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Greens must vote strategically in Wentworth if climate is a concern.

If Greens voters want Liberals to lose in Wentworth they must support Phelps, explains ABC’s Antony Green in this podcast with Michelle Grattan. The maths is very straight forward and Margo Kingston and her media extremis Joe Hildebrand have also made the same case.

This requires Greens and Licia Heath voters to put Phelps above Labor on their ballot. Antony Green: “If Labor finishes 2nd Liberals win easily.” That is, if IndyLeft ArtyParty Greens voters in Wentworth preference Labor ahead of Phelps, Sharma wins. This is because their votes will put Labor (and the very decent Tim Murray) in 2nd place. If Phelps in 3rd place, all her supporters who preferenced Liberal over Labor leapfrog Tim and go straight to Sharma for an easy win. It’s not a matter of caring and wanting to ‘punish’ her for mucking up the preference announcements or that she’s playing to her base by putting Liberals one spot above Labor on her suggested How To Vote card. The reality of the maths is as Margo Kingston puts it: “Only an independent in the tradition of Wentworth’s small l liberalism has a chance to beat the official Liberal Party candidate… Australian politics is at a tipping point, voters of Wentworth. Over to you”.

If IndyLeftGreens voters in Wentworth want change – and an independent MP who is good on climate and social progressive is change, oh yes it is – they must forget who they theoretically ‘want’ elected. Instead they must suck it up, vote strategically and, preference Phelps ahead of Labor on their ballot. The loser if they don’t isn’t Phelps (she can cope with not winning, it’s not losing, she put her hand up, she did her thing). The LOSER (grab that L plate) is all those who think climate change is a massive issue. Indeed, all those who see climate impact changing everything, including its mass species loss and human suffering.

In UK and first-past-the-post elections voters do often change their vote and vote strategically and get an alternative party’s MP. But in Australia, as Antony Green says, this strategic voting go against the nature of preferential voting. But just because it goes against the grain doesn’t mean people can’t think and understand, and then vote strategically IF they really do think this is a vote on climate change (Greenpeace do, GetUp! does, Adani supporters seem to, does….). But for Sharma to lose, the Greens need to strategically leverage a how to vote card NOT in order of ideological preference of who Greens insiders want elected, but to place Phelps above Labor (that is, the very decent Tim Murray) and create maximum opportunity for a non-Liberal win. If they do this it would shift Greens from a supporter of the status quo to to a strategic player in electoral change.

In recent by-elections where an independent replaced a Liberal MP (Cathy McGowan, Wagga Wagga, Tony Windsor) the incumbent wasn’t from the other end of the political spectrum but conservatively similar. Labor is not similar to Liberals, their tax policy alone and the fact they once mentioned under their breath an inheritance tax or paying more for private schools fills the privilege well-heeled Wentworth voters with fear. These people are voting Sharma for his message of ‘economic security’ – aka no-one takes my money as tax if I can help it.

In 2007, Rudd’s Labor government won with a huge swing against Howard’s failure on climate change policy and representing the diversity and dynamic of Australia’s 21st century population. In the 2007 election Labor’s vote went forward nearly 6%, the Liberal’s backwards nearly 5%. But not in Wentworth. In Wentworth, Turnbull was elected with a massive swing of 9.9% to the Liberals. Wentworth didn’t care who was in government, so long as their MP was a Liberal. It was similar in the 1972 Whitlam election where the Liberals won with more than 50% of the primary and Labor got just a 2.2% swing (possibility from the Kiwis living in Bondi).

The Labor and Liberal parties are always very happy to do strategic how-to-vote cards and entrench the Liberal-Labor stronghold. The Liberals preferenced the Greens in Albanese’s seat of Grayndler in the 2010 federal election putting a very low-key Greens candidate in coo-ee of beating Albanese. But in 2013 Libs reverted to Labor above Greens on how to vote card, sterilising Greens hopes. Just like the Libs, Labor also very happy to keep a Liberal MP win rather than risk a Green MP as seen in conservative electorates in the Victoria state election.

Elections are math but voters have agency in the lower house where they number their own ballot, they write 1, then 2, then 3 until all those boxes filled.

The question for Wentworth progressive left voters is whether they really want Liberals to lose or will just continue hoping that Labor will win. If it’s the former, then Phelps is the only option (and I’m quoting Antony Green here). If progressive left voters don’t care if it’s Phelps or Sharma and put Labor ahead of Phelps on their ballot, then Wentworth is going to get Sharma. But blaming Phelps for being who she is afterwards is a cop out. Vehemence against the government’s failure on climate change surely trumps personal grievance against Phelps for not being your personal Jesus. A vote that gives Phelps chance to win isn’t a vote against Labor, it’s a vote for change.


Submission to Joint Standing Committee on Treaties and its review of the TPP

The TPP is a threat to our sovereign nation, it opens our borders to corporations to overule the laws of our lands. The profit is theirs. The social, environmental, economic and sovereign cost is every Australian citizen’s. I submit this as a citizen and as a woman, as a mother and as a participant and contributor to community and society. I call for a plebiscite on the TPP. It is a more significant issue than the impact of gay marriage. As the government has said, it is the most significant trade deal ever. 

10 March 2016

Attn:  Committee Secretary and all Australian Citizens

Joint Standing Committee on Treaties

PO Box 6021, Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Committee Secretary

Regarding the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement tabled with the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties Parliament on 9 February.

I appeal to your capacity as a representative, not simply for “government” but for citizens of Australia and to put their long-term interests first regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).

I REJECT the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) – specifically the ISDS provisions and all elements that put interests of BIG pharmaceutical corporations, BIG media corporations, BIG mining conglomerates ahead of citizen interest of privacy, water protection, minimum LIVING wage protection and unaffordable health costs. I REJECT it for ignoring climate change and for being without any frames to promote gender equity or to ensure that the gap between rich and poor does not increase.

There are many thousands of pages in it, legalese designed for legal challenges and the likes. My rejection is on the principles that it fails. The principle that Australia’s people are citizens first, not payees to corporate profits. The principle that national sovereignty and national laws come ahead of international corporate profit motives and that a trade deal should not include ISDS provisions. The principle that as a sovereign and democratic nation we should not be signing deals that effectively open our borders to corporate dominance from the outside.

