Tweed elects its first Greens mayor

Councillor_Katie_Milne_was_elected185114Luis Feliu

Tweed shire has its first Greens mayor after Cr Katie Milne’s name was drawn out of a box in a surprise election ballot last night.

Cr Milne’s luck was sealed when a tied 3-3 vote with factional opponent Cr Warren Polglase had to be split by council’s returning officer Neil Baldwin drawing a piece of paper with her name on it from a plastic tub.

The packed public gallery at the council meeting erupted in cheers at the result.

It’s not the first time the lucky-dip method has been used to determine the yearly mayoral vote, with Cr Polglase now having lost the top job that way four times over the many years he’s served as councillor and National Party warrior.

In a further twist soon after, ex-mayor Cr Gary Bagnall was elected deputy mayor after his name was picked out of the bucket, having drawn 3-3 as well, this time with Cr Polglase’s ally, Cr Phil Youngblutt.

The gallery again erupted in cheers: many of them had earlier staged a rally at the council chambers calling on Cr Bagnall to be returned as mayor and seemed stunned when the popular Murwillumbah cafe owner did not nominate for the position.

Cr Milne, who was backed by Cr Bagnall and Cr Barry Longland, will now lead the shire till next September.

In a prepared speech when she first took her position in the mayoral chair, Cr Milne thanked fellow councillors for their endorsement of her in the ‘very important role’, saying she would try to follow the example of previous mayor Cr Bagnall who had done an ‘extremely’ good job as mayor.

Ironically, the now mayor and deputy made headlines some years ago when they were charged with code of conduct breaches after they jumped through a council fence while investigating a major pollution event.

But the charges, brought by then general manager David Keenan who was later sacked by councillors, were quietly dropped.

As a result of the two councillors’ quest, remedial action was taken by council to prevent pollution by a former council quarry of a nearby creek.

Cr Milne, first elected to Tweed Shire Council in 2008 on the back of her staunch and successful fight against a mega marina proposed for the Tweed River, said she was extremely honoured to be the mayor, which was an ‘exciting role’ to undertake.

Her passionate stand for environmental causes on the Tweed made her a popular figure for politics and the Greens offered to back her into local government seven years ago.

As mayor she said she would ‘always be open to any questions or any calls, my door is open to everybody’.

Cr Milne told media outside the chamber that she hoped there was a ‘healing of wounds across the whole shire’, in reference to suggestions there had been a split in the progressive faction, which had the majority in council for the best part of the past three years.

She said she intended to be ‘a very conciliatory mayor and I have always tried to work with all groups’.

‘Politics can be very divisive but the one thing that unites this community, and I believe, makes us a community, is our common love for this land’.

Meanwhile, north coast Greens spokesperson Dawn Walker said the Richmond federal electorate ‘now has two Green mayors, which is indicative of the growing strength of the party’.

Ms Walker said Cr Milne’s election ’positions the Greens as the main alternative to the National Party on the north coast’.

She said Cr Milne ‘has proved that as Tweed’s first Green mayor, she will work tirelessly to better our shire in everyone’s interests, not just the big end of town that want to exploit Tweed at any cost’.

Mayoral acceptance speech

Firstly I would like to thank my fellow Councillors for endorsing me for this very important role.

It will be a hard act to follow the extraordinary job that Cl Gary Bagnall has done as mayor. His contribution has been invaluable and he went far beyond the call of duty to serve this community.

I would have loved him to continue in the role but it was not just up to me.

As the first Green mayor of the Tweed Shire I am extremely honoured and humbled.

I started advocating for the community of this shire about 15 years ago and haven’t stopped since.

In my first foray into politics I spent the Christmas of 2001 on the side of the road in Fingal taking surveys to stop over development of that beautiful seaside peninsula.

Before I caught my breath we had to move round the corner to Chinderah to protect the Tweed River in a legal challenge against the mega marina.

It was heartening to realise from our efforts that justice could prevail, that the community had our backs, and that we could make a change if we threw our heart and soul into it.

Over that time I developed a deep love for this incredible environment and a deep appreciation for this amazing community.

