Thorny News Update


We would like to say a big thank you to the volunteers who ran the coffee stall at Wide Open Space Festival the previous weekend, in particular Jodi Lennox who coordinated the stall with the support of Barb Molanus, and Kim and Estelle from Duyu Coffee who facilitated the fundraiser. A big thank you to those who baked cakes and dropped them off. In total we raised $3000 which is a great start to fundraising for the year.

Speaking of fundraisers, we have our first fundraising event, One World, coming up on Saturday 4th June in the Page 27 lane way for World Environment Day. With no ongoing operational funds, it is critical we continue to fundraise so please put this date in your calendars.

We also are celebrating our first birthday in the Gap next Friday 20th with a RePower Alice Springs community info night, followed by a BBQ and birthday cake. This is just a quick event to update the community on where things are up to with the campaign, and celebrate another year of existence for ALEC! Can anyone volunteer to make us a birthday cake?

Next week, May 16-22nd, is a national week of action against our politicians receiving donations from fossil fuel companies. Is there anyone in Alice who is interested in facilitating an approach to our local members, Warren Snowden and Nigel Scullion, to pledge to ban donations from fossil fuel companies? Check out more information here...

Also, a reminder to check your enrolment status ASAP as the election has now been called for July 2nd. Go to

Keep well,

ALEC Communications and Campaigns Manager

ALEC Federal Election Asks

1. Real action on climate change
  • Increased carbon emission reduction targets to at least 60% by 2030 and 100% before 2050.
  • Supportive policies for renewable energy investment.
  • Support for regional climate adaptation plans across the arid zone of Australia
2. Stronger environmental protection laws
  • Strengthen the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to include shale gas under the water trigger legislation (currently limited to coal seam gas)
  • Strengthen the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to include a climate trigger for projects with high carbon emissions.
  • Establish a national environment protection agency.
3. Inquiry into national radioactive waste management
  • Explore all options for permanent storage and management of Australia’s existing stockpiles of low and intermediate-level waste, while also exploring options for the future reduction of radioactive waste creation.
4. Increased funding for indigenous ranger programs
  • Make a federal commitment to resource Indigenous Protected Areas - most of which are in the arid zone.
5. Sustainable development for Northern Australia
  • Ensure that Northern Australian Development policies and tax-payer funded investments incorporate the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

ALEC Media

Media Statement Tuesday 10th May
ALEC welcomes no nuclear waste dump in the NT, however expresses concern for Flinders Ranges communities.
The Arid Lands Environment Centre has welcomed the news that the proposed nuclear waste dump at Hale, 70kms south of Alice Springs, will not go ahead. Last week Federal Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg announced that Barndioota in the Flinders Ranges region of SA is the only site that will be further assessed to host the national radioactive waste facility.
However ALEC has significant concerns around the Flinders Ranges site selection, the lack of consultation with local communities and the impacts on local Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners.
The Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association CEO Vince Coulthard said in a press release “This is our land, we have been here forever and we will always be here and we are totally opposed to this dump. ATLA is the main “key stakeholder” yet they have shown us no respect. This is in our sacred country with a very important spring just nearby. This is another example of cultural genocide. This cannot happen!”
“Whilst ALEC is relieved that the nuclear waste dump will not be located in Central Australia, we have significant concerns about the process. Australia needs an independent commission of inquiry into the production and management of nuclear waste. The toxic legacy of the nuclear industry must be addressed and not forced onto unwilling communities,” said Jimmy Cocking, Director of the Arid Lands Environment Centre.
“The Alice Springs community response to the nomination of the Hale site is testament to the power of collective action. There was strong support for the Oak Valley traditional owners and the communities of Titjikala and Santa Teresa in opposing the nomination, and this was communicated clearly to the Federal Government,” said Jimmy Cocking.
“ALEC acknowledges the stress this process has put on these local communities. While feeling relieved by this announcement, we are all concerned for the Adnyamathanha traditional owners and Flinders Ranges residents in the struggle they now face,” said Jimmy Cocking.
“The world is turning its back on fossil fuels and the nuclear industry, the future is in renewables. The Federal Government would be wise to follow suit,” said Jimmy Cocking.
More information:
Southern Cross News SA – Community members vow to oppose dump
Indigenous elders outraged at site earmarked for Australia’s first nuclear waste dump
Support for Barndioota Media Statement