It is interesting in Australia that the mantra of “protecting our borders” is the key slogan in the narrative against refugees. Yet this trade deal opens our borders for foreign corporate interest that is far more invasive and threatening to our way of life.

I REJECT the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) along with thousands of others who have attended rallies, signed petitions, written letters to MPs with concerns about its impact on health, media, environment, wages, workers’ rights and Australia’s laws.

As Senator Elizabeth Warren has said[1]: “Giving foreign corporations special right to challenge our laws outside of our legal system would be a bad deal. If a final TPP agreement includes Investor-State Dispute Settlement, the only winners will be multinational corporations.”

As ex-President of Ireland Mary Robinson says, “Human rights and gender equality should inform good climate policy.”(2016)[2] How does the TPP support gender equality, human rights and equity for those less advantaged citizens? What safeguards are there to stop it increasing the disadvantage gap between rich and poor?

Why do I quote Elizabeth Warren and Mary Robinson, powerful women role models? Because there have been very very few women’s voices involved in the process for the TPP in Australia. The representatives on the deal from the 12 countries are mostly men.

On principle I REJECT the TPP:

Firstly: It is not about trans-pacific partnerships all but big (US) corporations invading other countries through a trade agreement, crossing borders and given the power to implement their corporate, profit motive at the expense of the nation’s sovereignty and citizen interest.

Secondly: Why are ISDS provisions included? Including ISDS provisions is like lining up guns and tanks at the borders of the invaded country. It is hard power, meant to intimidate, meant to force the rights of Big Corporates to get what they want at the expense of citizen interest.

  • South Africa, Ecuador, Venezuela have all recently terminated investment agreements, for good reason.

Some examples of how the ISDS laws used – and there are many others:

  • When Mexico put a restriction on high fructose corn syrup three different US corporates sued the Mexican government using investor-state provisions. Mexico lost. The bill $169 million dollars.
  • US mining company Lone Pine used the North America Trade Agreement with Canada to sue the Quebec government $250m when it revoked the rights to frack under the St Lawrence River.  Lone Pine claims Quebec moratorium on fracking was “arbitrary” and “capricious”.
  • US Pharma giant Eli Lilly is demanding $500 million from Canada, because Canada dared to reject some of its patents noting, quite correctly, that the drugs didn’t appear to be any improvement over existing drugs.
  • To challenge Australia’s decision that will prevent smoking and health associated illnesses Tobacco Company Phillip Morris shifted its Head Office to Hong Kong where it could use ISDS provisions to sue the Australian government over plain packaging laws.

I REJECT the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) because it IGNORES climate change, and any protections for water from corporate priviatisation or legal rights that eschew mining’s entitlement. Water is the most precious resource. Around the world more and more civilian campaigns are fighting to protect it from privatisation, corporate gain (such as building dams), diversion (through dams), reduction in quality and quantity and shortage. Access to water is vital and a citizen right but increasingly under threat through damage to environment driven by short-term economic profit.

Environmental campaigners campaign to protect for the long term. We achiee wins – like the water trigger being added to the federal EPBC Act that requires use and impact on water  be taken into account in the approvals for big mining projects. In Coal Seam Gas environmental campaigning for protection of land and water, biodiversity and community health succeeded in erasing exploration licences, improving regulations, stopping coal seam gas projects on flood plains, and in Sydney Drinking Water Catchments. If the TPP includes ISDS provisions, international mining will be able to sue if new laws put water protection ahead of a corporation’s mining interest and profit imperative.

Thirdly: The TPP creates a cascade of power that could drown our laws, our sovereignty, our citizen rights. The balance of power will shift to overseas mining investors, Big Pharma, Big media as government decision-making dictated by foreign interests

Other submissions will have identified how the TPP will allow overseas corporates, Big Media, Big Pharma, Big Sugar, Big Agriculture will challenge Australian rights, hard fought for rights like the minimum wage and workers protections, by a thousand cuts. But my submission speaks to the economic, social and environmental protection of water. What will happen to the rights of Australian citizens to campaign for protection and achieve wins, if our state governments think they will be sued for listening to their own citizens.

There are many questions about the agreement that are still unanswered:

  • Does the TPP increase equity and equality in Australia? How?
  • How will it avoid the creation of impenetrable monopolies?
  • How will it ensure Australian laws to protect water are protected?
  • How does it prevent overseas corporates suing when Australian moratoriums are introduced such as on genetically modified organisms and coal seam gas extraction
  • How does it prevent overseas mining companies new environment laws and legislation designed to address climate change
  • Will it stop the introduction of county or region of origin food labelling?
  • Will it stop the introduction of progressive health policy and preventative measures – such as plain package cigarettes, banning high fructose corn syrup
  • Will it prevent patents on medicines and limit access to cheaper generic versions
  • How will it affect government subsidies for cancer treating medicines?
  • Will it threaten the minimum wage and other Australian worker protection?
  • What rights will it give to overseas mining companies to challenge the laws of Australia?
  • Will companies like Lone Pine be able to sue any Australian state government for laws that restrict or place a moratorium on fracking, law changes it Lone Pine described as “arbitrary” and “capricious” in the case of Quebec government?

Australia primary identity is NOT AN INVESTOR STATE but with this most significant “trade” deal that’s what it becomes. Australia is a sovereign nation with people and democratic processes, and principles of equity and fairness and the right for a citizen voice to be heard.  Our people vote to elect governments to represent them in their daily lives, create a fairer society. The TPP makes people simply profit numbers for corporates.

Australia’s laws should not be determined in a framework where governments can be sued for these decisions in secret international courts (where the only winner is the legal profession). Our laws should not be influenced by the profit prerogative of overseas corporations.

I urge you to reject the TPP and recommend it be taken to the people of Australia as an election issue or in a plebiscite (its impact will be far greater than marriage equality)

Yours sincerely

Isabel McIntosh

Alexandria, NSW 2015

[1]Washington Post, 27 January 2015

[2] International Women’s Day, 2016

Was your Westconnex Submission Listed?

Well, that’s interesting. I put in a submission on Westconnex and it’s not listed on the published list. So I gave Dept of Planning a call on 02 9228 6351 to ask Mary Garland why.

( It’s also interesting isn’t it how DoPE made the list a PDF not a website with each name hyperlinked to their submission as is used in other NSW submission processes, even CSG mining inquiries)

“Hi Mary, it’s Isabel. I put in a submission to Westconnex but it’s not on the list you published today.”

