Gippsland News & Views

Letter published Bairnsdale Advertiser 2.1.15

 Dear Sir,

May I reply as briefly as I can to Neil Barraclough’s letter (BA 19/12) and make the following points:-

  1. I was disappointed (and still am) that an organisation calling itself the East Gippsland Wildfire Taskforce (EGWT) could have a day forum of presentations when the question and influence of climate change on catastrophic fires was “only touched on briefly”.  Neil does not address this question in his letter.
  2. The article Neil criticised was written from one of my press releases issued in the middle of the state election campaign. My press release was not questioning or criticising the bona fides of the speakers at the forum but was critical of the approach of the EGWT forum in general.
  3. Best science (I am talking CSIRO, Bureau of Meteorology, NASA et al) clearly indicates climate change is making bushfires more frequent, fire seasons longer and that big fires are getting worse.
  4. Neil suggested that my knowledge may have been improved by a visit to some burnt areas. I did exactly that in 2003. My experiences and impressions, as well as Neil’s own, are “anecdotal accounts” of which he seemingly disapproves.
  5. It is unusual to provide footnotes in a brief press release – especially during a political campaign – and in my 14 press releases (see below) I only occasionally did so. These releases were used on at least 20 occasions in the media and no footnote was reproduced by any journalist as far as I am aware. At least half of these releases emphasized both the threat of heatwaves and catastrophic fires.
  6. Arguments about the phasing out of logging and plantations hinge on questions about carbon sinks and how we are going to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Neil also implies that there will be no work in the bush when logging is phased out whereas I insist there should be more. The critical question is that the jobs should be there first.
  7. Neil finishes his correspondence with a colourful quote from Voltaire with the implication that I believe in “absurdities” (climate change?) which I have been pushing for my own ends – whatever they may be. Perhaps Neil can tell us? It may be perceived that many at the EGWT forum have vested interests far above any that I may have.
  8. The science of climate change is founded on basic physics – the greenhouse effect – and the acceptance of this is the major difference between Neil (and possibly a substantial part of the EGWT forum) and myself.
  9. The pity of all this is that we agree that catastrophic fires are a huge problem and that a large number of actions are necessary to protect both life and property.

Peter Gardner




Press Release No.12 (23.11.14)

“Goodies versus Baddies: Solar and Coal”

Gippsland East Independent candidate Peter Gardner attacked the Prime Minister’s simplistic “goodies and baddies” slogan. He said: “I can accept the PM’s slogan but (politely speaking) he has it the wrong way about. Coal is definitely the “baddie”. It is the new asbestos. Each time we turn on our air conditioners we make ourselves a little more comfortable and our children’s future worse. We must leave the coal (and coal seam gas) in the ground.”

“We must transform the Latrobe Valley from a coal and electricity generating area to a more sustainable economy. There will be far more jobs rehabilitating the mines and the electricity generators than there ever were running then. The valley must switch to the new industries, solar, wind, heat pumps, and possibly the geothermal energy under the coal seams. You will note that I say “must” because we will have no choice in the matter. The sooner we get down to business the easier and better it will be.”

The “goodies” are the renewable energy sources. They are sustainable, clean, more reliable, and cheaper. For the most part the energy source is free. The renewable energy industry will employ far more than the “baddies” ever did. This work will be decentralised. Many of the jobs will be in East Gippsland and much of that will be youth employed as apprentices and other workers. Bring on the “goodies”. Bring on the ‘solar revolution’. One must ask how a Rhodes scholar could get it so wrong!

Gardner urges voters to select candidates that support the “solar revolution” at every election and at every level of government. He urges those who are committed to a political party to consider casting their primary vote for a solar candidate before giving their preference to the party they favour. “That way we will send a message to Spring Street that solar and renewables are what the people want.”


Press Release No.11 (17.11.14)

Climate Change and Revitalising East Gippsland or Jobs in the Bush

Independent Candidate in Gippsland East Peter Gardner stated that the countryside can benefit in the fight against climate change. He said: “The countryside is the frontline in the fight against the severe and damaging effects of climate change. These include more frequent and prolonged droughts, heatwaves, floods, storms including increasing thunderstorms and related bushfires of which we will have an increasing number of the catastrophic variety.

“The first half of 1998 was a classic example of a short severe drought followed by a couple of intense rainfall events where many places received more than half their annual rainfall in less than a week. Most of these extreme weather events of the last 25 years have been influenced by climate change or in simple terms made worse by it. Country people have the most to gain by combating climate change and the most to lose if nothing is done.