When the Greens offered me a position as their candidate for Tweed Council in 2008 I took the plunge.

What motivated me ultimately to make the commitment to local government was the terrifying prospect of Climate Change. I felt that we all needed to step up to this monumental challenge, and if I didn’t why should others?

Council is in a great position to be a leader in combating climate change at the local level, and in combating the dangerous complacency the deniers advocate.

Politics can be very divisive but the one thing that unites this community, and I believe, makes us a community, is our common love for this land.  

We are blessed to live here, but with that we have a responsibility to care for this very fragile landscape.

Our shire has the worst record of loss of species in Australia already, and with hundreds more on the brink of extinction we can’t afford to be reckless.

I am very aware that we also have major social and economic challenges. I am pleased that I was able to initiate council’s new Economic Development Strategy that has set a clear pathway to guide council into the future.

I am also pleased to have put on council’s list of reforms new plans for Murwillumbah and Fingal Head, and a strategy for our National Iconic Landscape to protect our scenic views.

I will continue to advocate for the community, and for a new style of development that enhances our well being and helps to keep our planet and our community as safe and prosperous as possible.

PM who pushed for Tyalgum dam ‘a sell out’

New prime minister Malcolm Turmbull has come under attack in parliament for his role in pushing for a controversial dam at Tyalgum eight years ago.

But the election of a labor government in 2007 stopped the dam plans, according to Richmond MP Justine Elliott, who yesterday accused Mr Turnbull of ‘selling out’ over the issues of climate change, renewable energy and marriage equality.

Mrs Elliot claimed that Mr Turnbull had ‘done dirty deals’ in agreeing not to change party policy ‘in return for support to become prime minister’.

‘But it is the same old Liberal-National Party, the same old policies, the same environmental vandals. What we have now is a new prime minister who has sold out: the fact is he cannot be trusted, and Australians know that,’ she told MPs.

Mrs Elliot said Mr Turnbull in 2007 as environment minister wanted to build a dam at Tyalgum, with the Nationals also backing the plan.

‘They ignored and betrayed our community who were strongly opposed to the dam. It was only the election of a federal Labor government that stopped these plans for a large dam at Tyalgum,’ she said.

‘As I have mentioned many times before in this House, we have Liberal and National parties who, at every level, whether it is federal or state, are absolute and complete environmental vandals.

‘Nothing has changed about that. I would like to remind the House that, when the now Prime Minster was the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources in 2007, he had a plan to build a massive dam at Tyalgum, a lovely small village in my electorate of Richmond, on the NSW North Coast. This would have destroyed the village and surrounds, and it would have been an environmental disaster.

‘I remind the House that in 2007 I put questions to the minister calling on him to rule out the proposal for this huge dam and he responded by saying, ‘All options should be on the table in order to find the most cost-effective means to supply this water.’

‘He ignored the concerns of our community, and the community were outraged at the environment minister and they have never forgotten this betrayal.

‘It was only the election of a Labor government that stopped these cruel, harsh plans, but locals remember what happened, they blame the now Prime Minister for that and they also blame the National Party for wanting to build that huge dam.

‘If our new Prime Minister is willing to sacrifice on climate policy, what else has he sacrificed; what other price has he paid; who else has he sold out?

‘Clearly he has also sold out on marriage equality. He has refused to have a free vote in this House. That is another disgraceful act by this Prime Minister, a disgraceful act of betrayal by not allowing a free vote in this House on marriage equality.’

Link to Mrs Elliot’ Speech:

http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22chamber%2Fhansardr%2F842ee7d9-89d4-4e4f-bc93-045b018bbeb2%2F0157%22

Video Link to Justine’s Speech:

https://www.facebook.com/JustineElliotMP/videos/vb.397307097023253/878401128913845/?type=2&theater

Articles & Columns | September 18, 2015 | by The Echo

Eight things Turnbull should do on climate, renewables

Giles Parkinson, reneweconomy.com.au

Malcolm Turnbull’s dramatic replacement of Tony Abbott as prime minister of Australia has raised hopes of a change in direction for the Coalition government, particularly on climate change and renewable energy, and thereby the shape of its economic future.

