the annual Walk Against Warming could be the next international tourism drawcard for Perth, to replace the Red Bull Air Race.

The Conservation Council announced that the 2010 Walk Against Warming would be held on Sunday August 15 at Fremantle’s Esplanade Reserve, with participants planting a sea of windmills on a huge map of Western Australia to show support for renewable energy.

Conservation Council Director, Piers Verstegen said “with Western Australia’s carbon pollution projected to soar by 75% in the next few years, and per-capita carbon pollution about to eclipse every other country in the world, our State could become an international focus of people concerned about climate change.

“In years to come, the Walk Against Warming could attract tens of thousands of people from across the globe wanting to help WA cut emissions and replace fossil fuels with renewable energy; especially those from our neighbouring Pacific Islands and other low-lying nations that will be wiped out by rising sea levels if carbon pollution is allowed to continue.

Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt said the City of Fremantle was excited about having Walk Against Warming in Fremantle this year.

“It is an event that will attract thousands of people for the most important issue of our generation  and will provide a massive boon to our local hospitality and tourism industry,” he said.

The City of Fremantle is WA’s first carbon neutral local government, and just the second in Australia behind the City of Sydney.

“Perhaps this is not exactly the sort of tourism that the Barnett Government is looking for to replace the Red Bull Air Race, but inaction on climate change by State and Commonwealth Governments may indeed make this embarrassment a reality for WA,” concluded Mr Verstegen

 Comment: Piers Verstegen:  0411 557 892 Brad Pettitt: 0421 372 626

 The Conservation Council is urging people to attend this year’s Walk Against Warming and show their support for renewable energy by planting a sea of windmills at Fremantle’s Esplanade Reserve. People who cannot attend on the day are urged to log on to the Conservation Council’s website to send their message on climate change which will be added to a windmill on the day.

 2010 Walk Against Warming – 12 Noon Sunday August 15 – Esplanade Reserve, Fremantle 

 More information: www.conservationwa.asn.au

Friends, like never before, Western Australia’s future hangs in the balance. If we act together now we can steer WA towards a clean renewable energy future, but if we do nothing our inaction will lock in huge increases in carbon pollution as the coal industry plans a massive expansion for WA.

Please read on and forward this email to your friends to be part of the solution.

It is time to take action!

Help us stop a massive coal expansion in WA and instead replace it with renewable energy

Leading NASA Climate Scientist James Hansen recently said “coal fired power stations are death factories that need to be closed”.  Despite these calls, the coal industry is planning a massive expansion in WA which will contribute to a staggering 75% increase in carbon pollution. We know we can stop this and instead see a transition to clean, renewable energy, but we can’t do it without your help.

Your donation of $20, $50, or $100 to our Renewable Energy Campaign will make a real difference to creating a rapid clean energy transition for WA.  It’s easy to make your donation online by clicking here.

Walk with the people not the polluters on Sunday August 15 at Walk Against Warming

During this election we have the opportunity to send a clear message that we want WA to replace polluting fossil fuels with clean renewable energy. 

Join thousands of people from across WA who will be planting a sea of windmills at this year’s Walk Against Warming to be held at the Fremantle Esplanade, Midday on Sunday 15 August. If you can’t attend the event, simply send your name and a message for a clean energy future to waw@conservationwa.asn.au and we will plant a windmill for you on the day! For more info, or visit www.conservationwa.asn.au.

A little more about why this is so important….

Western Australia is blessed with incredible clean energy opportunities – we have some of the best wave, solar, wind and geothermal energy sources in the world. Other countries like Germany and China are already leading the way, with the German Government recently outlining plans to power the entire country with 100% renewable energy.

Instead of following their lead, the WA Government has recently made a terrible mistake by approving a massive expansion of coal power – our dirtiest, thirstiest and most polluting form of energy.  If we act together we still have a chance to stop this, and instead steer WA towards a renewable energy future.

It’s shocking, but the coal industry and the WA Government are planning to build three new coal fired power stations, and want to reopen two more dinosaurs from the 1960’s that were shut down years ago because of their pollution.  The EPA has advised that combined with other planned polluting developments, this massive coal expansion is likely to drive WA’s carbon pollution up by a staggering 75%!

The world’s top climate scientists tell us that developed countries like Australia must reduce carbon pollution by at least 40% in the next ten years to avoid catastrophic climate change. If we don’t achieve this in WA alone we could see our Southwest forests reduced to a few small patches, devastation of Ningaloo reef and up to 80% less water in Perth and the Southwest.

We simply cannot afford to stand by while this happens, but we know we can’t stop it if we don’t act together.

Coal fired power stations are not only the most polluting form of energy we have available but they are also one of the biggest water users. You and I have to pay for the water we use, but the coal power stations in Collie already receive over fifteen million of litres of water per year at no cost – they are literally sucking our aquifers dry.

According to the Department of Water, the coal industry is already pumping water out of the Collie basin at two thousand times the rate it is naturally replenished by rainfall. Rivers and wetlands are drying up, and yet the planned coal expansion will need to use an additional twenty million litres of water per year that we simply can’t afford.

