CASES Meets with Peter Garrett, 27/09/11

Three members of CASES, Greg, Leeanne and Jonathan met with Peter Garrett, Federal MP for Kingsford Smith, for one hour on Tuesday, September 27.  They presented to him a submission based on the Sustainable Australia survey we conducted at the Randwick City Council’s 2011 Ecoliving Fair held on September 18 and a list of questions pertaining to coal seam gas, the costing of externalities in fossil fuel extraction and use as well as  subsidies for fossil fuel based industry.

He was gracious, sympathetic and supportive of our views to a large extent.  Peter took our points and questions very seriously and promised to send them to the appropriate Ministers and keep in contact with us.  I’ll summarise his answers after the submission and questions below:

Submission to Hon Peter Garrett AM, MP
by Climate Action Sydney Eastern Suburbs (CASES), September 27, 2011.

Climate Action Sydney Eastern Suburbs (CASES), a grassroots, volunteer community group with over 350 members, is concerned about our Government’s policies and action on climate change, global warming and renewable energy. We ask that you, Peter Garrett AM, MP, take to the Caucus of the ALP and Parliament three matters of great importance for consideration and action as detailed below.

Firstly, at a stall at Randwick Council’s 2011 EcoLiving Fair on Sunday September 18, 2011, CASES asked visitors to participate in a ‘Sustainable Australia Survey’. In an overwhelming response, 68 surveys were completed. Below is a copy of the survey for your perusal:

The Actions to Support a Sustainable Australia I Want Our Federal and State Governments to Prioritise

A Survey Designed by Climate Action Sydney Eastern Suburbs (CASES) for Submission to Local Federal and State Politicians, September 2011

I, __________________________________ of _________________________ ask that you, an elected MP, actively support the following measures that promote a sustainable Australia in the order of priority from ‘1’, the highest priority, to ‘10’, the lowest:

0 Reinstate the interest free, four year, $10,000 Green Loan to assist low to medium income households to install sustainable features such as solar panels, solar hot water and rainwater tanks.
0 Legislate for a National Feed In Tariff to support the uptake of small scale, renewable energy generation such as roof top domestic solar panels and wind turbines.
0 Fund the development of large scale, power stations powered by renewable energy such as concentrated solar thermal, geothermal, wind, tide & wave.
0 Prohibit the development of coal seam gas mines.
0 Develop community & city food growing projects to ensure food security & use available land productively.
0 Legislate for all new buildings, including homes, to be built sustainably with special attention given to solar orientation, passive cooling and heating, efficient lighting and rainwater harvesting.
0 Halt the sale of all timber products not certified as sustainably harvested by the Forestry Stewardship Council.
0 Ensure that big polluters pay to clean up any damage their operation causes to the environment or our health.
0 Prohibit the building of new fossil fuel based power stations.
0 Other: _____________________________________________________

We looked at which options were placed in the top three priorities of each respondent. The results were ‘Fund the development of large scale power stations powered by renewable energy,’ 55%, ‘Ensure that big polluters pay’, 43%, ‘Prohibit the development of coal seam gas mines’, 37%, closely followed by ‘Reinstate the interest free, four year, $10,000 Green Loan’, 36%.

CASES Points For Action by the Federal Government.

1) It was clear that respondents’ main priority was for the Federal Government to expedite the support and funding of building large scale, stationary, power plants fueled by renewable energy sources such as concentrating solar thermal, geothermal, wind, tides & waves. CASES is concerned about the delays to the legislative process for the renewable energy elements of the Clean Energy Future (carbon pollution price) package, and we want the legislation that establishes the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and the Australian Renewable Energy Authority (ARENA) to be enacted along with the rest of the legislation this session.

CASES is also concerned that the Minister responsible for this legislation, Martin Ferguson, does NOT support renewable energy. There is no reason why the BEST part of the carbon price package shouldn’t be legislated NOW along with all the elements that compensate the big polluters. We ask you, Peter, to actively support and argue for the inclusion of CEFC’s and ARENA’s establishment in the package of legislation NOW.

2) The second most important priority, ‘Ensure that big polluters pay to clean up any damage their operation causes to the environment or our health’, shows that the Gillard Government is on the right track in introducing the Clean Energy Bill 2011. The negative, popular press this initiative has been receiving based on misinformation and downright lies, proffered by lobby groups whose only interest is protecting their investments rather than protecting our nation’s environment and public health.

CASES congratulates the Government in steadfastly introducing and debating this legislation as we know it’s the right way to start a transition in Australia from our dependence on fossil fuels to energy security from renewables. However, we implore you to emphasise that the majority of funds raised by this carbon pollution pricing mechanism be directed to support and fund the implementation of large scale, stationary, renewable energy infrastructure. May I direct you to Beyond Zero Energy’s ‘Zero Carbon Australia Report’ for a full rundown on what is achievable NOW with available and commercial technology.