He continued: “East Gippsland and the bush generally should benefit from the massive redirection of our resources away from the city. This is required to combat climate change. Emphasis should be on putting people on the ground, giving people jobs – not bricks and mortar or spending large amounts on technical solutions.

“The policies can be financed by a redirection of funds away from big developments in the city with the notable exception of public transport. Under a succession of governments over the last thirty years the bush has been left to decline. History is littered with examples of civilisations that have collapsed because they neglected or destroyed their agriculture systems.

“My policies are designed to combat and, or adapt to, climate change and many relate to employment. To implement them will provide a boost to the local economies and jobs – especially for young people. These policies include boosting all emergency services, bringing on the renewable energy revolution with local community based energy projects of many kinds, strengthening CFA and the DSE in fire fighting and fire prevention  in country towns and on communications routes, bolstering Landcare in private and community revegetation projects, decentralisation of government departments, and last but not least a general public transport upgrade including increased services, especially of the feeder buses, increased maintenance and the replacement of the Stratford bridge.

In general Gardner supports the Federal coalition’s Green Army but insists it should be engaged in serious projects concerned with either mitigating or adapting to climate change.

“We are all in the same boat with regards climate change. Anything more than the projected 2 degrees average increase in the earth’s temperature will be catastrophic. Now is the time to do some ‘heavy lifting’, to return to a bipartisan approach that puts people above party, and starts to treat the problem with the seriousness it deserves. Now is the time to phase out coal – the new asbestos. Coal has helped develop our society but now we know it kills, and like asbestos we must cease exploiting it as quickly as possible. To do nothing is to endanger life on the planet as we know it. That is why I ask you all to vote one for the vote climate, vote solar platform.”

Press Release No.10 (10.11.14)

Climate Change and the Bushfire Mitigation Public Meeting in Bairnsdale

Independent Candidate in Gippsland East Peter Gardner said he was disappointed that the issue of climate change was dealt with so fleetingly at the Bushfire Mitigation Public Meeting at Bairnsdale on Wednesday.

Gardner noted that climate change was mentioned only in passing and that science of global warming was treated with a certain disdain. Gardner stated: “My concern above everything else is climate change and this includes the dramatic effect climate change is having on our weather and bushfires.

“The problem of climate change and its effect on bushfires is so immense it is obvious we must work on best science. Everything else is wasted effort and funds.

“Best science indicates that with climate change we will have increasingly longer fire seasons, more severe fire danger days, more heatwaves and more catastrophic bushfires. These are going to happen whatever we do.

“Anecdotal evidence indicates that fuel reduction burns have little effect on catastrophic fires. Large areas burnt in 2003 burnt again in 2006/7. Recent studies of the Black Saturday fires indicate that logging actually increases the severity of these fires.

“We must work to reduce the severity of the problem and adapt to those changes we cannot prevent. We must commence proper controlled studies on the best actions to take. In the meantime we should adopt and act wholeheartedly on current knowledge.

“On the adaption side we must retreat from the forests and work hard on the protection of towns, farms and communications routes. We must greatly expand our fire protection and emergency services in the bush. This includes having permanent CFA officers, each with an apprentice, at each fire station.

“With mitigation we must phase out logging of native forests as these forests are a natural store of carbon (the only form of carbon capture and storage that works) as soon as we can provide full employment in the bush. As well current logging practices appear to exacerbate severe fires. In the shorter term any logging within 10km of settlements should be stopped and strategic regrowth areas should be manually thinned as an added means of protection of communities. Timber should come increasingly from plantations and these should be managed appropriately including fire protection, thinning, pruning and removal of undergrowth.

“The science is in on climate change. It is happening. It is getting worse. It is man made. “Nero fiddled whilst Rome burned” goes the saying. Every delay by our politicians to act on this matter brings us closer to the climate emergency.”


Press Release No.9 (3.11.14)

Land Use, Carbon Emissions and Revitalising the Bush

Peter Gardner, an Independent Candidate in Gippsland East running on a ‘Vote Climate Vote Solar’ ticket has praised a new report on land use emissions and possible solutions. The report entitled “Zero Carbon Australia Land Use: Agriculture and Forestry” has just been published by the independent organisation Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE).