At the Conservation Council we will not stand by and do nothing while irresponsible governments and industries damage our health, waste our precious water and change our climate forever. We urgently need your help to place WA on a path to renewable energy instead of more polluting fossil fuels.

Please donate to our campaign to replace coal with renewable energy

We are working hard to stop the coal expansion by preparing legal challenges, exposing them in the media, and cutting off their financial lifelines by putting pressure on the banks not to fund them. At the same time we are working hard to prove that renewable energy can fill the gap. All this takes time and resources and we can’t do it without your help.

Remember, Your donation of $20, $50, or $100 to this campaign will make a real difference to creating a rapid clean energy transition for WA.

Click here to make your donation online or call us on 9420 7266.

Thank you for your help to put WA on a path to clean renewable energy, and see you and your friends at the 2010 Walk Against Warming!

Opinion piece published in The West Australian today.

By Tim Nicol (Tim Nicol is the Marine Campaign Coordinator for Conservation Council of WA and Save Our Marine Life.  Save Our Marine Life is an alliance of ten major conservation groups working towards marine protection in WA’s southwest)

 The Gulf of Mexico oil spill is proving to be one of those environmental events which could result in significant changes to the way we view the oil and gas industry and the industrialization of our oceans.

 Just like the Exxon Valdez spill reformed oil tanker shipping and the horrifying Bhopal toxic disaster affected the chemical industry, a major shift in community confidence and potentially enormous regulatory changes could impact the petroleum industry operating in America, including seeing more areas protected from drilling. In Australia however, it’s been a different story.

 Yesterday, we say Tony Abbott back away from the regional marine planning process designed to increase the protection afforded to Australia’s oceans. Ironically, the process is an initiative of the previous coalition Government.  The move was particularly surprising given recent polling showing eight-in-ten Western Australian voters support high levels of marine protection.

 Labor is also guilty of neglect of our oceans in the face of the oil industry. Late last year we witnessed our own oil catastrophe, the explosive blow out on the Montara rig off the Kimberley coast, which then pumped oil into our seas for more than 10 weeks. As we wait for the findings of the inquiry into the Australian spill and we watch the devastation in the Gulf unfold, we have seen the Australian Government open new oil drilling leases, including in the Kimberley and in an area under consideration for protection offshore from Margaret River.

 The majestic Kimberley coastline is awash with life. A virtual marine superhighway for migratory species, the area is home to a wide array of sea turtles, fish, seabirds and whales, including 28,000 humpbacks who arrive at this time every year to calve. It’s hard to imagine a worse place for an oil spill.

 Except perhaps Margaret River. The clean beaches and oceans of the southwest are home to one third of the world’s whale and dolphin species, including one of Australia’s two known feeding grounds for the world’s largest whale, the Blue Whale, in the Perth Canyon offshore from Perth.  Up to 90% of the marine life in the region is unique, a higher level of unique marine life that the Great Barrier Reef.

 Yet last spring, countless barrels of oil poured into the Timor Sea off Australia’s Kimberley coast. Satellite images show the Montara spill eventually spread over 6000 square kilometers, fishermen as far away as Indonesia reported finding contaminated fish and it’s still uncertain how much oil was actually released into the environment.

 Offshore from Margaret River, the Government has invited the oil industry in to drill in an area even deeper and more remote than the site of the disastrous US spill.

 We can no longer afford to ignore the devastating reality of the risks involved in quenching our national thirst for oil and gas. 

 Leading marine scientists from around the globe are in agreement about the need to create a network of large sanctuaries in areas that marine life rely on for feeding and breeding. The more we separate offshore drilling from our most critical marine ecosystems the more virtual insurance the public receives in protecting valuable assets.

 Since the Kimberley oil spill, 31 new oil and gas lease areas have been opened up by the Australian Government, but nothing has been done to safeguard our marine life and coastal communities.

 It’s time to take the same sort of precautionary action being considered in the United States here, as well. Putting in place a network of large marine sanctuaries in Australian waters would provide a prudent investment in the future health of our nation’s unique marine life.

Send a message to your MP this election asking them to support marine protection here

Support the Conservation Council – your independent voice for the environment by clicking here

It is ironic that the West Australian’s Gareth Parker took issue with the fact that environment groups were ‘on message’ in their response to a massive expansion in polluting coal industries for Western Australia, given that his editorial was totally off message and in fact badly confused the important issue of Western Australia’s future energy supply. Read the editorial here: Green Cred just got a lot harder_Gareth Parker West 14.7.10

Parker contradicted himself badly from the start, warning of a ‘looming energy shortfall’ in his subtitle before going on to say that key elements of the proposed coal expansion were uncertain because proponents were unable to find customers for their electricity.

Just last week, the WA Auditor General highlighted the very significant opportunities to reduce energy consumption in WA when he revealed that $50 million had been wasted by the State Government on energy that was not needed. If Government agencies and other large power consumers realised their profitable energy saving opportunities in WA, the need for new energy generation infrastructure would be far less and the state would be better off financially.