I must admit I expected Mary to say “Computer says No”. But she didn’t. She tip tapped on her govt computer and within 10 seconds found my submission. She said though I hadn’t made it confidential the dept had listed it as Anonymous. She said she’d check why and call back.
Five minutes later she called back and said it was “human error”. The poor hard-working beavers had accidentally made it confidential. (what’s going on with all this manual processing.. has the govt got too much money??) Mary told me my submitter number was 1938. She said that the list was under review and would be updated later.
I mentioned that in all other NSW govt submission processes the submitter gets a automatic confirmation email afterwards. She sounded surprised to hear that this was even possible (technology and all that).

Today the Department of Planning finally published the volumes of submissions it received. Almost 12,900 of them. But my name isn’t on the Dept of Planning list. Most of  the 180 submissions from community organisations have been buried in “anonymous” files and lots of others too.

If you made a submission, check the list for your name now. If it’s missing, call the Department on 02 9228 6351, ask to speak to Mary Garland or Naomi Moss, and ask that your name be put on the list.

All very dodgy this process isn’t it. And isn’t it interesting also that the gas and electricity has been cut off at the house all down the south side of Campbell St even though the EIS not approved.

SMH 22 March 2016 – Sydney Residents Object to Westconnex

“Almost all of the (12900) submissions on the New M5 East were opposed to the $5 billion project….”


I reject the Wilpinjong Coal Mine Expansion

NSW’s Wilpinjong Coal Mine sits on the edge of Goulburn River National Park, not far from Bylong and is owned and operated by US-coal company Peabody Energy. The 28 sq km open cut coal mine been operating since 2006 with current approval to produce 12.5 million tonnes per annum of saleable coal until 2027. This extension proposes to destroy a further 800 ha of land and extend the mine’s life until 2033. Contribute your own submission against the mine here Submissions close 10 March 2016.

MARCH 2016

TO: NSW Planning and Environment, Major Project Assessment, Wilpinjong Coal Mine


I REJECT this application on the basis that no new coal can be dug up if Australia is to meaningfully facilitate its commitment to keeping global warming under two degrees.

I REJECT this application to expand based on the precarious nature of Peabody’s finances.

Australia supported the Paris convention last year and acting to keep the earth’s temperature rise at less than 2 degrees. Last week the planet hit a 2 degree increase for the first time, which albeit temporary was significant.

To avoid catastrophic biodiversity loss the expansion of all new coal must stop. It all must be left in the ground. As Bill McKibben says: “We’ve simply got to keep coal and oil and gas in the ground; there’s not any other way to make the math of climate change even begin to work.” (1)

From the Carbon Market Institute in February 2016 “The debate is over – the massive economic impetus to a zero net emissions global economy is unstoppable and business gets it. Consensus has been reached among the world’s major political and economic actors that we are on an inevitable path to decarbonising our economies. The Paris Agreement states that emissions should peak “as soon as possible” with rapid reductions thereafter and includes a five-year cycle for reviewing emissions cuts with action to be continually ratcheted up. We are on a path to net zero emissions” (2)

Castellas CEO of the Carbon Market Institute, mentions that “business gets it”, and “Consensus has been reached among the world’s major political and economic actors”. This consensus means that there must be no new coal, not at Wilpinjong, not by Shenhua, not in water catchments or in the Galilee Basin. How do the coal industry get to have more power, influence than all the “world’s major political and economic actors.”

Maybe a few years ago the environmental impact could have been debated. But in the face of existential climate change, it is not a tweak in the EIS here, a tweak there to appease the local environment concerns, that is relevant.

I reject this mine not just the extension will destroy another 800 ha of land or further impact the Wollar community and its environs. It is not just that it is so close to the Goulburn River National Park and the Munghorn Gap Nature Reserve with its biodiversity and migration zones.  It is that no new coal can be dug up.

No new coal can be dug up in Australia.  No coal expansion in Australia approved.  Go ask the church, the communities, the university scientists, the drs, the nurses and other MOST TRUSTED professions. Call a moratorium until a referendum takes place if needs be. But stop coal finance and power taking away our kids’ futures.


I REJECT this application to expand based on the precarious nature of Peabody’s finances.

Wilpinjong Coal Mine in the Hunter is owned and operated by Peabody Energy US.

Peabody Energy (the largest pure coal play company in the world) is on the brink of bankruptcy, its share price hovering just below $3 down from $179 in Nov 2014 and $50 in mid-2015. It has $6bn debt and can’t pay its bills. (3) It certainly will not pay for any rehabilitation of damage caused at this mine to any level that is needed. And nothing it can pay will turn down the dial of planetary warming except if it stops mining coal.

On 29 Feb 2016 Peabody filed a report with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) detailing recent discussions with creditors and outlining potential debt swaps that would not guarantee any of the company’s existing debt.  Across the markets the question is being asked:  Is Peabody Energy Preparing for Bankruptcy? (4)

The question of coal’s impact on climate change must be first and foremost in the framework for approval. There are no economic benefits on a dead planet and certainly not for the lives that will be lost from climate change.

Isabel McIntosh, Sydney







I oppose the Westconnex M5 expansion through St Peters

Date:   26 January 2016

Re:      SSI 14_6788 EIS – Submission to Westconnex, New M5 Extension and St Peters Interchange and Euston Road widening.       

To:      NSW Department of Planning and Environment, GPO Box 39, Sydney

CC:     Premier Mike Baird

From: Isabel McIntosh, Alexandria Resident, Two streets from Euston Road.

Dear Minister Stokes and Minister Gay, Premier Baird and those who have responsibility for leadership in NSW.

I am writing regarding the WestConnex M5 expansion EIS, specifically its bisecting of the inner west and St Peters.  I strongly object to this expansion that will bisect the suburbs of the inner west within metres of people’s home and green space and does not engage with alternative solutions to achieve the government objectives or engage with best practice of sustainable and liveable and 21st century cities.

This Australia Day I should have been at the beach with my kids, enjoying a last holiday before school goes back. Instead I drafted a submission on WestConnex. The EIS tells me that the St Peters Interchange will dump 100,000 cars a day onto local roads. Beautiful Sydney Park will lose 14,000sq metres of land and 350 trees when one local road is widened for 60,000 of those extra cars. But where will these cars then go when they leave the six lanes for the single lane? Every time I look at the EIS I only have more questions.

