Category: NSW Labor

COMMUNITY OUTRAGE AT O’FARRELL DECISION TO DUMP RADIOACTIVE WASTE AT KEMPS CREEK

At a public meeting in Penrith last night, Western Sydney residents have expressed alarm at Barry O’Farrell’s decision to dump 5000 tonnes of radioactive waste at Kemps Creek – a stunning breach of his promise before the 2011 election.

“Barry O’Farrell is ploughing ahead with taking radioactive dirt from Hunters Hill and dumping it on the people of Western Sydney,” Shadow Environment Minister Luke Foley said today.

This is a broken promise of epic proportions.  Mr O’Farrell assured the community that this transfer would never happen – yet tonight he dispatched his bureaucrats as the fall guys for his broken promise.

  • “To dump it in Western Sydney is stupid, it’s a threat, and it’s not the way any government ought to be behaving.” Barry O’Farrell, October 2010

Last month, the O’Farrell Government issued its Final Environmental Assessment for the waste transfer – confirming local residents’ worst fears:

  • “During the proposed Remediation Works, there exists the potential for some groups of people to receive an increase in radiation exposure.” (page 124, 8.1 Radiological Hazards)
  •  ”The half-lives of the radionuclides present in the impacted soils at the site are long, and radioactivity may not attenuate for hundreds of years. As a consequence, any waste management solution would need to be effective in the very long term.” (page 148)
  •  ”In the short term there would be some environmental impacts which would require mitigation [including] …risk of ingestion/exposure to contaminated material containing radioactive tailings and chemical compounds.” (page 233)

“The Premier’s own experts have confirmed that this soil is so toxic it will need to be monitored for radioactive decay until at least the 24th century AD.  Mr O’Farrell is condemning the people of Western Sydney to 300 years of risk from radioactive material sitting within metres from streets and homes. This decision says it all about Barry O’Farrell’s real attitude to Western Sydney.”

Penrith Labor councillor Prue Car said: “Barry O’Farrell is putting the local community last. The Government can hold public meetings until it is blue in the face – the blunt truth is Mr O’Farrell misled us.
“If this soil isn’t dangerous why not keep it in Hunters Hill?  ”If it is dangerous – none of us in Western Sydney want a bar of it.”

 

O’Farrell Government’s Attacks and Cuts

Since taking office in March 2011, Barry O’Farrell and his Government have made a number of cuts to funding, jobs, workers’ rights and services. Here is an overview of what the workers of NSW have endured thus far.


Attacks on Workers’ Rights

Taken Control of IRC and Frozen Wages

-                   The Government passed the Industrial Relations (Public Sector Conditions of Employment) Act 2011. Consequently the Government has given itself complete power to determine wage increases (or not) and conditions for public sector staff through Regulations which do not have to pass any votes in the Parliament.

-                   The Industrial Relations Commission has had its power to arbitrate wage disputes removed.

-                   So far, the Government has frozen wage increases for public sector workers at 2.5%. Whilst the O’Farrell Government has claimed this will not leave public sector workers worse off, the University of Sydney’s Workplace Research Centre found that a nurse would be $12, 232 worse off and a teacher $14, 580 worse off each year had the O’Farrell policy been applied over the past decade.

Attacked Injured Workers

-                   Government amendments to the Workers Compensation Act saw significant cuts to the support and compensation provided to injured workers.

-                   The cuts to Workers Compensation means weekly payments will cease after 2.5 years and medical costs will stop being paid after 3.5 years for most injured workers.

-                   Additionally, workers will have almost non-existent coverage for accidents on their way to or from work.

-                   No lump sum payments can be made for pain and suffering, regardless of the severity of the injury.

-                   Changes to weekly benefits, medical costs and duration of payments are to apply as soon as possible to existing claims.

-                   The O’Farrell government attributed the needs for the cuts to a ‘deficit’ in WorkCover. The cuts have shifted the blame of the ‘deficit’ onto injured workers, with the Government hoping for a reduction in insurance premiums for employers.

 

Stripped Police of their Death and Disability Protection

-                   The Government’s Police Amendment (Death and Disability) Act 2011 severely cut the support and rehabilitation provided to police who are injured on the job, as well as support for families of police officers killed at work.

Attacked Workers’ Rights to Fairly Bargain Collectively

-                   Currently before Parliament is the Government’s Industrial Relations Amendment (Dispute Orders) Bill 2012. If this Bill is passed, it will increase fines for taking industrial action from $10,000 a day to $110,000 a day.

-                   It is also important to remember as mentioned above that unions no longer have the right to independent arbitration over wages and conditions and unlike the Federal industrial relations system have no legal right to strike through protected action.