The director of BZE Stephen Bygrave stated: “Beyond Zero Emissions has been working for several years on a major research project to look at reducing greenhouse emissions from the Land Use sector — agriculture and forestry. The result, released this week, is the Zero Carbon Australia Land Use Report… The Land Use sector is right up there with the highest emitting sectors of Australia’s economy. But the report also shows that there is massive scope to reduce emissions of short-lived greenhouse gases, giving a relatively fast, sharp reduction to Australia’s global warming impact…”

Bygrave added: “We also need to find ways to put trees back into the countryside on a (large) scale…Farmers and communities on the land should have the support to operate on the front line of Australia’s efforts to combat climate change; they are certainly the people most affected. Regional centres will benefit from implementing changes to land use in a way that reduces carbon pollution. New revenue streams could open up to farmers, allowing them to remain on their properties; bringing young people back to rural Australia. Regional areas could be rejuvenated by new jobs, more people, and more income – a stark contrast to the situation we face where farmers are being forced to leave their land from drought and increasing number of extreme weather events.”

Gardner noted the report highlights a path to reduce Australia’s agriculture emissions to around net zero, with reductions from land clearing, enteric fermentation, soil carbon and manure management. Substantial carbon sequestration will also be achieved by revegetation. He also agreed with Bygrave that farmers and people in Gippsland have the most to gain from reducing greenhouse emissions and the most to lose if they are not addressed.

Gardner has practiced reafforestation on a small scale on his property in Ensay in association with Landcare and Greening Australia. “These are wonderful organisations but a lot more needs to be done. They are just the embryo of much bigger organisations that will be required in the future.”  Gardner makes all his campaigns carbon neutral by offsetting his election expenditure with tree planting.

He calls on East Gippslanders to help to rejuvenate regional and small town Gippsland by a massive program to combat carbon emissions and to prepare for the most harmful effects of climate change.  “You can help send a direct message to Spring St and the major parties by firstly voting independent or minor party before casting your preference for the party of your choice.”


Hazelwood Mine Fire, Brown Coal and Climate Change

Climate emergency Independent in Gippsland East Peter Gardner has criticised the shallowness of the Hazelwood Mine Fire Royal Commission. He has pointed out that  climate change was not dealt with in the commission’s terms of reference. Yet climate change was almost certainly a contributing factor in the Hazelwood Mine Fire and is increasing the likelihood of severe fires in the Valley’s open cuts.

Gardner states that the public impression that coal mine fires are infrequent is incorrect and noted that: “Brown coal has been mined for 125 years since 1889 and there have been fires in the open coal pits of the Latrobe Valley on at least 8 occasions. These occurred in 1902, 1927, 1929, 1944, 1977, 1983, 2006 and 2014. This information is incomplete and there may have been other times when spot fires entered the pits and were quickly extinguished.”

“Further there have been many occasions in that same period when bushfires either burned the country now covered by the open cuts or were nearby. These include the Black Saturday fires which threatened Loy Yang.”

He also noted that: “there are other related effects of brown coal open cut and electricity generation that have threaten and continue to threaten our health and our electricity supplies. These include flooding, subsidence, earthquakes and mercury and other heavy metal pollution in the Gippsland Lakes.”

“With climate change upon us the likelihood of these fires and other hazards occurring in the open cuts is increasing dramatically. It is time for us to embark on massive a “Snowy Mountains” style program to change completely from coal generated electricity to renewable energy as quickly and smoothly as possible.” 

Gardner attacked both the major parties and their grandiose plans for further brown coal developments including the recent (September) public grant of $25 million to a Chinese company to produce briquettes to sell to the electricity generators. He is firmly opposed to any new coal or onshore gas developments stating that farming must have priority over these mining projects. As Tim Flannery said “Coal is the new asbestos.”

Centralised coal mines and electricity generation are vulnerable to climate change related threats including bushfire threats to mines, generators substations and transmission lines and surges in demand during heatwaves.  Gardner advocates improving reliability by obtaining power from variety of renewable sources and the establishment of micro grids.

PRESS RELEASE No.7 (20.10.14)

Are the Bats of Bairnsdale a Warning of Climate Change?

The increasing numbers of grey headed flying foxes along the Mitchell River may be a sign of climate change claims Independent candidate in Gippsland East Peter Gardner.

