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June, 2019

Wong, Greens to discuss interim climate scheme

Federal Climate Change Minister Penny Wong will hold talks with the Australian Greens today about an interim climate change plan the minor party is proposing.

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The government will make a third attempt on Tuesday at winning parliamentary approval for its emissions trading scheme by introducing an amended legislation package to the lower house.

In the meantime, Greens deputy leader Christine Milne will meet Senator Wong to discuss a way around a Senate impasse.

“It’s a win-win all round, it actually gets a signal for a carbon price in there and creates the space to resolve the difficulties,” Senator Milne told ABC Radio. Senator Wong said the government would be guided by what was environmentally effective and economically responsible.

The coalition will oppose the scheme, preferring to take direct action to address climate change. The policy, to be unveiled by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott on Tuesday, is expected to include energy efficiency measures but no carbon tax. AAP saj/rl/cjb 01-02-10 0747

Senator Wong said she hoped the Greens would take a constructive approach to the talks, despite the crossbench party helping to vote down the scheme twice in the Senate last year.

“Let’s remember we would have action if the Greens had chosen not to sit with people like Senator Fielding and the Liberal Party,” she told ABC Radio.

“It’s a little illogical to say we need action, but then vote against it.” Senator Wong also took aim at Mr Abbott’s alternative plan for climate change action, saying he was “out on his own” by claiming there was a cost-free solution.

Conservatives leaders in New Zealand and the United Kingdom were not taking the same approach, she said.

Opposition finance spokesman Barnaby Joyce said the coalition’s costings for its climate scheme would be released before the next election but admitted “someone” would have to pay for the measures. “But we are going to not put the screws on the Australian people in a way this new, basically, broad-based consumption tax that the Labor party had in mind.” He said the coalition would announce a position that was “far more responsible”. Senator Joyce said he was confident the coalition could fund its policy out of the federal budget while keeping down government debt. That position was ridiculed by Treasurer Wayne Swan who said the coalition’s decision to oppose a means test on the private health insurance rebate would cost the budget $100 billion by 2050. “That’s going to put a further hole in the budget,” he told ABC Radio. “Nothing they say adds up at the moment.” Opposition frontbencher Eric Abetz says the coalition’s policy won’t be a mega tax, as claimed by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Sunday. “It won’t be this big clunky emissions trading scheme which is a huge tax on everything, which won’t have any discernible impact on climate change,” he told reporters in Canberra. MORE rl/cjb

The future of coal in Australia

Coal is one of Australia’s biggest industries.

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Almost all of our power comes from it – and we export more of it than any other country in the world.

As concerns over climate change grows, SBS’Keith Breene asks whether can there really be a future for coal, the most polluting fuel.

Australia loves coal. We mine huge amounts of it. We depend on it ourselves – and sell more of it overseas than anyone else. Like it or not – coal is big business.

“Well its Australia’s biggest export industry – 50 billion dollars in exports this year and it generates 81% of Australia’s electricity. It employs 130,000 people directly and indirectly,” Ralph Hillman form the Australian Coal Association told SBS.

“Its a major industry and highly competitive.”

But Environmental Scientist Mark Diesendorf says the technology to make coal cleaner is still many years away.

“So-called green coal will not be available on a commercial scale for 15 or 20 years – if ever.”

Despite that, the demand for coal is soaring. The rest of the world is hungry for it. Global consumption is expected to rise 40% over the next two decades.

The industry in Australia is going through huge expansion. BHP Billton’s sprawling Mount Arthur mine in the Hunter Valley is a reflection of that surging market.

The stuff being dug out of the ground here is thermal coal – destined for power stations here and in Japan and Korea.

At the moment the mine produces 12 million tons of coal a year. That’s already due to rise to 20 million. And the state government is deciding whether to allow it to expand to 36 million. That would be a tripling of the mine’s current output.”

The coal industry insists that with the world still needing power it would be foolish to step down production because of climate change worries.