Turnbull promised an end to ‘policy by slogans’, and a new move to bring the Australian population along with the idea of an exciting future, first of all by explaining what that future might be, and respecting their intelligence.

But is this all just style and no substance? The next few weeks will tell.

Some are hopeful.

Paul Gilding, author and corporate advisor, describes a collective sigh of relief for those arguing for progressive climate and renewable energy policies.

‘For climate advocates PM Turnbull is a ‘Nixon to China’ moment,’ Gilding said today. ‘We will never get on track as a country on this issue without genuine bipartisan support – and because of the way Rudd and Abbott made this a Left/Right issue, only the Liberal Party shifting can deliver the change we need.

‘That’s why Turnbull’s arrival as PM is a game changer for Australia’s approach, but the impact will be medium to long term rather than sudden policy shifts. While Abbott had to say he supported action on climate policy, everyone knew he was faking it because the politics demanded he do so.

‘Turnbull actually supports climate action and has long understood the economic implications of the transition required. And rather than being fearful of those implications he embraces them – seeing the inherent opportunity in a transition away from coal and towards a technology driven transformation of the energy system.

‘The influence of this over time, on the business community and on public attitudes will be long lasting and leave a legacy for a generation.’

Others are not so sure. John Hewson, the former Liberal leader and now champion of fossil fuel divestment campaigns, said Turnbull may well have sold out. ‘I think it’s all for Malcolm to do right now,’ Hewson said on ABC TV’s Q&A program. ‘The rumour is he’s sold out on climate change, which I personally think is the largest policy challenge – moral challenge, economic, political and social challenge – of this century.’

So what will Turnbull do? Over the next few days, weeks, months, we will find out. But here are eight things he could do right now:

Stop the slogans

This should be the easy part. No more ‘axe the tax’, no more ‘climate change is crap’, no more ‘wind farms are offensive’, no more ‘coal is good for humanity.’ Oh, and don’t replace the slogans with 120-word ones.

Get excited about new technology:

This shouldn’t be too hard, either. Just before the first leadership crisis in February, Turnbull was in California having a test drive of a Tesla Model S, the up-market electric super-car. He raved about the experience: ‘Tesla has gone from employing 500 people to 11,000 in five years. A reminder of how innovation drives jobs,’ he noted on his blog.

‘Batteries have the potential to revolutionise the energy market, reducing peaking power requirements, optimising grid utilisation of renewables and in some cases enabling consumers to go off the grid altogether. The excitement of technology in the Bay Area is exhilarating…..but not quite as palpable as the jolt you feel when you hit the accelerator!’

Perhaps he should require all party members to test drive a Tesla. He could just as equally share that enthusiasm, and dump the party’s poisonous rhetoric, about other technologies such as battery storage and renewables. And he should not funnel government funds to daft projects like the rail link for the Galilee Basin coal mines. Even Barnaby Joyce understands that.

Get moving on climate change:

There was a telling moment in Turnbull’s first press conference when the newly designated PM was about to answer a question on emissions reduction targets. Deputy Julie Bishop quickly noted that Australia’s targets were set and would not change. It was a reminder to Turnbull that whatever his own views on climate change, he had to take the party with him.

It is clear that Turnbull has cut a deal with the Far Right rump of the party not to reintroduce an ETS – the very policy mechanism that caused his downfall in 2009. But Turnbull’s own views are very clear. As he said in 2010:

‘Climate change is real, it is affecting us now, and yet, right now we have every resources available to us to deal with climate change, except for one, and that is leadership.

‘We cannot cost-effectively achieve a substantial cut in emissions without putting a price on carbon.’

Turnbull has the opportunity to provide that leadership. It will take time to introduce a carbon price, but it will most likely come through a baseline and credit scheme, a sort of emissions reduction fund and safeguards mechanism with bite, and amendments to the current proposal. Reputex goes into more details here.

Sweep out the dead wood:

Turnbull may be constrained by promises made to the Right Wing, but he can change the rhetoric and the mood, and the vision, by sweeping away the inner cabal that fashioned Abbott’s policy making.