I want to know where I can find an integrated assessment that looks at the cumulative impact of WestConnex. At the moment each bit of the environmental, social, cultural and economic damage is looked at in isolation. If a piece of fabric had so many rips it would be considered ruined.

  1. My significant questions
  2. Cumulative Impact
  3. Why is the financial cost so high
  4. Lack of Community Consultation


My significant questions

I have looked at the plans and the list of impacts that this new motorway will have as it cuts across the inner west from current M5 east exit to reach Haberfield. After assessing the impacts (which will be listed in many other submissions such as environment, health and social impact) my biggest questions are:

  1. Why is this road BISECTING these inner west suburbs and adding St Peters Interchange when another orbital option from current m5 east via Eastern Distributor far less impact?
  • There is already an industrialised corridor between the M5 to Haberfield via General Holmes Drive, Southern Cross Drive, Eastern Distributor, X city tunnel and Anzac Bridge.
  • CURRENTLY if a car is travelling from Parramatta to Airport this is the way they go.
  • M4 à (New M4 tunnel) à Haberfield à Anzac Bridge à X City Tunnel à Eastern Distributor à SX Drive à
  • IF someone going from Parramatta to Bexley they will not be using the proposed M5 tunnel they will cross through St Georges Rd.
  • Surely a huge amount could be saved if General Holmes Drive to Southern Cross Drive road is improved including that road mess outside Domestic Airport.

Westconnex (2)


  1. How does the Westconnex aid transportation to Port Botany? (why not fix up the train transport)
  2. Why does the project ignore alternatives for freight transportation and support unsustainable road freight. Surely the money would be better spent fixing up the FREIGHT train line so it can operate during the day and a solution is found so that it avoids commuter train line.

I strongly object to the M5 extension that ends up at St Peters Interchange because:

  • There is no logic to the road cutting through the inner west as a means to take Western Sydney traffic to airport or heavy trucks to the Port.
  • There is no logic why $500m per km of new road formed for freight to port botany when there is a freight train line that just needs a fix so can be used in the day.
  • The expense is enormous ($500m per km) for the listed benefit of travel time improvement of 1km per hour and the addition of thousands of new cars to suburban roads.
  • The project will remove 14,000 hectares of Sydney Park and place this special green space in the inner city amongst a roads dystopia.
  • The project lacks transparency and accountability and from a government perspective is without robust financial justification OR evaluation of alternatives to achieve the supposed objectives:
    • ORBITAL ROAD round Sydney… why bisect inner west and not improve General Holmes Drive to Eastern Distributor link?
    • CITIZEN TRANSPORTATION – Where is evaluation of alternatives such as improvement to trains, train parking hubs, public transport, and cycle ways?

I searched the EIS but could not find:

  • Any independent assessment of Greenhouse emission contribution – project claims, using an unsound methodology it will prevent $832 million of greenhouse gas pollution from being generated in spite of a forecast of 31% increase in traffic.
  • Any reference to cumulative impact – the synergies of all the individual damage.
  • Where is the noise modelling for residents living in two storey homes along its perimeter?
  • Where is reference to justification for exceeding national guidelines of PM2.5 particles?
  • Where is the cumulative impact assessment of loss of green space such as at Sydney Park?
  • How can the EIS admit that there is a risk of health impacts, including on users of Sydney Park, but delay information about its mitigation until after planning approvals?
  • Where is the independent assessment of the traffic modelling?
  • Evidence of Benefits? Westconnex is meant to go to the Port, take heavy traffic there. But it doesn’t? Does this mean that Westconnex fails to deliver its key objective?

MY OTHER CONCERNS  – and which 11 tomes of Environmental Impact Statement delivered the week before Xmas do not answer – 

Cumulative Impact

Where I can find an integrated assessment that looks at the cumulative impact of WestConnex? At the moment each bit of the environmental, social, cultural and economic damage is looked at in isolation. If a piece of fabric had so many rips it would be considered ruined.

Aside from the question of WHY this road has to bisect the inner west there is the long list of environmental and social impact it will have.

  • Increase of traffic from 7000 to 61,000 on Euston Rd/ McEvoy Street which will turn into 6 lane road. When RMS asked what will happen to the cars at end of 6 lanes or what their destination is the response was that “they will disperse”. Do they mean like Water Vapour? ACTION – A holistic planning needed of where and why those cars are going to Alexandria? AND why a route that takes them via Southern X Drive is not possible?

Why is the financial cost so high?

The cost of Westconnex is $500m PER square kilometre (total project cost $16.8bn divided by 33km of new roads). Surely a huge amount could be saved if General Holmes Drive to Southern Cross Drive road is improved including that road mess outside Domestic Airport.

Lack of Community Consultation

As I wade through the documents and the public discussion and the hundreds of question I feel that the NSW government and the private enterprises that will benefit from these roads are treating regular citizens like me as peasants: using institutional power to squash our knowledge; silencing our ability to critique. Yet this will be the largest transfer of public money to private companies in the history of NSW. That public money comes from tax payers paying their taxes… in all likelihood the opposite of assumed tax avoidance of the private companies who will benefit from the project.

Westconnex is not a “lie back and think of the economy” project.  Professor Newman, a distinguished academic, was once on the board of Infrastructure Australia. He says the twenty-first century cities is about building cities not roads. He says, Westconnex has no strategic purpose for economic productivity or sustainability in a knowledge economy. Instead it’s public transport, cycling and walking that are most important.

Just as a couple of final notes:

Our family of 5 uses public transport or cycling for most journeys including to and from work and so are never by traffic snarls. As the kids get older cycling is becoming more hazardous due to them not being allowed to ride on footpaths and the cycle snarls queuing at traffic lights (case in point is cnr Bourke Road and Huntley Street where sometimes 30 bikes and pedestrians waiting to cross road – all merging onto a footpath as no cycleway) My objection is the lack of logic and explanation for the M5 extension and bisecting of the inner west and adding tens of thousands of cars onto the roads. Research shows that more roads bring more cars. Where are the public transport solutions? Where are the safe separated cycleways?

I urge a full Federal audit of WestConnex.  This is the largest public transfer of money into private hands ever.