No Consultation around Significant Industrial Changes

-                   By way of example The Technical and Further Education Commission Amendment (Staff Employment) Act 2011 saw 13,000 TAFE teachers transferred to the Federal industrial relations system where they now fall under the Fair Work Act

-                   No consultations with unions or teachers were attempted prior to the introduction and subsequent passing of this Act.

-                   Similarly, Government abolished the Transport Appeals Board with no discussion with unions.

Forcing Retail Workers to Work on Public Holidays

-                   The Retail Trading Amendment Bill 2012 presented by the O’Farrell Government will allow all retailers to trade on Boxing Day and Easter Sunday which will see employees being forced to work on what should be a day for families.

-                   The Bill will also lead to backroom staff and staff of retail businesses working on Christmas Day and Good Friday.

 No Support for Equal Pay

-                   The most recent State budget has not allocated any funding to equal pay for social and community sector workers in line with the recent Fair Work findings.

-                   There are 30,000 community and public sector workers in NSW. Without NSW funding these workers will not receive the awarded increases in full which range from 19 – 41 per cent.

-                   Prior to the election O’Farrell promised social and community sector workers a fair and equitable pay rise.

Slashing Public Sector Entitlements

-                   The O’Farrell Government has applied to the NSW Industrial Relations Commission to change 98 different Public Sector Awards and enact massive cuts to entitlements and benefit.

-                   Some of the cuts include: slashing annual leave loading, cutting penalty rates for shift workers, removal of additional sick leave entitlements and parental leave.

O’Farrell Consigns Western Sydney to 300 Years of Nuclear Waste

Newly released documents reveal the O’Farrell Government is dumping radioactive waste – which needs to be monitored for the next 300 years – in Western Sydney.

The government’s report into moving the waste reveals:

“Long term management and monitoring (and associated funding) arrangements would need to be implemented at the disposal site for at least 300 years.” *

The feasibility review into disposal options for the waste from a former uranium smelter at Hunters Hill also shows the government has manipulated the data to avoid it being classified as radioactive – so it can be dumped at Kemps Creek.  

 “This report confirms Barry O’Farrell has broken his promise to the people of Western Sydney and is dumping radioactive waste from the North Shore in their backyard,” Opposition Leader John Robertson said.   

“The Premier’s own experts confirm the government will need to provide funding to monitor the radioactive waste for the next 300 years at Kemps Creek.

“This decision says it all about Barry O’Farrell’s real attitude to Western Sydney.” 

Shadow Environment Minister, Luke Foley said the report showed the government had found ‘radioactive hot spots’ in the waste, but twisted the data to avoid classifying it as such.

“The O’Farrell Government has manipulated the data that shows the waste is radioactive – so it can be sent to Kemps Creek,” Mr Foley said.

The report clearly states:

 “Radioactive material was detected at varying concentrations across the area… one of the samples exceeded the criteria for restricted solid waste.”

 “Therefore for the purpose of the radiological results discussion, the majority of the areas were combined into a single grouping covering the majority of the site (excluding LG4). This impacts on the potential remediation actions of the site, as the remaining areas (LG1 and LG2) will radiologically be treated as a single area.” **

 “It is clear the O’Farrell Government has reclassified the data so it can dump the North Shore’s radioactive waste in Western Sydney,” Mr Foley said.

“This report proves once and for all that Barry O’Farrell is dumping radioactive waste – that will need to be monitored until the 24th century – at Kemps Creek.”

Barry O’Farrell’s original promise to keep the waste away from Kemps Creek:

“To dump it in Western Sydney is stupid, it’s a threat, and it’s not the way any government ought to be behaving.”            (Barry O’Farrell, October 2010)

Spending on Dam Safety Upgrades Slashed By O’Farrell

State Water will slash its capital expenditure on dam safety upgrades in order to meet the O’Farrell Government’s dividend requirements, the NSW Labor Opposition has revealed.
 
The government owned State Water Corporation operates 21 dams in rural NSW, and its 2011/12 Statement of Corporate Intent reveals dam safety spending will be $120 million lower than previously budgeted over the next decade because of the O’Farrell Government’s dividend policy.
 
The drastic cuts will occur despite the report warning that many of State Water’s dams no longer comply with the NSW Dam Safety Committee’s (DSC) standards and guidelines for extreme floods and earthquakes”.*
 
The Statement of Corporate Intent has been personally signed off by Treasurer Mike Baird and Finance Minister Greg Pearce, and was tabled in the State Parliament late last month
 
“The Statement of Corporate Intent notes State Water has been forced to develop a ‘more fiscally efficient dam safety upgrade program’ in order to meet O’Farrell Government dividend requirements,” Shadow Water Minister, Luke Foley said today.**
 
“State Water has revised its 10 year business forecasts to defer Stage 2 dam safety upgrade works – designed to reduce safety risks in accordance with Dam Safety Committee requirements – across all 21 of State Water’s dams.
 