Media Release Thursday 12th May
RePower Alice Springs Community Information Night
5.30pm Friday 20th May, ALEC 90 Gap Road
 Plus ALEC Celebrates 1st Anniversary in the Gap
The Arid Lands Environment Centre will be hosting a community information night on Friday 20th May about the RePower Alice Springs campaign.
The RePower Alice Springs group formed in response to the recent $75 million investment into gas infrastructure by the NT Government, without any accompanying strategy for investment into renewable energy.
“With over 300 sunny days every year, Alice Springs has some of the highest solar potential in the world. Whilst all over the world communities are making the transition to renewables, the NT Government remains fixated on fossil fuels, with no energy policy and no vision for a renewable energy future. RePower Alice Springs wants a commitment to transition Alice Springs to 100% renewable energy by 2030,” said Lou Stanley spokesperson for RePower Alice Springs.
“The ACT has just made the commitment to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2020. Now it's Alice Springs turn. The technology solutions are available and the local community is eager to benefit from all the opportunities that a solar transition will bring: clean energy, clean jobs and a clean future for our town,” Miss Stanley said.
“When the announcement was made about the $75 million investment into fossil fuel infrastructure, a number of community members approached us who were incredibly concerned over what the implications would be for future solar investment in Alice Springs,” said Jimmy Cocking, Director of the Arid Lands Environment Centre. “We have been able to provide organisational support to the community group developing the campaign, and have been working alongside the group to make sure we can provide the best energy outcome for Alice Springs. The future is in solar, not gas,” said Mr Cocking.
“We are also taking this opportunity to celebrate our first year of ALEC at its new location at 90 Gap Road. When we lost our funding the community really got behind ALEC, and this building was purchased that enables us to pay less than market rent. It’s an ongoing pressure to fundraise to keep the doors open, however 2 years later we are still doing what we do best – standing up for the environment of Central Australia,” said Mr Cocking.
Representatives from RePower Alice Springs will provide an update about the campaign, which will be followed by a BBQ, salads, drinks and birthday cake to celebrate the birthday of ALEC. This is a family friendly event.

RePower Alice Springs

Cake donations needed

We need a couple of people to make a cake for the RePower Alice Springs/ALEC B'day event. Please let us know if you can help!

Alice Springs Community Garden


ASCG Working Bees are every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month 8am -11am. Frances Smith Memorial Park, Bourke St. All welcome!

desertSMART EcoFair

Volunteer needed to drop EcoFair Science Schools day registration and information forms to schools. Dates: 23rd to 27th of May
Please email Carmel -

Central Australian Frack Free Alliance

Let's Protect our Water 4 Life!! 

On Tuesday 17 May a national day of action is being held as part of the Lock the Gate Federal Election campaign – Water4Life.
The 'Water4Life' Campaign aims to put water on the national election agenda and asks our politicians & election candidates to commit to protecting our water sources. Specifically we are asking for them to commit to our full Water4Life Index, and we’ll be judging them against it.
CAFFA will be holding an event as part of the day of action on Tuesday 17 May from 12:00pm - 1:00pm.
We will gather outside Warren Snowden’s office (Cnr Gregory Tce & Hartley Sts) at 12:00pm to hold a peaceful presence. We will then head to Nigel Scullion's office & finish at the Council lawns. 

A working bee to prepare banners & props will be held on Saturday afternoon 14 May from 2:00pm – 4:00pm, at the Arid Lands Environment Centre, 90 Gap Rd.

Results of the Old East-side Community Survey soon to be released!!
In February the CAFFA team started a door to door community survey of residents in old East side to find out people’s views on Fracking in Central Australia. We are excited to announce that we are almost finished & are planning for a celebration & launch of the results on Sunday 29 May at 4:30pm at Gosse st Park. 
Come & help us celebrate this huge achievement – 500 houses door knocked in just 3 months!

