Action in Canberra

By Bron

Monday was an exciting day. Waking up ridiculously early the JT group proved we could pack our tents before the sun rose and headed off from Cowra. With some careful planning we made our way to Federal Parliament in Canberra and at 11am joined the climate action sit down in front of the main entrance.

For almost four hours we sat here. Different politicians came for the media circus; Fielding and Heffernan incited much debate (without a doubt being their intention). Bob Brown raced up to meet as at what seemed the last minute and was greeted with applause and cheers. His words of encouragement and praise helped in the last moments before the police started to remove people. This it turned out was going a drawn out process. One by one, working from the back rows coming forwards, the police slowly asked if you would stand up and leave or resist – and thus be – arrested.

So many people said they wouldn’t stand up until the Rudd Government stands up to the demands of climate change.

The action showed that support for strong emission reduction targets is shared by such a diverse range of people. Our common ground, so aptly symbolised on the steps of federal parliament house, was our shared interest in responding rapidly to prevent further climate change. The Copenhagen climate may prove to be nothing more symbolic gesture, but a real commitment is needed and immediately – this was our cause.

For those of us who supported Monday’s action, the sit down was our commitment to this cause. For the Just Transition Tour group participating achieved one part of what our tour was about: to demand action. As our banner read, “There’s no future in coal”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Connor Ashleigh

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Protest outside NSW Parliament, 23rd November 2009

 

 

 

 

 

Outlet from Eraring Power Station into Lake Macquarie; police were called out by Eraring security who were concerned after “what happened at Mt Piper power station” (i.e. us being refused entry to the public tour)

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Day 3

By Bron

Tim Duddy from the Caroona Coal Action Group most graciously hosted us for Sunday breakfast; opening his home to a group of strangers, he served up a delicious spread. As we enjoyed scrambled eggs and toast, with much needed strong coffee, the Liverpool Plains stretched on, a most beautiful expanse in all directions. Leaving Caroona we felt regenerated and chatted excitedly on the bus.

A few hours later we arrived at yet another mine site at Ulan. Like all the other communities, the people we met here had prepared a wonderful lunch for us. Hopping off the bus we were greeted with smiles and cold fruit. We came to look at the Drip. A sandstone overhang with moss and green growth, a water flow dripping over the edge into a gorge; the drip is a natural phenomenon.  It looks like a miniature hanging swamp. Julia, our guide, explained it doesn’t drip as much as it used to, even relative to past droughts. The proposed mine here is only 400 meters away form the edge of the gorge, threatening the stabilisation of the rock. Julia explained the mining in the region has affected the river ecosystem here. This area of the national park area had been a meeting place for different local indigenous groups. With naturally defined walking trails along the cliffs edges you can see why.

Meeting with Save the Drip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the walk to the drip Cass and I peeled off about halfway and stayed for a swim. Surrounded by high cliffs on either side with long reeds on the edge of the water we swam by a place here where in a cave there is a Brett Whitely painting on the rock face. Our guide pointed out in one of the speech bubbles it reads “times too”, perhaps a playful reference to “its time” – the Whitlam slogan from the 70s. This art, from one of our countries most famous artists, will be lost if the mining here goes ahead.

Else and I talked with a local who asked us how we felt about the future, and whether we optimistic or feeling negative. He talked so pessimistically about the impacts from climate change and being able to make any difference. He talked about people’s cynicism and encountering hostility and expressed concern that children aren’t involved with the issues instead retreating into gaming and online social networking. This observation is somewhat different from the hope new generations are more aware and society is fostering a caring attitude towards the future; two interesting but opposing perspectives.

At the end of the tour at the drip Julia told us about a campaign in Mudgee against building a new train line through the town. There are serious concerns about the dirt and dust coming off these trains, something that most of the communities we’ve visited have talked about.

Before we left an impression was made to consider taking home reasons to fight the mines – the direct impacts of coal mines aren’t just for the communities we are visiting but also in Newcastle itself – it was pointed out to us that in Mayfield some residents are entitled to a cleaning service (or perhaps a refund for this) to remove the dust from the roofs of houses. This dust that builds up is from the coal trains passing through to the harbour.