3) Currently, Coal Seam Gas (CSG) extraction is approved and very actively pursued in QLD. The NSW Government has placed a moratorium on new CGS wells until the end of 2011, and for very good reasons. CSG is gas trapped by water and ground pressure against the surface of coal in underground coal seams. The gas consists of around 98% methane and is extracted via wells that are drilled into the coal seams.

Methane is a relatively potent greenhouse gas. It has a high global warming potential 72 times greater than CO2 (calculated over a period of 20 years) or 25 times greater (for a time period of 100 years). It has a net lifetime of about 10 years, and is primarily removed by reaction with hydroxyl radicals in the atmosphere, producing carbon dioxide and water.

There is a growing groundswell of public concern and opposition to CSG extraction because of unresolved issues pertaining to human and environmental health that centre around the use of toxic chemicals that are pumped into the strata to fracture it and thereby release the gas. This process is call ‘fracking’. The concern is that these chemicals may contaminate our aquifers and, therefore, the water we drink and use for farming. This is in addition to the release into atmosphere of ‘fugitive’ methane. These ‘externalities’ are NOT being factored into discussion about CSG extraction; indeed the mining companies are downplaying them.

Mining company, Dart Energy, holds a Petroleum Exploration Licence for an area covering 2,385 km2 of the Sydney Basin from Gosford on the Central Coast to Coalcliff south of Sydney. The NSW Department of Industry and Investment granted Dart Energy permission to drill an exploration well in the inner city Sydney suburb of St Peters, in an electorate adjacent to Kingsford Smith! Over 200,000 people live, work and play within 2km of the CSG exploration site in St. Peters. On Sunday, September 18, a rally organised by the community group ‘Stop CSG Sydney’ at Camperdown Memorial Park, Newtown, and subsequent march to Sydney Park in St Peters, drew 2,000 people. The group ‘Lock the Gate’ is also working to inform landholders and the Australian public of the dangers and risks associated with CSG.

The point is, Peter, that CSG is NOT a clean source of energy. Indeed, the Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday, September 24, 2011, ran an article that stated in recent study Tom Wigley, a co-director of the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research and an adjunct professor at the University of Adelaide, said, “Using more gas would reduce carbon dioxide emissions but it would also lead to more methane being released, and that has a much higher global warming potential.” CASES asks you to make sure that this research is taken into account in the next assessment produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2014.

CSG is certainly NOT renewable either as it is just another fossil fuel. CSG is NOT a substitute for REAL clean energy as would be derived form renewable sources such as concentrating solar thermal, geothermal, wind, tides & waves.

Very soon, Independent Member, Tony Windsor MP, Independent Federal Member for New England, will introduce an amendment to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act that would penalise miners whose activities impacted on the quality, structural integrity or hydraulic balance of a water source. Peter, CASES asks you to undertake to speak on the behalf of your electorate, voting accordingly, in favour of this amendment, as it will prevent the contamination of our ground water from fracking.

In summary, Peter, will you speak boldly the ALP Caucus and Parliament in favour of renewable energy implementation, making polluters pay and stopping coal seam gas? We ask you to stand with us in solidarity to prevent the destruction of Australia’s arable and urban land by arguing against CSG extraction in the ALP Caucus and Parliament, supporting instead, the implementation of fast tracked renewable energy power generation from truly renewable sources such as solar thermal, geothermal, wind, wave and tides. We’re counting on you to do what is right for your electorate, NSW and Australia.

Please refer to the questions CASES member, Jonathan Milford, has given you as these make specific points and ask specific questions which we’d like you to answer as soon as possible.

Thank you for your time and willing attention. We wish you well and much success in forwarding the message of sustainability and the protection of the environment and future wellbeing of our planet, as we know you hold these values deeply.

For, and on behalf of, Climate Action Sydney Eastern Suburbs (CASES), September 27, 2011.

Here are Jonathan’s questions:


Submission to Hon Peter Garrett AM, MP, 27/09/2011


In the edition of the Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday, September 24, 2011, there were two articles on recent research that show that “switching from coal-fired power stations to gas could actually speed up climate change”, due to fugitive methane emissions. This is a strong argument for stopping the current rush towards gas, which all the industry advertisements and published comments falsely claim as up to 70% cleaner than coal.

My questions:

–                  Will miners and burners of gas have to pay a price on their carbon equivalent pollution, currently erroneously called the ‘Carbon Tax’ in the popular media, on fugitive methane emissions?

–                  What carbon equivalent pollution price will apply to methane, which is over 20 times as effective as CO2 as a greenhouse gas?

–                  How are the miners and burners expected to measure their fugitive methane emissions?

–                  If they cannot do so, what assumptions will be made?


The burning of fossil fuels of all kinds is responsible for an estimated 10,000 deaths per annum in Australia and is an enormous burden on the health service. The extraction and burning of fossil fuels also has considerable environmental costs, even without taking the contribution to global warming into account.

My questions:

–        Has the Climate Change Committee taken the external health and environmental costs into account?

–        Is it intended that the proposed carbon pricing mechanism will at least cover the external costs of emissions?

–        Has the Committee considered a pollution pricing mechanism as well as a carbon dioxide equivalent pricing mechanism, since it is other toxic gases and particulates that are the main causes of damage to health?