“The O’Farrell Government is budgeting for an extra $260 million in dividends from State Water over the next 10 years.
 
“This means tens of millions of dollars that State Water could and should spend on upgrading dam safety will instead be paid to the O’Farrell Government as dividend payments.”
 
State Water is subject to a Government dividend policy of 70 per cent of net profit after tax. It admits that it cannot meet that level of dividend payments and continue with the scheduled Dam Safety Program:
 
“State Water can sustain a dividend payout ratio in the range of 35 per cent to 50 per cent, but not as high as 70 per cent, if water sales are less than the 20 year average and if debt continues to increase as a result of the Stage 2 Dam Safety Upgrade Program.” ***
 
“A government that cuts back on dam safety upgrades at a time when people across NSW are battling flood waters is a government with the wrong priorities,” Mr Foley said.
 
“There can be no excuse for the O’Farrell Government putting dividend gouging ahead of dam safety in NSW.”
 
 
*Source: State Water Corporation Statement of Corporate Intent 2011-12, page 17.
**Source: State Water Corporation Statement of Corporate Intent 2011-12, page 19.
***Source: State Water Corporation Statement of Corporate Intent 2011-12, page 23

The Putty Valley is no place for the Coal Seam Gas industry

by Luke Foley

 Nine days ago I visited the Putty Valley and met with local residents.

 The Putty Valley is mid way between Windsor and Singleton, nestled between the Wollombi and Yengo national parks, and within the electoral district of Upper Hunter and the local government area of Singleton.

 It is a place of indescribable beauty. A place where heaven meets earth.

 The Putty Valley immediately brought to my mind the Clogher Valley in County Tyrone, in the north of Ireland.

 My wife was born and reared in that valley, and we were married there.

 The Putty Valley and the Clogher Valley have both been dominated by dairy farms for generations.

 In Putty Valley, most of the dairy farms have given way to grazing.

 The rugged terrain of the wilderness and mountain ranges surrounding Putty is reminiscent of County Tyrone’s Sperrin Mountains.

 The Wollemi National Park encompasses the largest wilderness area in New South Wales, and is part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, as is the Yengo National Park.

 The area is home to one of the world’s great biological mysteries: how did the Wollemi pine, the ‘dinosaur tree’, survive 5 million years secluded in a single canyon before being discovered?

 The rural environment of the Putty Valley is today threatened by the coal seam gas industry.

 So are the surrounding national parks, notwithstanding their protected status under the National Parks and Wildlife Act.

 We know that the extraction of large volumes of water impacts on connected surface and groundwater systems.

 On 19 August 2011 Dart Energy commenced drilling a core hole to explore for coal seam gas at a property on Putty Road, in the Putty Valley area.

 The bore site is just over 500 metres from the boundary of a World Heritage listed area of international significance.

 The exploration site is 40 metres from Long Wheeney Creek which runs into Putty Creek, Wollemi Creek and the pristine and protected Colo River through the Wollemi National Park, before joining the Hawkesbury River.

 Prior to the election, the Liberal and National parties announced that they would introduce a Strategic Regional Land Use Policy to “strike the right balance between our important agricultural, mining and energy sectors, while ensuring the protection of high value conservation lands“.

 The Coalition’s election policy stated that “The NSW Liberals and Nationals believe that agricultural land and other sensitive areas exist in NSW where mining and coal seam gas extraction should not occur.”

 Today’s announcement of the Government’s Draft Upper Hunter Strategic Regional Land Use Plan provides no comfort whatsoever to the people of the Putty Valley.

 The protection of strategic agricultural lands and high conservation values is left to a process which can sideline water protection and be sidelined itself if the government deems the project to be ‘exceptional’.  

 There’s no certainty for sustainable agriculture nor threatened habitats.

 I do accept a role for gas in this state’s energy mix.

 I also believe that there should be no go areas.

 The NSW Liberals and Nationals used to believe this too – at least until polling day last year.

 I believe that the Putty Valley is a perfect example of a sensitive area that should exclude mining and extractive industries, in order to protect its significant environmental values.

 Allowing the coal seam gas industry into the Putty Valley would create a pustule of industrialisation in the heart of the Wollemi and Yengo World Heritage areas.

 The Putty Valley is no place for the gas industry.

  Luke Foley MLC is the Leader of the Opposition in the NSW Legislative Council

 


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