Friends of the Earth Australia News

Di Horsburgh R.I.P.

Diana Horsburgh, a founder-member of Friends of the Earth Kuranda, died at her home in Kuranda, north of Cairns, on Saturday 6 October, surrounded by close family and friends.

Di was an inspiring activist. She'll be greatly missed by many in the local community – not least by her friends and colleagues in FoE Kuranda. Her untimely death leaves a large gap in this region's environment movement.

A long-time staff member of The Wilderness Society, Di loved the Australian bush with passion, struggled hard for its protection and was a tireless advocate for the protection of Cape York.

As a key member of the Kuranda Range Defenders, which later became FoE Kuranda, Di helped lead the successful campaign against the proposed four-lane highway on the Kuranda Range in the first decade of this century.

Di was a remarkable woman who did remarkable things – and she had a zest for life that was infectious. After a brief but painful struggle with cancer, Di's spirit is free once again to roam the wild places she loved so much.

What are we drinking?
Friends of the Earth Kuranda, north of Cairns, has been investigating the quality of local drinking water for several years. The water for both Kuranda and Mareeba is sourced from the Barron river with ever-changing water conditions.

Yet the Barron acts as a drain for all sorts of human activities. There are speed boats, diesel and petrol pumps all along the waterways. There is sewage run-off. A gold mining history along the Clohesy River, which runs into the Barron, adds a risk of arsenic and mercury contamination. There are unlined old community dump sites along rivers and creeks.

And of course a largely unmonitored cocktail of synthetic pesticides, fungicides, fertilisers and herbicides is used each year in the catchment and still others, now banned, persist in the soil from decades before. Literally hundreds of different chemicals are in use, each with different breakdown products of varying persistence. When the rains come, these are flushed from the land surface into the river.

Some of these chemicals can accumulate in the body and disrupt hormones in humans. Others contain heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury which can lead to premature aging and nerve damage.

We understand that filtering arrangements for the drinking water supply in Kuranda and Mareeba are not designed to remove these chemicals. This water is tested just twice a year by council for what they say is "a full suite of tests". We have asked repeatedly for a list of what is being tested for and for the results. So far we have not had access to this data though Council will, apparently, be putting these results on its website in future.

Email for further information or see

Dirt radio – FoE show on 3CR

Dirt Radio is a new radio program presented by Friends of the Earth campaigners. The show digs down into the dirt on important environmental and social justice issues, exploring the campaigns, issues and communities involved in defending their local environment. It is on 3CR community radio station in Melbourne on Monday mornings at 10.30am.
Listen live:

Moratorium on fracking in Victoria

Friends of the Earth welcomed the announcement that the Victorian government has declared a moratorium on new hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, of coal-seam gas (CSG) deposits, as well as a moratorium on all new CSG exploration licenses, and a ban on the use of BTEX chemicals in mineral exploration activities. This is the first positive move from the Baillieu government on the issue of fossil fuels and climate change since it came to power.

As of August, 59 groups, 1,700 individuals, and six local councils had supported the call for a moratorium on CSG. FoE is proud to have played a key role in this campaign and to have worked closely with a range of community groups to deliver this result. We acknowledge the fantastic efforts of Lock the Gate Gippsland, and local groups from Wonthaggi through Mirboo North and Foster and up to Toongabbie and Sale.

While the moratorium is a vindication of the community's concerns about the harmful impacts of CSG mining, the announcement will be inadequate to protect Victoria from the negative impacts of CSG development, and companies will still be able to drill for gas and search for coal across some of Victoria's best farmland.