From the drip we travelled to Cowra and spent the night with a family who kindly allowed such a group as ours to demands decent into their backyard. A stop at a local river on the way here had refreshed everybody’s spirits. We had a most enjoyable and relaxing night – many thanks.

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There is Hope

Date: Mon, 23 Nov 2009 07:25:34 +1100

By Bron

That night we made camp at the Caroona blockade. This is a success story to date and demonstrates the potentials of a community action to stop mining companies in their tracks. The immense community support and endless commitment to the political wheeling and dealing is impressive. The next stage for this battle will be the High Court early 2010. Patricia Duddy said of the unique and rare soil here ‘it’s our black gold and it’s not coal”. She was so intent to make us appreciate the severity the situation, ‘you are seeing our land taken away in trucks’. Ok readers, updates will be forthcoming. A small note though, so far we have shared a new found appreciation for the beautiful and unique landscape, all the things that epitomise Australiana. Including the sweltering heat and the most friendly and kind hospitality of the communities we’re visiting.

http://www.ccag.org.au/

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Further into the Valley

Date: Mon, 23 Nov 2009 07:08:13 +1100

By Bron

Next – coming into Jerry’s Plains we passed mountains of coal. A landscape, we were later told, that had been dead level country. These open cut mines surround the local properties. That night we listened to a low rumbling. These sounds are a constant background noise; the rumbles of explosions, rocks being dropped into loaders, and horns blowing on site. The rhythm of the trains taking the coal is relentless. We spent our second day passing through Muswellbrook. Christine Phelps gave as a tour around the boundaries of Mt Arthur mine. She told us about the mine companies process of dividing the community.

Miner Pete Kennedy speaking to the tour

Like Singleton, Muswellbrook feel the effects of the transient work community. They’re here for the work and can’t commit to the town the same way locals do, no pride in place. Saturday afternoon we travelled into Bickham. While Laura, Louisa and I talked with local organic farmer the rest of the JT group braved blistering heat to see the coal mine site here. The impression was that this drilling site (in the midst of the exploration phase) was more like a gorge (Bigger than 40m, maybe to the extent of 80m deep). It is the agriculture potential of the land here that is under threat. But the land needs sustainable farming. As the braver group walked into the afternoon sun, we listened to the experiences of a local farmer and shop keeper. An interesting discrepancy brought to our attention was discrepancies in water allocation. The High Security Licenses are afforded by those with the means despite unjust usage. To really appreciate the extent of the Hunter Region’s mining epidemic it’s suggested we catch a train through the region. The roads have had a ‘green’ corridor of sorts planted to hide the visually intensity of the violent mining of the Australian land.

Dust rises from a mine near Muswellbrook, power station in background

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Small Post

Date: Sun, 22 Nov 2009 20:29:27 +1100

By Bron

We spent our first night at Jerry’s Plains and heard from local agriculture famers whose lands are being subjected to imposed exploration licenses to search for coal. There land rights are minimal and the properties face a future of destruction. This regions loss of agriculture will be of devastating effect.

The tour's mascot, Kev the Coal Monster

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Notes from the road

Date: Sun, 22 Nov 2009 19:56:18 +1100

By Bron

It’s the late afternoon of day three and we’re on the road to Cowra, while a small number of our group are returning to the coast. We’ve been from Singleton to the famous Caroona blockade. We started Friday and listened to the experiences of living near ever expanding mines for the Stroud and Gloucester communities. This included the destruction of the local oyster industry and ongoing environmental threats to Johnsons River and Wards River. Lunch and quick swim here gave us an appreciation for just how beautiful these rivers are. After lunch we headed into Singleton, the emotions here were almost overwhelming. Hearing about ‘fighting the documents’ captured something profound about the struggles of communities directly affected by coal mining. There are 23 or more mines in the Singleton area. The public health issues are particularly worrisome for the woman we heard from. There are also serious impacts from having a transient community who commute into the mines or rent for a short period of time.

Tour heads off from Newcastle

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