“I think it is an important part of Australia’s future, mr Hillman said.

“Coal is going to be a major part of the global energy mix out to 2050 at least. All the authorities, all major governments are saying that so obviously Australia will continue to be a major player in export markets.”

First swine flu death in Canada, as US cases double

The Americas were back in the spotlight over swine flu fears as Canada announced its first death, the number of US infections almost doubled, and more cases were found in Latin America.

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On the other side of the world, Japan and Australia announced their first confirmed infections.

Brazil on Friday also confirmed its first case transmitted from person to person while Mexico said it was investigating 10 more possible swine flu deaths.

US ‘not out of the woods’

US President Barack Obama warned the United States was not out of the woods yet, as across the nation\’s northern border a woman in western Alberta province became the first person in Canada to succumb to the disease.

“We have our first fatality in Alberta that is associated with the H1N1 flu,” said Andre Corriveau, the province\’s chief medical officer.

Canada has the third highest number of swine flu infections with 224 cases, but the United States overtook Mexico on Friday to become the country with the highest number of patients, recording 1,639 cases in 43 states.

Mexico, which was the epicentre of the worldwide epidemic, raised its swine flu death toll to 45, with confirmed cases going up to 1,319, of which more than half were younger than 20. Two people have also died in the United States.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said that 2,500 people in 25 countries had tested positive for the A(H1N1) virus, with 46 deaths.

Obama urges vigilance

As the number of US cases jumped overnight with more tests put in place, Obama warned Americans to remain vigilant.

“We are seeing that the virus may not have been as virulent as we at first feared,” Obama said at a Spanish-language town hall-style meeting at the White House.

“But we are not out of the woods yet. We still have to take precautions.”

The US president warned the northern autumn and winter flu season later in the year could be “even worse” and see cases spike again.

Brazil confirmed its first case of swine flu transmitted from person to person within the country.

Health Minister Jose Gomes Temporao said a new case, one of two found on Friday, was “up to now the only case of person-to-person transmission (of the virus) in Brazil”.

The discovery brought to six the total number of cases detected in Latin America\’s largest nation.

Earlier, Panama confirmed a case of the virus while Guatemala said it had two people who had caught the disease.

Mexico slowly returns to normal

However, life in Mexico was slowly returning to normal after a week-long shutdown with the reopening of schools and tourist sites, Mexico City eateries, theatres and cinemas. Primary schools were due back on Monday.

Japan records first case

In Japan a teacher and two students returning from North America tested positive for swine flu in the first confirmed cases of the virus in the island nation, the government said.

Japanese authorities quarantined the three males, who had been on a high school trip to Canada, and 49 others who were aboard their flight, which arrived on Friday at Tokyo\’s Narita international airport from the US city of Detroit.

Health Minister Yoichi Masuzoe said the government was trying to contact for testing all of the 391 passengers and 21 crew who were on the Northwest Airlines flight that arrived around 4.30 pm (5.30pm AEST) on Friday.

“All the passengers who were aboard the plane could possibly have contracted the flu,” he said. “We want to track all of them down by this evening.”

In Hong Kong, still haunted by memories of the 2003 SARS epidemic that killed nearly 300 people there, more than 280 guests and staff were finally allowed to leave a hotel after spending a week in quarantine.

The Mexican guest who tested positive for swine flu and had stayed at the hotel was also released from hospital on Friday.

Swine flu and preparation for possible pandemics will top the agenda when health officials meet from May 18 during the WHO\’s annual gathering in Geneva.

Australia reports first swine flu death

A West Australian man has become the first person with swine flu to die in Australia.

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The 26-year-old man died in the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) on Friday afternoon after being diagnosed with the virus on Thursday.

South Australian health authorities could not yet confirm whether the man died because of swine flu, as he had been suffering from a number of other serious health conditions.

The man had been transferred from Alice Springs Hospital to the RAH intensive care unit on Monday.