More information:

FoE Energy Futures campaign:
Contact: Leigh Ewbank

Sign the petition at

In July, FoE's Quit Coal campaign celebrated the announcement that the federal government was no longer willing to provide a $100 million grant to HRL to build a dirty brown coal power station in Victoria. With friends from other NGOs, Quit Coal held rallies, did banner drops, doorknocked, collected petitions, lobbied and pushed hard for the government to make the right decision about HRL. More information is posted at

Dropping in on Parliament

On Monday September 3, four members of FoE Melbourne's Quit Coal campaign climbed onto the roof of Parliament House in Melbourne and unfurled an 86 square metre banner, with a quote from climatologist Prof. James Hansen: "Coal is the single greatest threat to civilisation and all life on our planet." Simultaneously, nine others locked onto the pillars at the front of the building, below the banner.

It took four hours for the police to cut off the nine people locked below, as well as one of the climbers who had locked on to the top corner of the banner.

The action coincided with a record melt of the Arctic ice sheet − one of the most alarming and dramatic signs of accelerating global warming.

Quit Coal activists risked being arrested and fined because Premier Baillieu's plan for a brown coal export industry would effectively triple Victoria's contribution to global warming. And because Australia is already the world's biggest exporter of coal. They demanded that Baillieu retract his $45 million fund for a brown coal export industry, as a first step in breaking his brown coal addiction.

New group to build support for wind energy in Victoria

The Victorian Wind Alliance was launched on October 10. Alliance member Taryn Lane of Hepburn Wind said: "The Alliance is being formed in response to a call from communities across the state who support more wind energy. We welcome the active involvement of all sectors of the community: small business, farmers, community and environmental groups, anyone who wants to see a thriving wind industry in Victoria."

The Alliance will be run by an organising committee of eight people from across Victoria but is aimed at bringing together the many hundreds of thousands of people across the state who support wind energy.

Cam Walker from Friends of the Earth, who is also an Alliance member, said: "We invite the broader community to visit our website to join for free and to sign on to a statement of support for wind, and to promote the alliance at country meetings, community events and by using social media."

Twitter @VicWindAll



Lynas rare earth processing plant

Lynas Corporation recently received a two year temporary operating licence from the Malaysian Atomic Energy Licensing Board. This is an issue of significance to Australians, as the ore to be processed at the plant will come from Mt Weld rare earths deposit in Western Australia. The Lynas Applied Materials Plant hasn't even submitted a proper environmental impact assessment to begin operating of one of the world's largest rare earth refineries, to be located on the east coast of Malaysia in the Pahang state at Gebeng, Kuantan.

The controversial refinery is said to break the strong grip China holds on the rare earth market. Due to minimal environmental laws, China has over 90% of the global market. This has resulted in severe environmental problems, such as in Baotou China, one of the world's most polluted rare earth refinery villages.

Activists and local residents have vowed to shut the Lynas plant and the issue will remain controversial in the run up to Malaysia's national elections, which must be held by the middle of next year.

Tully McIntyre from Friends of the Earth has been working on the campaign from the Melbourne FoE office and was appointed as FoE's spokesperson on the issue at the recent FoE Australia Annual General Meeting.

Contact:, 0410 388187.


Sign the online petition at

Exploring the 'Peer-to-Peer' Concept at South Melbourne Commons

Michel Bauwens, the founder of Peer-to-Peer Foundation, together with Cam Walker from Friends of the Earth, shared their insight on the peer-to-peer (P2P) concept at South Melbourne Commons on September 12. With the P2P concept as the basis, Commons movements are emerging globally – the very idea discussed in the 'Collaboration and the Coming of the Commons' that evening.

P2P, which includes peer production, peer governance and peer property, is a specific form of relational dynamic. It is based on the assumed equipotency of its participants, organised through the free cooperation of equals in view of the performance of a common task, for the creation of a common good, with forms of decision-making and autonomy that are widely distributed throughout the network.

P2P invites skillful and willing participants to work together in projects, such as Wikispeed, the fuel-efficient, sustainable cars; Bitcoin, the digital P2P currency; and Linux, the universal free operating system.

Michel pinpointed the strength of Commons system. "It is every human resource manager's dream, for everyone to be motivated. The system self-selects, it selects only the passionate people", he says.