Coal fired power stations are the dirtiest, most polluting and most inefficient means of generating energy that we have available to us. It is absolutely appalling to consider that this energy source is being significantly expanded in WA at the expense of clean, renewable alternatives of which WA has been blessed with such plentiful opportunities.

 The coal expansion approved by the Barnett Government earlier in the week is just part of a massive expansion in polluting industries planned over the next few years. The EPA says this will increase WA’s greenhouse emissions by a staggering 75% at a time when international consensus suggests developed countries must reduce emissions by 40% in the next ten years.

The Barnett Government say they are committed to achieving the 20% mandatory renewable energy target for Western Australia, however if the new coal proposals come online they will lock out new renewable capacity and make this target impossible to achieve.

The inevitable introduction of a carbon price means that WA households will have no choice but the bear the costs of the Barnett Government’s decisions well after Colin Barnett and Minister Faragher have moved on.

As for those who are worried about the future of Collie if the coal industry is not allowed to expand, these people should have some more faith in Collie workers. Instead of locking them into a dead-end polluting industry with no future, we should be developing a sustainable future for the region in job rich clean energy alternatives.

Sign the online petition to Premier Barnett and Julia Gillard to tell them that Western Australians want clean renewable energy not dirty coal: http://nonewcoalwa.com.au/

Support the Conservation Council – your independent voice for the environment by clicking here

Read some other media coverage of the Barnett Government’s decision to approve a massive expansion to coal power in WA:

Green group slams coal power proposal

ABC news online: The Conservation Council of WA says it remains deeply opposed to any expansion of coal-fired power generation in WA despite the Environment Minister’s decision to impose greenhouse gas reduction requirements on the proposed projects. 

Hot coals will fire up fuel cost
PerthNow: Conservation Council director Piers Verstegen said: “Even more alarming is the government’s proposal to allow these new power stations to emit as much


WA coal projects anger green groups
Sydney Morning Herald: Conservation Council director Piers Verstegen was outraged by the decision, saying it was irresponsible and “economic vandalism”.


WA coal power projects anger environment groups
International Business Times AU: Piers Verstegen, director of the Conservation Council, was also angered by the decision, stating it was “economic vandalism” and very irresponsible of the


Here at the Conservation Council we really like the Auditor General. In a report released today he gave the State Government a clear ‘Fail’ on energy efficiency. what he did not say is that this is just one part of a much larger failure to do anything at all to curb Western Australia’s alarming growth in carbon pollution.

The Audiotors report revealed that the State Government had wasted over $50million on energy that was not needed, resulting in nearly 350 000 tonnes of unnecessary carbon pollution.

Despite this alarming finding, the Auditor managed a thin veneer of kindness in his media release entitled: AUDITOR GENERAL FINDS OPPORTUNITIES TO REDUCE GOVERNMENT ENERGY CONSUMPTION ARE BEING MISSED. His use of capital letters seemed quite deliberate.

In his report, Energy Smart Government, Mr Murphy found that if government agencies had successfully met their energy reduction target under the Energy Smart Government program, then over $50 million in energy costs could have been avoided in the last seven years and greenhouse gas emissions could have been reduced by nearly 10 per cent (350,000 tonnes).

Energy efficiency is the first and most obvious step to reducing carbon emissions, and it actually saves money so there is no excuse for this appalling performance on energy efficiency by WA Government agencies. If the state Government cannot even take measures to curb carbon pollution that are profitable, then we have zero chance of meeting the carbon pollution targets demanded by climate scientists.

As I have noted elsewhere, The WA EPA have recently released extremely concerning figures to show WA carbon pollution is set to skyrocket by almost 75% under the Barnett Government.

On the one hand that State Government are wasting millions of taxpayers dollars on energy that is not needed, and on the other hand the Minister for the Environment is considering approval of three new polluting coal fired power stations in WA.

If these proposals are allowed to proceed, then Western Australia will be locked into a future of increasingly polluting and unaffordable energy as carbon pricing is introduced.

According to the figures from the Auditor General, the State Government has wasted more money on unnecessary energy use energy than they have spent tackling carbon pollution and responding to climate change.

The state Government’s Office of Energy has been running advertising campaigns and programs for some time, convincing householders and businesses to reduce their energy use by employing simple efficiency measures, such as switching appliances off at the wall. This is a good idea as it saves money and reduces carbon pollution, but anyone who sees these campaigns in the future would be right to consider them totally hypocritical given the profligate State Government energy use revealed by the Auditor General Today.

The Barnett Government must start taking the issue of climate change and carbon pollution seriously if we are to have any chance of preventing dangerous climate change in WA.

Since they have not developed their own policy on reducing greenhouse emissions we will make it very simple for them:

1) stop wasting energy; and

2) say ‘no’ to new coal!

Support the Conservation Council – your independent voice for the environment by clicking here