We Need You – Get Involved!!
CAFFA currently has a core of about 10 people who are actively involved in helping coordinate the campaign – that’s 10 people for the 300 plus people who receive these emails!!
In the lead-up to the election we need EVERYONE to get involved. If you have been following the campaign and support our cause please get in touch to get involved. We need every bit of help we can get. You don’t need to commit lots of time there’s small jobs to be done that you can even do at home! 
Please get in touch to find out more or come to our next meeting - Monday 16 May at 5:30pm at the ALEC Office – 90 Gap Rd (cnr of Kraegen St & Gap Rd – Opposite Pigglys Grocery).
Tanya Hall

Beyond Nuclear Initiative

Down The Radioactive Rabbit Hole: Questions Keep Mounting

Adnyamathanha Elders are “shattered” that of the six sites shortlisted by the Federal Government for a national nuclear waste dump, the one on Wallerberdina Station in the Barndioota region of South Australia, is now the only one pegged for further assessment.

One Adnyamathanha woman Regina McKenzie, who is a direct neighbour to the nominated site, said the community is devastated, “like somebody had rang us up and told us somebody had passed away”. The Australian Conservation Foundation, too, are calling the proposal “disturbingly familiar to past failed federal approaches.”

Image: Regina McKenzie

The nominated site, leased as a pastoral property from the South Australian Government by ex-Liberal Senator Greg Chapman, is located next door to Yappala Station, which was declared an Indigenous Protected Area by the Federal Government in 2014.

There are many thousands of Aboriginal artefacts registered in the area, including an ancient Aboriginal skull fragment. The Adnyamathanha people have been meticulously mapping and registering the storylines and sites. The landscape is stunning, with Hookina Creek on the property framed by the iconic Flinders Ranges. Wilpena Pound is around 30 kilometres away.

Minister Josh Frydenberg had accepted six site nominations out of the 28 that were originally put forward. Communities in each of the six areas – Barndioota included – formed action groups and began a process of building local awareness and conveying opposition to the government during a 120 day ‘consultation’ period prior to the Minister’s recent decision.

There was also an unprecedented display of solidarity between the affected communities, with social media discussions evolving into a joint lobbying trip to Canberra in early March 2016. When the shortlist was announced on Friday April 29, representatives from all of the groups released a joint statementreiterating support for their friends and colleagues at the named site.

Buried in Minister Frydenberg’s media release was a comment that “the government remains open to considering new expressions of interest for additional facility sites or locations”. With the dust and initial shock still settling for the South Australian mob, this sentence begins to stand out from the rest of the text.

If the government was so confident about achieving the ‘broad level of community support’ needed to progress discussions in the Barndioota region and obtain consent for any future waste facility, why would they be entertaining the acceptance of other nominations?

Communities shocked to find they were on the earlier list of six shortlisted sites were given 120 days to hear from Department representatives and discuss the proposals – and to build their local campaigns. 

Parallel to this, an Independent Advisory Panel was meeting to compare and analyse the sites according to their ‘Multi-Site Criteria Analysis’. Any further nominations would surely need to be subject to at least the same level of discussion and scrutiny for this to be considered a fair process.

So has the nomination process recommenced? Will it be advertised again in the national papers, or is the government relying on people to take initiative and study the project website page calling for nominations even though the (very short) shortlist of one possible site has been announced?

How long will nominations remain open and how will communities find out that a site in their region might have been nominated?

And what does this mean for Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners and local residents who are on a knife-edge coming into this ‘Phase 2’ of the consultation process? How long will this process now drag on for them as the ‘preferred so far but maybe we can find something better’ location?

The mental health impacts for communities in nominated areas cannot be downplayed.

Residents in the Kimba region of South Australia spoke openly about how the nomination process had damaged and divided the community. Traditional Owners of Muckaty in the Northern Territory, whose spirited and sustained resistance defeated a long standing earlier federal dump plan in 2014, have constantly spoken of how stressful it was having the government target their land. 