SA Health Minister John Hill said the RAH would continue to investigate the cause of death.

“What we do know is that this man was seriously ill from a number of conditions and the reason he was sent to the Royal Adelaide was because of those conditions,” he said.

“How the swine flu interacted with those conditions and what’s the ultimate cause of death is something we can’t really speculate about.”

SA Health’s chief medical officer Paddy Phillips said he did not, as of yet, have all the details surrounding the Aboriginal man’s death.

“Although the patient was diagnosed as positive for swine flu yesterday, his other medical conditions had dramatically deteriorated by the time he got to Adelaide,” Professor Phillips said.

“We will be letting the Commonwealth know exactly whether or not H1N1 was a major contributor or not.”

Prof Phillips said WA health authorities and the commonwealth’s chief medical adviser had been informed, and that the man’s death would not yet be added to the list of casualties from swine flu.

“This is very recent and while we have a large amount of information, we clearly don’t have all of the information – that will require further review.”

Prof Phillips told reporters on Friday evening the RAH would work with the Communicable Diseases Branch.

He said it was incredibly unlikely the man could have contracted the influenza A (H1N1) virus at the RAH and that staff who treated the man prior to him being diagnosed with swine flu had since been prescribed a course of Tamiflu.

“All of the appropriate procedures have been followed,” he said.

“So I think it is incredibly unlikely this was caught in SA.

“Swine flu in the vast majority of people is a mild illness.

“However, we know from overseas experience that a certain proportion of people do get so sick they need to be in hospital and, unfortunately, a certain proportion do ultimately succumb – largely people with pre-existing medical conditions.

“Unfortunately, there is a higher incidence of the illnesses that make people vulnerable to complications from influenza, as well as H1N1, in the Aboriginal population and they tend to get those illnesses – diabetes, lung disease, heart disease, kidney disease – at younger ages.”

In a statement released on Friday night, Federal health Minister Nicola Roxon said all governments were focused on minimising the number of cases of serious disease as much as possible.

“During the PROTECT phase announced this week, the government is focused on identifying, targeting and treating those most vulnerable to severe complications from swine flu,” Ms Roxon said.

It is understood the man came from a small Aboriginal community about 700km west of Alice Springs.

Prof Phillips would not detail the medical conditions the man was suffering from, except to say they had affected a number of his organ systems.

He said the man’s family had been informed of his death.

Late Friday evening, the Commonwealth government joined SA health authorities in offering their condolences to the man’s family.

Compulsory land buying ‘Soviet-style command’

A proposed plan for compulsory purchase of land for private housing developments in NSW is “Soviet-style command” by the state government, the opposition says.

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Premier Kristina Keneally on Friday confirmed a scheme of compulsory land acquisition had been proposed as part of the Metropolitan Transport Plan, which aims to integrate land use and transport planning to manage Sydney’s ballooning population.

The opposition has labelled the plan “unacceptable” and berated the government over it.

“Kristina Keneally and Labor’s plan to seize homes and sell them to developers will be opposed by the NSW Liberals and Nationals,” Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell told reporters in Sydney on Friday.

“This is Soviet-style command government from Kristina Keneally which simply ignores the housing needs of Sydney.”

Mr O’Farrell called for “sustainable balanced development” to promote growth throughout regional NSW and said nobody’s home would be safe under the proposed plan.

“It’s unacceptable for people to have the threat of having their homes seized by state government, unacceptable for state government to erode property rights,” he said.

Ms Keneally denied the proposed plan put people’s homes in danger.

However, she said, sometime in the future such purchases may be needed. “Compulsory acquisition might be part of the future,” she told Sky News.

“We won’t rule that in or out. But it would have to be done with appropriate guidelines, appropriate safeguards, appropriate rules around it.” She said a similar statement by opposition planning spokesman Brad Hazzard earlier in the day was nothing but “scaremongering”.

Currently, compulsory purchase can only be used for public/government projects, such as buildingg a new freeway, an airport or public housing.