To learn more about the P2P Foundation, visit Friends of the Earth will employ crowd funding to kick-start an organic farmers market at the South Melbourne Commons. To support it, visit
− Andrea Saputra, Volunteer, South Melbourne Commons

Corner of Montague and Bank Sts, South Melbourne
ph: (03) 9682 5282



Barmah-Millewa Campaign news

FoE Melbourne's Barmah-Millewa Campaign has thanked Alyssa Vass who is moving on from the role of Collective Coordinator, but will continue working as a Collective volunteer. Alyssa, a medical doctor, has taken up the call to work in the field of Indigenous Health.

The Collective has welcomed two new faces, Sam Cossar-Gilber and Will Mooney. Sam is the new Collective Coordinator and Will the Community Campaigner. Both have extensive experience working in environmental and social justice movements.

Following on from previous campaigning work, which helped secure 250,000 hectares of red gum parks and joint management by Traditional Owner groups, the Collective will now be refocusing its energies around the crucial issues of Cultural Flows and Indigenous water rights. Across the Murray Darling Basin, Traditional Owners are demanding the right to manage water in order to meet their cultural, spiritual and social needs.

Water for export cotton dwarfs Cubbie

Twice as much water as Cubbie Station's giant 460 gigalitre (GL) water entitlement is effectively sent overseas every year in the form of irrigated cotton from the Murray-Darling, according to new research released by Friends of the Earth. The analysis compiled Australian government data on annual cotton exports and irrigation water use from 2005 to 2011 and calculates the volume of water embodied in Australia's export cotton crop.

The analysis found that in an average year, 940 GL of water is diverted from rivers in the Murray-Darling Basin to grow cotton which is exported overseas. The Coalition is bickering over whether Cubbie Station's water entitlement should be in foreign hands, but the water will be sent overseas regardless. Instead of endless debates about who owns our cotton farms we should be asking if it's appropriate for them to send so much of our precious water overseas in the first place.

The report is posted at:

Climate-related displacement in the Pacific

The Climate Frontlines collective of FoE Brisbane, in collaboration with other local groups, held a consultation on September 1 on 'Climate-change-related Displacement and Resettlement in the Pacific'. A number of excellent follow-up action items emerged during the afternoon working group sessions.

On August 22, the opening day of the national conference of the United Nations Association of Australia (UNAA) in Brisbane, Climate Frontlines hosted a Round Table on 'Climate Change and Sustainable Development in the Pacific'. After a screening of the moving film, There Once Was an Island, there were presentations by Ursula Rakova (director of the Carteret Island resettlement program, Tulele Peisa), Donovan Burton (of Climate Planning), Siliga Kofe (formerly of Tuvalu and a former UN official) and Fred Gela (Mayor of the Torres Strait). The recommendations from the Round Table were then presented at the full forum of the UNAA conference for follow up.

To view the recommendations, visit

Wendy Flannery

Launch of Independent and Peaceful Australia Network

Friends of the Earth is one of the member organisations of the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN), which was launched on September 21, the International Day of Peace.

IPAN is opposed to the establishment of foreign military bases and the deployment of foreign troops in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region. In particular, the network is opposed to the stationing of up to 2,500 US marines based in Darwin by 2016-17, the possible upgrading of Stirling Naval base, the stationing of US aircraft at RAAF Base Tindal and the militarisation of the Cocos Islands.

Annette Brownlie, spokesperson for the Brisbane IPAN and President of Just Peace, said: "The agreement to allow the permanent deployment of US Marines in Darwin has alarmed many in our own country and our regional neighbours. Countries such as China and Indonesia have expressed their anxieties about this decision, and rightly so as any military intensification by the US and its allies in the region will foster a reciprocal response."

Mapping Australia's nuclear sites

Friends of the Earth has launched, a new online educational resource which brings together information, photos and videos about more than 50 of Australia's nuclear sites including uranium mines and processing plants, the Lucas Heights research reactor, proposed reactor and dump sites, and British nuclear weapons test sites. Visit