Young Warramungu and Warlmanpa woman Kylie Sambo reflected on this experience in a recent support message to the Adnyamathanha. “I know you will be deeply hurt. We were so confused and scared. People got sick with worry, some old people even passed away during our fight. I learned so much about how tricky and cruel the government can really be,” Sambo said.

For over twenty years now, a succession of Federal Government Ministers have tried the same divisive Decide-Announce-Defend tactics, hoping to steamroll a facility onto a site considered politically vulnerable and expendable.

Each time they have been challenged and beaten by remote Aboriginal communities organising locally and in alliance with civil society organisations, including national public health groups, environment groups and trade unions.

Radioactive waste management is a social justice and environmental issue. Traditional Owners living remotely across Australia have repeatedly refused to allow their country to be used as a sacrifice zone.

Any responsible approach needs to start with a commitment to stop the production of more waste and the phase out of the nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights. We need processes that will transcend election cycles in favour of respect for country and communities, both now and long into the future. 

Until then, every attempt to dump the waste ‘out of site out of mind’ on unwilling communities will be met with fierce resistance.

Natalie Wasley

Community Notices


Community Cactus Control Day at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station

Sunday 15th May 9:00-11:00am 2016 
After 4 years of chemical control we need your help to hand remove re-invading Coral Cactus plants. Learn how to map and treat this weed and make a significant contribution to its control. Meet at the Telegraph Station picnic area, in front of the Trail Station. Please wear suitable covered footwear for walking over rocky terrain. Tools and gloves will be available on the day. For information contact Andy Vinter on ph 0429 977 436. RSVP to this email, but OK to attend without notice. Check out our website:

FYI Media Articles...

Canberra leads the country on clean energy

Based on recent history, it's anyone's guess who the Australian prime minister will be in four years. But in 2020, whoever is in The Lodge and Parliament House, those buildings will be powered 100 per cent by renewable energy, based on new ACT government policy.

The ACT is well known as a leader on a range of social issues and more recently on climate change. It already has set ambitious climate targets, early support for battery storage and plans for fossil fuel divestment. This week the ACT government announced it will move even faster, replacing coal with clean energy in just four years.

By 2020, Canberra aims to have all its energy from renewable sources. Photo: Jessica Shapiro 

As the national climate debate heads back into yet another scare-campaign death spiral, the ACT government and others are showing that ambition is not just necessary but feasible, economically and politically.

Although national policy uncertainty and reluctant energy companies have led to large-scale renewables investment plummeting in recent years, the ACT is driving wind and large solar through its innovative reverse auction process. In fact, the ACT is behind nearly all of what is being built. The low prices attracted and the strong local support for renewables are impelling the government to go further.

This must be galling to federal ministers and backbenchers who, in this hottest year so far, still dismiss the torrent of ever-worse news telling us we need to shift our energy sources, and quickly. It should be especially concerning to those who stand to gain from digging up more coal.

Mike Henry, president of coal at BHP, complained that coal was losing the public relations battle: "Recent research conducted for the industry indicated that there is a widespread public view that coal use will be phased out over the next 10 to 20 years in favour of renewables".

Of course, Henry is right that realising this "widespread perception" requires changing our policies. But that is precisely what the ACT government is showing is possible.

That is why subnational action can be so powerful. The scarce resource in this energy transition is political will, which must be cultivated and demonstrated wherever it is found.

What is increasingly strange, however, is the widespread support for a faster shift to renewables has so rarely been met with action. By making the most of the opportunity, the ACT government is putting pressure on others to do more.

By increasing ambition even further, the ACT Labor Party is setting the stage for a clean-energy election in the ACT in October. It could have Canberra Liberals caught between the views of their federal colleagues and those of their constituents.

ReachTEL polling for The Australia Institute last year found almost four in five Canberrans support the previous target of 100 per cent by 2025, with a majority expressing strong support.

Three in four said to meet the target it would be worth paying more on their bills, and two in three nominated paying $5 or more a week. That is roughly what the government expects it to cost at the peak, declining in later years, and offset by the savings recovered through energy efficiency programs, not to mention the boost to clean-energy innovation and investment in the territory.