Yours sincerely

Isabel McIntosh

Alexandria NSW 2015

The TPP Opens Australia’s Borders to Corporate Dictators

My edited speech from Sydney’s TPP Rally in Martin Place, Sunday 23 August, 2015.

Thank you Pat. Firstly, I’d like to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, ancestors past and present and their connection to the land we now call Sydney.

AFTINET led by Pat Ranald has done a phenomenal job over the past few years of shining a spotlight on the TPP and calling on government accountability for this trade agreement that shifts from removing tariffs to a full sovereign takeover of our laws.

The other speakers have identified how the TPP will allow overseas corporates, Big Media, Big Pharma, Big Sugar, Big Agriculture to challenge Australian rights by a thousand cuts, hard fought for rights like the minimum wage and worker protections, 

Our Food bowl is under threat. Our Water is under threat.

The Abbott government wants to include provisions in the China Free Trade Agreement (CHAFTA) that would allow them to sue if our laws get in the way of their profits.

The Shenhua mine on the Liverpool plains in North West New South Wales is a massive China overseas project.

Our food bowl is under threat.

This week I was up on the Liverpool plains talking to farmers.

This area grows 37% of Australia’s mixed crops. Wheat, sorghum, barley, chickpeas, sunflowers are grown here. The farmers win awards.

I looked at the site of the proposed Shenhua coal mine. Farmers told me about the impact it would have on agriculture in the area.  A thirty-five square kilometre mine that is 280m deep right in the middle of Australia’s fertile land is going to have an impact.

Coal dust from the mine will layer on these crops and turn them from first rate to barely saleable.

This is the food bowl for Australia, the yields per hectare up there with the Darling Downs.

It makes sense that our laws protect this land.

Our Water Catchments are under threat

A few hours north of Sydney in the water catchments of the central coast, a mining corporation owned by the South Korean government wants to mine.

IF NSW changes laws to prevent mining in water catchments KORES can sue the NSW government due to the Korea Free Trade Agreement that Australia signed last year.

The mining rights over the stunning heritage Bylong valley just a few hours from Sydney are also owned by a South Korean government corporation. If changes to the law are used to protect this land, that company could sue.

If NSW changes laws to protect these environments these companies can sue.

That is because under the Korea Australia Free Trade Agreement (KAFTA) signed by Trade Minister Robb includes ISDS provisions.

Our agreement with South Korea is a single country agreement.

The TPP is that single country agreement on steroids. The TPP agreement is between the US, Canada and 10 other countries: Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Chile, Peru, Japan, Mexico, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam.

Guess which one the global corporates dictating the terms of the TPP come from?  The Big mining companies, Big pharmaceutical companies, Big media companies. Yup, America.

If  Trade Minister Andrew Robb signs the TPP that includes ISDS provisions, then Australia becomes simply an  ‘INVESTOR STATE’

Our sovereignty is under threat.

Under the TPP Australia becomes an investor state without border protections against overseas corporates. It opens its doors to foreign corporations and agree to let them override our laws for their profits – and to sue us if Australian governments put the interests of its citizens first.

It might be the minimum wage they don’t like. It could be the Pharmaceutical benefit scheme. It could be suing the NSW government for saying NO to a mining project in our water catchments.

Environmental campaigners campaign to protect for the long term. We get wins – like the water trigger being added to the EPBC requiring that water had to be taken into account in the approvals for big mining projects. In Coal Seam Gas we succeeded in erasing exploration licences, improving regulations, stopping coal seam gas projects on flood plains, and in Sydney Drinking Water Catchments.

Under the TPP the ability for campaigns to achieve new regulations that protect our environment and achieve environmental protection disappear. We need more help for governments who want to protect the environment for our future generations. Not less.  And this is where the TPP kicks in. If environmental protections are introduced that cost overseas corporation money then that overseas mining company can sue the state government.

The TPP replaces our sovereignty, and hopes and progressive dreams.

The world’s largest corporations have long been without borders. But the TPP means these corporate without borders will be able to sue our state government if they make laws that reduce their profits. Corporate Sovereignty replaces State Sovereignty.

It’s the invasion you have when you’re not having an invasion.

Let me tell you some examples that will make you sick:

  • US mining company Lone Pine used the North America Trade Agreement with Canada to sue the Quebec government $250m when it revoked the rights to frack under the St Lawrence River.  Lone Pine claims Quebec moratorium on fracking was “arbitrary” and “capricious”
  • US Pharma giant Eli Lilly is demanding $500 million from Canada, because Canada dared to reject some of its patents noting, quite correctly, that the drugs didn’t appear to be any improvement over existing drugs.
  • Tobacco Company Phillip Morris shifted its Head Office to Hong Kong where it could use ISDS provisions to sue the Australian government over plain packaging laws.
  • When Mexico put a restriction on high fructose corn syrup three different US corporates sued the Mexican government using investor-state provisions. Mexico lost. The bill $169 million dollars.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb says not to worry, “trust me” he says. Everything will be alright.

He says that the ISDS provisions are a protection.

He treats us like peasants, patronises our concerns. He’s forgotten who he represents.

He’s been seduced by the corporate power brokers, from companies that have no ethics or morals, a mercenary shambles of more more more more.

The TPP is not in the interests of Australian citizens.

IF the TPP is signed it is at the expense of our futures by a thousand cuts.

The TPP creates a cascade of power that will drown our laws, our sovereignty, our citizen rights.

It will create a cascade of power where

  • Government decision making will be dictated by foreign interests not our governments.
  • The balance of power will shift to overseas mining investors

South Africa, Ecuador, Venezuela have all terminated investment agreements. Yet Australia represented by ROBB (and ROBB alone it seems in a captain’s pick) wants to sign on.

Australia is NOT AN INVESTOR STATE. It is a sovereign nation.  Our laws cannot be dismissed. Our laws should not be overridden or not be put in place at all, simply because they get in the way of corporate profits.

Our Food bowl is under threat. Our Water is under threat.  Our Sovereignty is under threat.

Say no to CORPORATE SOVEREIGNTY. Say not Trade Deals. If it is not a FAIR DEAL for Australians (or Vietnamese, Mexicans, Malaysians …) it must be NO DEAL.