Gardner noted that this year may have been the first time that the bats have wintered over and that they are very sensitive to climate, food sources and loss of habitat. He noted with climate change that: “Flying foxes have shifted hundreds of kilometres south in their habitat range” and that studies have indicated: “that climate change is forcing the locations of species towards the cooler poles by an average of 6 km per decade”.

“Whilst visits of flying foxes in parts of Gippsland have been recorded more than 100 years ago man-made climate change has also been happening very gradually as long as accurate records have been kept.”

Professor Lesley Hughes of Macquarie University an expert on the impact climate change has on plants and animals noted: “Despite temperatures having warmed by less than a degree [over the last century], the impact of that on [many] species has been surprising…It’s a window on the future I suppose…The bottom line is that every species will be influenced by climate change, either directly or indirectly.”*

This prediction by Professor Hughes was clearly illustrated by events in Queensland during a heatwave early this year. On the 6 January the Sydney Morning Herald under the headline “Heatwave Decimates Flying Fox Colony” stated: “Dead flying foxes have been falling from the sky in droves because of the heatwave sweeping south-east Queensland. Hundreds of thousands of the large bats may have died as temperatures soared to 43 degrees over the weekend…In Ipswich, south-west of Brisbane, more than 1000 dead flying foxes had to be cleared from a single park on Saturday.”

Gardner notes: “It is a sad fact, little recognized by the media, that heatwaves also have a similar effect on human beings, their pets and other domestic animals. Morbidity statistics indicate that the heatwave of 2009 caused more than 370 extra fatalities – mostly amongst the sick and elderly. Figures for the January 2014 heatwave in Victoria indicate 167 extra fatalities, a 97% increase in calls for cardiac issues and a ‘significant increase in the demand for emergency care’. Heatwaves are now occurring five times more frequently this century than last and that the 2013 heatwave could not possibly have occurred without man made climate change.”

“Are the Bats of Bairnsdale the ‘canary in the coal mine’”? Gardner asks. “Are they a warning sign telling us that to forget the false or trivial messages of mainstream media and look what is happening before our eyes? If so it is time to commence serious action now by adopting a range of policies on climate change including changing over from coal to sustainable energy sources – in particular solar – as quickly as possible.”

Press Release No.6 (13.10.14)

Heatwaves and Man-made Climate Change

Climate Emergency Independent candidate in the seat of Gippsland East Peter Gardner has emphasized that extreme weather events – droughts, heatwaves and bushfires – are heavily influenced by climate change. These events are happening on a regular basis and are predicted to get worse. Recent studies have confirmed this

2013 was Australia’s hottest year since records began. Five recent studies on the heatwave in January 2013 have calculated the effects of man-made climate change on this event. One study in particular compared the influence of greenhouse gases added by humans to the atmosphere by running two computer models many thousands of times. The model without the added greenhouse gases from human activity found that a heatwave of the January 2013 dimensions would occur once every 12,000 years. When the greenhouse gases from burning coal and fossil fuels are added then the heatwave is predicted to occur every 6 years. The conclusion is that human induced climate change has made this event 2000 times more likely to occur.

One of the Authors of this study Dr. Sophie Lewis of Australian National University stated: “Instead of focusing on blame, it is more useful to understand the contributing factors to an event, such as natural variability and greenhouse warming. In the case of Australia’s record hot year, anthropogenic influences were a big contributor, to the point that the temperatures we experienced would have been virtually impossible without [the additional man-made] greenhouse gases.”

Gardner stated that: “The Bureau of Meteorology has calculated that heatwaves are five times more likely to occur this century then last. To this we can add droughts and associated bushfires. Gippsland has already seen a marked increase in severe bushfires this century compared with last. The strain these emergency events are putting on human resources, emergency services and finances is substantial and is predicted to get worse.”

“If man made the Jan 2013 heatwave 2000 times more likely then climate change was probably also a major contributor to the heatwave in early 2009 which, with the Black Saturday bushfires, killed 500 people. So too it must have influenced the vast bushfires of the Alpine region in 2003 and 2006/7 and the more recent fires in Gippsland this year including the Hazelwood Mine fire.

“This should be the news dominating our newspaper headlines, the airwaves and the television screens – not a cruel conflict in the Middle East or the fate of a football coach. We are in a climate emergency where the survival of mankind is at stake. It is time to put aside the divisions of politics and work together to combat these threats to us now.”

“You can start by voting 1 for Gardner in the forthcoming state election and then casting your preference to the party of your choice. This will send a message to all the major parties that it is time to put aside their differences and get serious about climate change.”