What's more, Canberra's leadership is the envy of voters nationwide. In national polling conducted last year, three in four Australians said they wanted their own state governments to adopt a policy similar to the ACT's.

Under the national carbon price, state governments had agreed to withdraw from cutting emissions, "handing over" responsibility to the federal government. It's now clear that wasn't such a great idea.

State and even local governments have recently adopted their own targets and policies to boost renewables in their jurisdictions, but few have raised the ante as rapidly as the ACT.

While the Canberra-based wing of the fossil fuel industry – their lobbyists and political supporters – try to scare us into thinking the transition to 100 per cent renewables will be a disaster, the ACT government is just getting on with it, and the benefits of doing so, directly and through the impact of its leadership on others, will flow for decades to come.

Tom Swann is a researcher at The Australia Institute and reigning ACT Environmentalist of the Year.

Global warming milestone about to be passed and there's no going back

Within the next couple of weeks, a remote part of north-western Tasmania is likely to grab headlines around the world as a major climate change marker is passed.

The aptly named Cape Grim monitoring site jointly run by CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology will witness the first baseline reading of 400 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, researchers predict.

"Once it's over [400 ppm], it won't go back," said Paul Fraser, dubbed by CSIRO as the Air Man of Cape Grim, and now a retired CSIRO fellow. "It could be within 10 days."

The most recent reading on May 6 was 399.9 ppm, according to readings compiled by the CSIRO team led by Paul Krummel that strip out influences from land, including cities such as Melbourne to the north. (See chart below, with the red line showing the baseline CO2.)

Political heat

The approaching global CO2 threshold comes as climate change looks like becoming one of the key issues in Australia's election campaign.

The Turnbull government has made clear it will oppose Labor's proposals for an emissions trading scheme that will again put a price on carbon pollution.

The Cape Grim greenhouse gas station in Tasmania, run in partnership by CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, tracks some of the cleanest air in the world.

New data out on Tuesday show that emissions from the country's main electricity grid covering the eastern states have risen 5.7 per cent - or 8.7 million tonnes - in the year to April compared with the final 12 months of the carbon tax that the Abbott government scrapped in July 2014, according to energy consultants Pitt & Sherry.

The share of coal in the National Electricity Market has risen to 76.2 per cent - its highest level since September 2012 - from 72.3 per cent during the period since June 2014, the consultants' latest Cedex report said.

Mark Butler, Labor's shadow environment minister, said the Cape Grim landmark reading was "deeply concerning".

"While the Coalition fights about whether or not the science of climate change is real, pollution is rising. And it's rising on their watch," Mr Butler said.

Greens deputy leader Larissa Waters said the Cape Grim result "should act as a global wake-up call and must shock both Australian big political parties out of their blind coal-obsession which is literally cooking our planet and our Great Barrier Reef".

"Our atmosphere cannot take any new coal mines – both the old parties must stop approving them and revoke their approval of the Adani coal mine [in Queensland] at both the state and federal level," Senator Waters said.

A spokesman for Environment Minister Greg Hunt defended the government's climate policies."There is now absolutely no doubt that we will beat our 2020 target" of cutting 2000-level emissions by 5 per cent by then, the spokesman said. "We are playing our part to tackle climate change and our 2030 target [of cutting 2000-level emissions about 19 per cent] is ambitious and significant," he said. "Labor has nothing more than a plan to bring back the carbon tax and hike electricity prices."

Rising 'pretty much all of the time'

Cape Grim's readings are significant because they capture the most accurate reading of the atmospheric conditions in the southern hemisphere and have records going back 40 years.

With less land in the south, there is also a much smaller fluctuation according to the seasonal cycle than in northern hemisphere sites. That's because the north has more trees and other vegetation, which take up carbon from the atmosphere in the spring and give it back in the autumn.

So while 400 ppm has been temporarily exceeded at the other two main global stations since 2013 - in Hawaii and Alaska - they have dropped back below that level once spring has arrived because of that greater seasonal variation.