The dirtiest trade deal you’ve never heard of (Excellent Get Up video)

Those Crappy Trade Deals

ABC Background Briefing

ISDS Provisions – Myths and Facts

Biologics and the TPP

Wikileaks leaks Pharmaceutical Text


Note: John Howard did not support trade agreements that would allow the trading partner to sue Australia if our laws got in the way of their profits.

New Networks of Protest on Display in Adani Win

New Networks of Protest on display in Adani Win

On Wednesday 5 August the Federal Court overturned Adani’s authority to commence construction or operate in relation to its Carmichael coal mine in central Queensland.

In a response to the decision SMH journalist Michael West made the following summary of contemporary environmental protest strategies: ‘They use the court system, they engage with regulators and government. Their research is not plausibly challenged by industry, via detailed or credible rebuttals, but rather summarily denounced by noisy and unconvincing PR tactics’.

The mining industry has a poor record in responding when environmental protest directly challenges its legitimacy.  It was much easier for them when a few high profile environmental gurus like Bob Brown and state-aligned eNGOs like the Australian Conservation Fund dominated the space.  Now a diverse horizontal network of community groups, NGOs, progressive think tanks and expert witnesses work together, using multiple channels and civil resistance to challenge piece-by-piece mining’s entire narrative. Rather than simply calling on ‘the’ government to take action through “We want action on climate change” signs, they are taking it themselves.

In the Carmichael mine win, the Mackay Conservation Group (MCG) aligned with the NSW Environmental Defenders Office and GetUp! to challenge Adani.  MCG launched the federal court action in January, GetUp! raised the funds to pay for it and the NSW Environmental Defenders Office ran the case. Another non-profit eNGO used its media skills to communicate and disseminate the story that throughout 2015 has been reported by major mainstream news outlets including ABC, Fairfax and the Guardian and shared through social media.

This coming together of NGOs for specific issues-based campaigns is behind recent successes for Australia’s environment against coal and coal seam gas mining’s intentions. MCG is a non-profit community group with just four employees and annual revenues of about $300,000. Its volunteer base brings significant local engagement and deep knowledge to issues that affect the Great Barrier Reef.  GetUp! has a database of hundreds of thousands of Australians from every corner of the continent who trust them to find and amplify campaigns that need supporting.  The EDO is rich in legal expertise on using law to challenge the degradation of the environment.

Eight hours after the Federal Court overturned Adani’s authority the Commonwealth Bank announced it was withdrawing any future financial interest in the Carmichael project. A different alliance of NGOs including, Market Forces and the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) had been leading that campaign independent to MCG’s court case. ‘We Won! CBA cuts ties with Adani’ was the subject header for the email to AYCC’s subscriber list. ‘Massive win: Commbank exits Carmichael coal!!!’ announced Market Forces telling its e-base , ‘We’re so close to winning one of the biggest environmental campaigns the world has seen in recent years’.  Two days later UK Bank Standard Chartered also announced it was ending its financial interest in the Adani mine, the culmination of another targetted campaign.

Representations of the environment movement as an anti-economic, greenie and tree-hugging ‘other’ to working society have been challenged as people like Alan Jones, John Hewson and Ian Dunlop speak up against the mining industry.  Old school lefties mutter they don’t want to be involved in a ‘movement’ that includes Alan Jones.  These notions of a movement structure with boundaries and exclusion zones no longer hold, replaced by a meshwork of hundreds of self-organising nodes, community organisations and high-profile spokespeople, eNGOs, non-incorporated groups and Greens MPs who work together through a dynamic set of continually reforming horizontal connections.

In Australia’s multi-site coal and coal seam gas campaigning multiple strategies run in parallel and independent in execution. NGOs have their speciality areas: MarketForces on mine financing, on divestment, Lock the Gate Alliance on building landowner resilience, community groups on MP and local engagement, ‘greenies’ on biodiversity, thinktanks and politicos on policy.

Campaigning is no longer simply reaction and protest but a complex narrative of civil resistance.  Grievances have transformed into intent, demands for change have been enacted into specific goals, and spaces for direct confrontation and engagement created. Non-violent direct action is more than blockading or the peaceful disruption mining operations. It is refusing to do what is expected, it is the disruption and challenging of the status quo and recalibrating the norms and forms of the public sphere. Civil resistance includes disobedience but it also includes researching and uncovering in depth content, monitoring budget information, tracking political donations and documenting undue process or regulation breaches. Through media and e-networks, social media and networks of trusts mining leaders are directly called up to answer the question.

In an AFR interview last year Santos CEO David Knox said, ‘This whole issue of explaining our story in public . . . it’s been a real challenge for me. It has taken a lot longer and it has been a lot more challenging than we envisaged.’ In another interview he describes how using ‘the right language’ is important to develop coal seam gas projects.  He’s referring to finding the political language that induces community support. The mining industry has no doubt about its legitimacy or authority but as Managing Director of QGC, Derek Fisher moans, the resource sector must now ‘constantly make and remake the case for our industry and the numerous advantages it is bringing to Australia’.

Social power involves thousands of people and groups participating in acts and forming networks and alliances to challenge the status quo.  Social transformation occurs when those who support key power holder start shift their loyalties. The game-changers for this in environmental campaigns cost money: research and legal representation.  Recent court cases have shown how mining’s data on job creation or environmental impact do not stand up when interrogated and challenged in a court of law. The content and concerns that mining companies describe as misinformation through media is given new credibility. When Richard Denniss from the Australia Institute challenged the economic modelling for Rio Tinto’s Warkworth mine expansion in the NSW Supreme Court the community of Bulga won. Last year Anglo-American’s South Drayton coal project was rejected by the NSW Planning Assessment Commission after the Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders Association paid tens of thousands of dollars for its own independent economic report.

West might describe how NGOs have become increasingly well-funded and savvy when it comes to fighting the fossil fuel industry at every step. However it’s the return of community organisation and this network of horizontal alliances supported by NGO resources in the background that are pillar by pillar removing fossil fuel mining’s ability to proceed.

Jenny Leunig’s Mural

Jenny Leunig’s Mural

In 2012 Lismore grandma Jenny Leunig hit the roof over Coal Seam Gas (CSG). Literally. The retired public servant commissioned a local artist to paint a six-by-four metre canvas for her roof after she attended a public meeting on coal seam gas mining in the Northern Rivers.