This includes the likes of climate deniers such as Maurice Newman, Dick Warburton, David Murray and Tony Shepherd, and shake the Cabinet from the grim grasp of the Institute of Public Affairs and its policy wish-list. The right wing commentariat – including Alan Jones, Ray Hadley, Tim Blair and Andrew Bolt voiced their anger. They will be sniping at every turn.

That generational change is also needed elsewhere, particularly in the energy industry where many of the incumbent utilities, and policy and pricing regulators – from the industry minister Ian Macfarlane down – are from the ‘old school’ of energy management, and don’t seem to get the concept of decentralised generation, and the exciting technologies that Turnbull has alluded to, including EVs (such as his affection for Tesla), solar, and battery storage, and the smart software that will pull these technologies together.

Remove the threat to dismantle CEFC, ARENA and the CCA:

If only Bernie Fraser had hung around for another week. The chairman of the CCA resigned last week, apparently frustrated by his inability to get his voice heard, even by environment minister Greg Hunt. Yet the CCA should play a critical role in advising on climate change policies.

Ditto the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. Both have committed to playing a large role in the imminent roll-out of utility-scale solar, yet have been hamstrung in their broader goals by funding cuts in the case of ARENA, and restricted mandates in the case of the CEFC (Abbott’s instruction not to invest in wind farms or rooftop solar).

Both agencies have been operating with the threat of closure looming behind them. With a positive mandate, both can play a critical role in the bringing in and lowering the cost of the technologies that Turnbull is so excited about.

Express support for renewable energy, and boost the target:

Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and others in the Coalition made it very clear, they don’t like renewable energy, and they hated wind energy. That has caused the investment drought to continue, despite the reduced 33,000GWh target that was supposed to provide certainty, and turned large investors like Meridian Energy to greener shores. Turnbull should be able to turn that antipathy on a dime, simply by expressing support for new technologies.

Turnbull has been an enthusiastic supporter of renewable energy. Way back in 2010, he even attended the launch of BZE’s Zero Carbon plan for 2020, along with Bob Carr and the Greens’ Scott Ludlam. Turnbull was particularly supportive of solar thermal with storage.

‘As you know the great challenge with renewable sources of energy; solar and wind in particular, is that they are intermittent,’ he told the event. ‘So what do we do when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. How do we store that power.

‘There is the ability with concentrated solar thermal power stations to use the sun’s energy to superheat a substance, in this case molten salt, that will hold its heat for long enough to be able to continue to generate steam and hence energy after the sun has stopped shining or during or day after day of rain. So there is a real opportunity there, with that technology, to generate baseload power from solar energy – something of a holy grail.’

Given that experience, maybe Turnbull should pitch for 100 per cent renewables? It is probably too much to expect Turnbull to lift the current renewable energy target in the short term, but that is exactly what he needs to do. The industry needs a long term policy, and Turnbull will be under pressure to match Labor’s 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030, which even big investment banks say is readily achievable. Rooftop solar needs ongoing regulatory support as well, and it fits Turnbull’s rhetoric about a new economic future.

Impose emission standards on coal generators, and efficiency standards on cars

Whatever his support for the current policy, Turnbull cannot duck the fact that Australia’s industrial emissions are growing, and particularly in the energy sector. Short of a carbon price, Turnbull could follow the lead of the US and China and impose strict emissions limits for coal-fired generators, impose energy efficiency targets for vehicles, and reintroduce the efficiency standards for new homes. Designing an exit strategy for coal generators is one of the most urgent issues.

Find a new environment minister, or tell Greg Hunt to stop saying silly things:

Greg Hunt likes to tell people how hard it was to push a progressive line in an Abbott government. Many people wondered how hard he tried. Hunt came up with some of the Abbott government’s worst whoppers on climate change, coal, and renewable energy.

Turnbull cannot afford to have such rhetoric repeated under his leadership, so if Hunt stays in that office (and we will find out at the end of the parliamentary sitting week) the former Australian universities debating captain will have to be given another topic to argue: Decisive climate change is good for the economy and will not bankrupt Australia.