It has been estimated that governments in Australia, directly or indirectly, give about $13B a year in subsidies for the mining and burning of fossil fuels. Many of these subsidies have been to ensure companies remain competitive in an international market. The European countries have committed to ceasing such subsidies.

My questions:

–        Is the government committed to winding back such subsidies and, if so, over what term?

–        Has the government considered replacing some subsidies for fossil fuel energy use by subsidies for renewable energy equivalent?

–        Where companies will be receiving compensation for paying the price on carbon equivalent pollution, will they still be receiving subsidies for burning fossil fuels in the first place?

For, and on behalf of, Climate Action Sydney Eastern Suburbs (CASES), September 27, 2011.


Dr Gideon Polya makes two comments about an article by John Watson in the March 10, 2011 edition of the National Times titled “Twelve billion holes in plan to cut carbon” that contains several useful references.  Here’s a link to the article:

Gideon Polya was born in Melbourne (1944), was raised in Hobart, Tasmania (1946-1966).  His education between 1961 & 2003 is BSc (Honours) (Zoology & Chemistry majors; University of Tasmania, 1966), PhD (Biochemistry; Flinders University of South Australia, 1969), Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education Teaching (La Trobe University, 2003). Activities and Societies: SRC member (circa 1964, University of Tasmania ); NTEU executive member and NTEU secretary at La Trobe University. He is married with 3 children and a grandson.

Here is the text of one of his two comments.

“Excellent article re $12 billion pa in subsidies for fossil fuel burning and “how badly government policy has been compromised by vested interests” in Lobbyocracy and Murdochracy Australia. More points below.

1. Estimates of annual fossil fuel subsidies (opposed by the G20 but falsely denied as existing by Gillard Labor) range from $9 billion (2003) and $10 billion (2007) (Dr Chris Riedy, UTS) to $12 billion (ACF).

2. Australia’s annual domestic GHG pollution is 627 million tonnes (Mt) CO2-equivalent = 627/3.7 = 169 Mt carbon. The $12 billion pa Carbon Subsidy is $12,000 million/169 million tonnes carbon = $71/tC i.e. a Carbon Tax would need to be $71/tC just to overcome this Carbon Subsidy.

3. Estimates based on Ontario, Canada and New Zealand Government Reports indicate that about 10,000 Australians die each year from carbon burning pollutants (excluding bush fires) at a risk avoidance-based cost of 10,000 persons x $7.6 million/person = $76 billion pa, this corresponding to a Carbon Subsidy of $76,000 million/169 million tonnes carbon = $450/tC i.e. a Carbon Tax of $71 + $450 = $521/tC would be needed to overcome both the legislated and mortality-related Carbon Subsidy of $521/tC (yet circa $20/tC adumbrated ).

4. $25/tC will promote a coal to gas conversion (futile because at current methane leakage rates gas burning is as a dirty GHG-wise as coal burning); >$70/tC promotes wind; >$200/tC promotes solar thermal (BZE).

5. Labor’s Carbon Tax-ETS-Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) plan scuppers science-mandated 100% renewable energy by 2020, ensures disastrous coal to gas transition, prefaces a counterproductive ETS and ignores agriculture (>50% of total GHG) (Google CTETSIA).”

Dr Gideon Polya | Macleod – March 10, 2011, 8:19AM

Read more:

Peter’s Responses:

He is very supportive of renewable energy, especially wave and tidal and strongly supports transition from fossil fuels to renewables, albeit, not at as fast a rate as we want.  Peter cited infrastructure costs and the high up front capital expenditure as required by BZE’s Zero Carbon Australia Plan as the major barriers to a fast transition.

Regarding the Green Loans, Peter said he was “partially responsible for administering the scheme.  However, although he still supports the concept in principle, the Government’s concern is one of equity and cost effectiveness.

In respect of the Clean Energy Bill 2011, Peter appreciated our positive comments but said that it was only the beginning and will cause considerable investment in renewables by private companies as time passed.

Regarding CSG regulations, Peter indicated that it was the NSW Government’s responsibility and that, if their environmental safeguard laws were too weak, we should be be making that clear to them.  Due diligence MUST be applied to all mining sites.  He stated that he believes that potential for pollution of aquifers is very important.  However, he doesn’t believe that the resource shouldn’t be exploited if it meets all environmental tests.  He hasn’t seen Tony Windsor’s amendment so he couldn’t comment on it.  He will follow this up.

Regarding subsidies paid to fossil fuel based industry, Peter said that there are NO plans to remove them.  However, this will no doubt be discussed at the forthcoming Tax Forum.

Peter “values NGOS” such as CASES and offered to publicise our activities through his office if we were to give him notice.  He wants to keep in contact with us and is quite happy to receive news of our activities.


I am a concerned world citizen who wishes a sustainable existence for all life forms on our wonderful planet. I also compose and play music:, promote the Sustainability Street Approach, Transition and Permaculture principles as well as a progressive Australia exemplified by GetUp!:
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