“I came home thinking, what can an old Nanoo do to help fight this filthy CSG industry, and it brought back a story that I was told over 40 years ago. The local indigenous story of the Sleeping Warrior of the Nightcap Range who still lies in watch over the village of Nimbin,” she said.

Originally the words at the top of the mural said, ‘No to CSG. Yes to Clean Water’.  But after Lismore residents voted in a referendum in September 2012 she changed it to ‘87% Voted No to CSG’. The mayor of Lismore congratulated her in a Facebook post. Lismore’s daily newspaper ran a story and faster than methane leaking from a gas well the banner became a local icon.

The mural was Jenny’s first ever step into activism. Soon after she became a Knitting Nanna against Gas (KNAG), joining other grandmas with their balls of black and yellow wall to sit and knit in peaceful, productive protest against unconventional gas mining. ‘We sit, knit, plot, have a yarn and a cuppa, and bear witness to the war against those who try to rape our land and divide our communities’, reads the KNAG’s “Nannafesto”. Their peaceful protest aims to show “just how far from radical” the people who oppose mining are.

Then in December 2014 Jenny had a call from her landlord. Two National party city councillors had complained about the mural. She was told that if the banner wasn’t removed within two weeks, the council would fine her landlord $750 fine for unlawful advertising.

Jenny phoned her landlord and asked if he would let her sort things out. Jenny phoned the Lismore Council who gave a two week extension on their demand. They sent a case-worker to her home to have a look. She was asked again to take it down.  ‘No’, said Jenny.

Jenny wrote to the council and in this written submission argued that the mural was a piece of art. In more than two years there had not been a single complaint.  She defended the mural explaining how the words “87% Say No to CSG” had been used on council signage across Lismore.

The council staff decided it was not a matter for them and referred it to a council meeting. The local television station ran a story  called, ‘The Question of Art’. Byron News ran a story with the headline, ‘Iconic Anti-CSG Mural Under Threat’. ABC ran a story.

The Northern Star publishes a photo worthy of Tracey Moffat, silhouetting the everyday characters of grandma and granddaughter and a white picket fence with the roof-artwork behind framed against curtain of dark trees and deep blue sky. On Facebook, Gasfield Free Northern Rivers posts a message of support: ‘We all hope Jenny Leunig does not have to take down her famous rooftop mural in Lismore because of state planning laws. We love it…and Jenny.’

Jenny Leunig Photo in Northern Star

As the Council meeting day approaches local networks get busy on social media and public websites circulating the details. On the day of the meeting Jenny tells her Facebook friends, “I think I’m ready, and I’m pretty sure I’ve got it down to 5 minutes, unless I get a tummy upset or start (hysterical) laughing. No heckling whilst I’m talking tonight people cos time is precious.”  It has been a challenge to  get her all words into the five time allocation. “I was worried if people heckled I wouldn’t get time to say it all,” she said.

The council chambers are full for the meeting. Jenny argues her case and against any penalties: “I would like to state there’s not much point in fining me because I am an aged pensioner paying rent … and I’ve spent most of my daughter’s inheritance on fighting the gas exploration industry. You can’t get blood out of a stone.”

A motion is moved that the Council takes no further compliance or enforcement action in relation to the CSG-artwork in its present form.  It’s moved that further investigation is an inappropriate allocation and focus for Council resources.  Seven councillors vote aye. Three councillors vote nay.

At the conclusion Jenny leaped up and planted a big kiss on the bald head of the councillor who put in the complaint. She thanked him for the publicity. In a follow up letter to Jenny the Council requested that one day the mural be donated to the local library or art gallery.

It’s a rare metropolis that allows mining in its catchments

Sydney is a rare metropolis to allow mining in its water catchments.

Two weeks out from the NSW election the Baird government has announced the cancellation of three coal seam gas licences covering a small part the Sydney Drinking Water Catchments. Liberal MP Mark Coure, who holds the south west Sydney seat of Oatley by a margin of just a 3.8%, described the cancellation on his Facebook page as a win for the campaigning he had been doing to “protect our drinking water supply”.

Yet, he has said nothing on Wollongong Coal’s application for nine new longwalls  within 300 metres of the Cataract Dam. The decision for this application to undermine another 5,000,000 tonnes of coking coal from the water catchments is due out from the NSW Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) by 20 March. 

Sydney is a rare metropolis to have a pristine natural water supply on its doorsteps. Warragamba Dam is the largest but the Woronora, Cataract, Nepean, Cordeaux and Avon dams are also significant in this network which, without drawing on aquifers, takes groundwater flow from creeks and rivers and delivers it to Sydney and the Illawarra’s nearly five million population.  

Sydney is also a rare metropolis as the only city in the world, confirmed in a report last year by the NSW Chief Scientist, that allows mining in its publicly owned water catchments. No other country allows this. India doesn’t. America doesn’t. China doesn’t.  

All of Sydney’s major dams and their surrounding areas are still covered by the AGL-owned coal seam gas licence, PEL 2, the large coal seam gas licence runs from the water catchment areas of the Southern Highlands across the dams of Sydney and up to the Central Coast.  Three coal mining companies also already operate multiple mines in the Special Areas of Sydney’s catchments: Wollongong Coal, Peabody, the world’s largest private sector coal mining company and BHP.

When you drive into any of Sydney’s dams, fences protect the road on either side and there are signs every few hundred metres warning against trespassing.  This area is so protected that a bushwalker who ventures in could be fined $44,000.  Last December an application by Wollongong Coal for a new longwall mine near the Cataract Dam was approved by NSW Planning Department even though the one mine is expected to cause subsidence of nearly two metres and an increase in groundwater drainage loss of up to 1.6 million litres a day.

Mining in Sydney’ drinking water catchments is one of the great public secrets even though its damage to swamps, contamination of water-ways, cracking of riverbeds and impact on groundwater loss is well-documented. Rather than taking a precautionary approach, policy since the 1980s has been one of risk management: that is, potential damage should not block an approval being given. There is no consideration for cumulative impact either. Approvals are piecemeal. Damage is fixed piecemeal. It’s like sewing up tear after tear in a piece of clothing while pretending the overall garment retains its original condition.  

At an election forum in Narrabeen on Sydney’s Northern Beaches on Monday 9 March, the NSW Environment Minister Rob Stokes told an audience member “that’s a different story” when asked about longwall coalmining in the special areas of Sydney’s protected drinking catchments. Consistently the expansion of longwall coal mining in the catchments is a topic that both the NSW Labor and Liberal parties refuse to discuss.