David Etheridge, a CSIRO principal research scientist, said atmospheric CO2 levels had fluctuated around 280 ppm until humans' burning of fossil fuels and clearing of forests set in process rising levels of greenhouse gases almost without pause since about 1800.

"It's been upwards pretty much all of the time," Dr Etheridge told Fairfax Media. "This is a significant change, and it's the primary greenhouse gas which is leading to the warming of the atmosphere."

The following chart, compiled by CSIRO researchers using atmosphere and ice core readings, show how CO2 levels have risen over the past 2000 years.

While the 400 figure is in itself of no particular note, compared with 399 or 401, it was a marker likely to carry important symbolism. "People react to these things when they see thresholds crossed," Dr Etheridge said.

While the fraction may seem small, it is 0.04 per cent of the atmosphere. By comparison, a similar level of alcohol would be close to the legal driving limit in Australia.

"These things act at low concentrations," he said, noting that ozone-destroying chemicals at levels of parts per trillion were enough to damage that important component of the atmosphere.

CSIRO cuts

The impending 400 ppm reading at Cape Grim comes at an awkward timing for CSIRO, which is the midst of cutting 275 jobs, many of them in climate science.

While CSIRO has not confirmed the number of researchers it will cut from the 30 or so involved in analysing CO2 levels in ice and the atmosphere, Fairfax Media understands about one-third will go.

"CSIRO is again producing world-leading climate science, and it's reprehensible that the Turnbull Government is allowing the slashing of CSIRO's capacity to ring the alarm bells the world needs to hear," Greens Senator Waters said.Fairfax Media sought comment from CSIRO on the size of the job cuts.

In justifying the cuts to climate modelling and monitoring programs, CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall said that as climate change had been proved, resources could be diverted to climate mitigations and adaptation.

But Dr Etheridge said monitoring would continue to be vital.

"It's like going on a diet and not measuring yourself," he said, noting the world's nations had committed to cut back emissions of greenhouse gases that are helping to drive up global temperatures.

Going negative

Dr Etheridge said that while a reduction in emissions could slow the increase of temperatures, it would likely take many years of net-negative emissions - effectively removing the gas from the atmosphere - to push CO2 levels back below 400 ppm.

"It would take a lot of emissions reductions - and probably negative emissions for some period, decades - before we see CO2 reduce in concentration," he said.

Research to be published soon by CSIRO has shown the ocean would act against any drop in atmospheric CO2.

The seas would likely give back some of the extra CO2 it has absorbed - as it did during the "Little Ice Age" during the middle ages - delaying any drop in levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, he said.

Dr Fraser, who helped set up the Tasmanian site in the 1970s, said CO2 levels were rising fast, at about 3 ppm a year. The precise timing of the 400-ppm mark at Cape Grim would probably take some time to confirm.

"On the day it happens, we won't recognise it," he said. "It will take a few weeks to verify."

The Cape Grim data show a steadier rise than at the Alaskan Alert Observatory site and Hawaii's Mauna Loa, as seen in the following chart:

'Cleanest in the world'

Sam Cleland, manager of Cape Grim, said the site was in "the teeth of the Roaring Forties", the band of powerful winds in latitudes of about 40 degrees south of the equator.

"Our job is to find the cleanest air in the world and measure the pollution in it," Mr Cleland said.

The baseline data draws on winds reaching Cape Grim from the south-west. "Three days ago, they were coming from an area not far off the Antarctic coast," he said.

A year ago, Cape Grim's CO2 readings were about 396.7 ppm, implying a jump of more than 3ppm since.

Part of that increase would have been influenced by the El Nino weather event in the Pacific. During such years, ocean take-up of both heat and CO2 from the atmosphere is reduced.

Since Cape Grim was set up in 1976, CO2 readings have increased from 330 ppm to the brink of 400 ppm.

That implies an average increase of less than 2 ppm per year during that period - but quickening in the more recent past towards 3 ppm or more.

Read more: 
By Peter Hannam

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