Press Release No 5 (6.10.14)

Candidate Criticises Radical Views on Climate Change

Independent Candidate in Gippsland East Peter Gardner lashed out at what he called “science denying radicals” running the conservative parties across the country.

He stated that: “The conservative parties in Australia and North America seem captured by science denying radicals. Where are the moderates of the Liberal and National parties on this matter? Where are the moderates of the Menzies and Hamer eras?

Malcolm Turnbull, when leader of the federal opposition, said: “Climate change is a global problem. The planet is warming because of the growing level of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity. If this trend continues, truly catastrophic consequences are likely to ensue from rising sea levels, to reduced water availability, to more heat waves and fires”. In the meantime both the state of politics and the effects of climate change are getting worse.

“Coalition voters are rightly concerned when they hear things like the Shepparton farmer who bulldozed his 10,000 peach trees because weather patterns are now no longer right for growing peaches. This is in an area no longer suitable for peach growing, where there are now too many hot spells and frosts and damaging summer rains for peaches.*

Coalition voters are also rightly concerned when their farming land is threatened by Coal and Coal Seam Gas developments. By projects that threaten to industrialise the countryside from the Latrobe Valley to Orbost. Farmers have the most to gain from effective policies against climate change and the most to lose in the long term if these policies are ineffectual.

“Many sensible policies like the Renewable Energy Target, Energy Efficiency programs and the Feed in Tariff for rooftop solar are all under attack both state and federally. In Victoria the Napthine government has brought the wind industry to a standstill. Why is there not also a 2 kilometre exclusion zone for the far more harmful coal and coal seam gas projects proposed across Gippsland? The answer is that none of these projects would proceed under such restrictions.

“The Napthine government has also twice slashed the feed-in-tariff for solar energy from household rooftops to 8 cents, continued to subsidise and promote brown coal, dumped their emissions reduction target, scrapped solar hot water rebates and instructed public servants not to use the words ‘climate change’.

“Why is this problem based on sound science and so recently accepted by the Liberals and Nationals in a bipartisan fashion now so divisive? Is it because the anti-science faction owes the big multinational (and mostly foreign owned) electricity generators, coal and CSG companies a favor?

“Climate change affects us all. For many voters there now seems nowhere to go as the coalition has been taken over by radicals who are reversing most climate action and are intent on major fossil fuel developments. It is time for the major parties and all politicians at all levels of government to return to a bipartisan approach and to treat the problem with the seriousness it deserves.

“You can help send a direct message to Spring St and the major parties by firstly voting independent or minor party before casting your preference for the party of your choice.


PRESS RELEASE No.4 (29.9.14)

Opposition to Coal Mining and Coal Seam Gas

Climate activist Peter Gardner is completely opposed to any development of coal seam gas (CSG), tight gas, shale gas or any new coal mines in Victoria.  He is standing in the seat of Gippsland East in the forthcoming State election as an independent.

Gardner stated that: “All these projects are putting more greenhouse gases in the air when we should be working to avoid them completely. To avoid worst case climate scenarios such as low level runaway global warming we first need to stabilise these emissions and then to quickly reduce them.”

“We have to wean ourselves off dirty coal and any other developments that increase our greenhouse gas output. Escaping methane from gas wells is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and CSG as an energy source may be no better than dirty coal.”

Gardner’s opposition to coal and CSG is primarily motivated by climate change but he recognises that there are many other objections to this form of mining including the process of fracking, the threat to groundwater, air and water pollution, and the loss of good farming land and Gippsland’s image as clean food producer.

Whilst Gardner’s opposition to CSG and coal mining is obvious his objection to other mining projects is also based on climate change. He states: “All mining projects should be subsidy free and carbon neutral. In particular the large number of vehicles trucking ore concentrates from Benambra to Geelong or from Nowa Nowa to Eden should be taken into account before these operations are allowed to proceed. This includes the proposed mineral sands projects at Mossiface and Glenaladale.” He noted that these projects have many of the same faults as CSG and coal mining.

“I have an unnegotiable position of complete opposition to all CSG, unconventional gas and coal projects. The electors of East Gippsland can send a strong message to Spring St. (and also to Canberra) by giving me your vote before casting your second preference to the party of your choice.”

Gardner is offering a range of policies that he hopes will reinvigorate small country towns as well as starting to reduce emissions and adapt to the warming that is already ‘in the pipeline’.