 In February, campaigners walked 165km from Cataract Dam into the centre of Sydney as part of a Walk for Water to draw attention to these issues. The walk passed the electoral offices of eight NSW MPS on its way. The only MP who accepted an invitation to talk to the group was the Greens MP Jamie Parker. The MP for Parramatta, Liberal Geoff Lee, cancelled a pre-arranged meeting five minutes before its start time sending an SMS message saying “something has come up”. Cabramatta MP Nick Lalich said he’d walk with the walkers then cancelled. NSW Mining Minister Anthony Roberts was simply out of office. Others said they were too busy.

Greens MP Jamie Parker said that when MPS “have to refuse to attend something it is not easy for them.” Mining’s impact on groundwater, aquifers, bore-water, dam safety and the long-term security of Sydney Drinking Water Catchments is not one the government can hide from. It’s not the bush-walkers who should be locked out of the wilderness on Sydney’s doorstep. It is all mining.

The future of coal and coal seam gas mining on agricultural land, in forests and water catchments is a hot topic as NSW gets ready to vote on 28 March.  On 1 March a door-knocking survey of more than 8000 households in Manly, the electorate of Premier Baird, returned a figure of 96% of people saying they wanted better protection for water catchments and farmland from coal and coal seam gas mining..

Before the 2011 election then premier Barry O’Farrell said, “The next Liberal/National Government will ensure that mining cannot occur…in any water catchment area, and will ensure that mining leases and mining exploration permits reflect that common sense; no ifs, no buts, a guarantee.” It is more than common sense to ban mining in water catchments, it is a no-brainer. The clock is ticking for Baird to say it’s time.   

Isabel McIntosh is a member of Protect Sydney’s Water, an alliance of community groups campaigning to stop mining in Sydney’s drinking water catchments.

A sydney Dam 

Enviro Activists Standing as LH Candidates – NSW Votes 2015

There are some things that can be fixed inter-generationally. And others that if we fail now are lost forever. Lake Pedder in Tasmania was irreversibly lost and the same went for the many forests. The damage and loss from a coal-mine on fertile agricultural land can never be undone. Neither can impact to the Great Artesian Basin from fracking’s damage to aquifers or the draw down of water. And of course there’s coal’s direct relationship to climate change.

On 28 March NSW Votes. This blog page is to identify candidates who have been activist campaigners on specific environmental campaigns in NSW with this their lead area of community participation. Environmental activism is a full-time commitment and a rich source of skills development that includes community building, campaign strategy, non violent direct action, meeting with MPs, consensus building across diverse stakeholders, policy writing, building advocacy networks of academic and local knowledge experts and mounting a direct challenge to the narrative of government.

This experience goes far beyond the PR grab of saying what “should” be done but actively mounting the case using social power and communications. It’s about confronting the narrative and the perpetrators front on and getting into the field. Who can forget Ian Cohen (later an MP) in 1986 on a surfboard swimming in front of a nuclear ship in Sydney harbour. Or the tree protestors who blockaded at Terania Creek and across NSW in the 1980s. More recently the lock the gate strategy of getting onto the land to stop mining’s destruction at the mining sites themselves has engaged thousands across NSW. It’s not easy work but it is effective and at the core of social change. This work challenges the paradigm of hierarchical institutional power, it is the core of bringing about change as not just about saying what should be done but engaging broadbase networks to bring the change.

So why are there so few environmental campaigners standing as candidates? Is it that they don’t gain party institutional support as unaligned to internal power structures? You would think their deep experience to build broadbase networks and engage deeply on issues would give them strong community support. Is it that their consensus model goes against internal factional power plays?

NSW Labor says Luke Foley is  an environmental activist? Do they mean for the four years he was a union organiser with the NSW branch of the Australian Services Union or when he was assistant general secretary of the New South Wales Labor Party from 2003 to 2010 before entering politics. Maybe they mean when he was a telemarketer for the Guide Dog Association of NSW? It can’t have been when he was a political staffer as from that point he was part of Labor machine all the way to his Upper House seat. Sure he has environment as one of his issues, so did Bob Carr. But what exactly did they stop in the way Jack Mundey stopped the bulldozers in Sydney? What community campaign to protect environment did they work unpaid in to build social power in to stop the perpetrator?

Help me build the list.

Forget whether someone says they’re ‘passionate’ about the environment or spouts screeds on what “we” should do to stop climate change or protect rivers. Criteria for inclusion is that they have been out there building social power outside of politically aligned circles. I’m looking for examples of specific campaigns they helped build the community base for. I’m looking for how they confronted the perpetrator in specific environmental campaigns.

Attending a rally doesn’t count. Writing a PAC submission and speaking to it at the hearing does.


Pittwater – Felicity Davis (Greens) – Long term campaigner on numerous NSW enviro campaign including most recently Leard Forest.

Lismore – Adam Guise (Greens) – Lock the Gate organiser, Bentley Blockade organiser

Manly – Annie Wright (CDP) – CSG Campaigner, set up Aussies Against Fracking

Barwon – Rohan Boehm (Independent) – Community leader, Coal Seam Gas campaigner and member of NW NSW Alliance.

Tamworth – Pat Schwartz (Greens) – Arrested at Pilliga State Forest for blockading Santos’ industrialised coal seam gas project

Hawkesbury – Danielle Wheeler (Greens) – Member and organiser in Hawkesbury Environment Network


Justin Field is third on the Greens ticket, he has spent past 4 years campaigning against CSG and coal in NSW across the state in both a paid and unpaid capacity.

Dawn Walker is fourth on the Greens ticket have been directly involved in environmental campaigns in the Northern Rivers.

The Independents  – Group P on Upper House Ticket – many NW NSW anti CSG and Coal campaigners against Shenhua (on Liverpool Plains), Santos (in Pilliga State Forest) and Whitehaven (in Leard State Forest)

Minister Byron Smith arrest at Maules Creek 12Mar14 Protestor???????????????????????Gasfield free shire


On the politics and economics of the present


Pluralism and Individuation in a World of Becoming

Feminist Legal Clinic

Advancing the Human Rights of Women & Girls

Councillor Irene Doutney

City of Sydney Greens Councillor