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Do you have a bank account that you don't actively use or a safe deposit box that you have not checked on for a while? If so, you might want to see if the government has grabbed your money. This sounds absolutely crazy, but it is true. All over the world, governments are shortening the [...]
Australia: Former Labor prime ministers call on conservative government to slash spending more quickly
Confronting Neo-liberal Capitalism: SIGTUR’s tenth Congress in Perth/Australia, 2 to 6 December 2013.
|Delegates at the SIGTUR Congress in Perth.|
|Discussions at the SIGTUR Congress in Perth|
And the potential is there. A new structure with four regional co-ordinators has been established and several targets for joint activities identified. The unique Global South dimension, the fact that SIGTUR members perhaps with the exception of the ACTU are not affected by the ideology of social partnership still puts it in a unique place for class struggle against capitalism. The presence of three trade unionists from Myanmar, where it has just recently become possible to form openly trade unions, and SIGTUR’s signing up to the initiative of Trade unions for energy democracyindicates that it remains cutting edge as an international labour organisation. The decisive task will be to translate this potential into concrete actions so that SIGTUR becomes more known internationally and its more militant outlook can provide a guiding example for others.
Three Australian ministers have tendered their resignations after an attempt to replace Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Minister for Tertiary Education Chris Bowen, Minister for Energy Martin Ferguson and Minister for Human Services Kim Carr resigned on Friday as Gillard managed to hold onto her position as the leader of the Labor Party.
The decision to quit was due to the support of the three ministers for former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who failed to garner enough party support to replace Gillard after a ballot on Thursday.
The 51-year-old Gillard survived the Labor Party power struggle after Rudd decided not to run in the leadership vote.
This marks the third time that Gillard defeated Rudd in his attempt to seize control of the party, with the previous dispute thwarted in February 2012.
A number of parliamentary members had pushed Rudd to take over the Labor Party amid fears that Gillard would damage the party’s image during the upcoming general elections in September 14, 2013.
Numerous opinion polls have suggested that Gillard’s conservative opponent Tony Abbott has a better chance of winning the election as the Labor Party is riddled with one crisis after another.
Published time: March 08, 2013 15:40
Mining companies are queuing up to assault Australia’s cultural heritage. The discovery of a large uranium deposit has prompted mining companies to consider excavations on land which is home to some of Australia’s most ancient rock art.
The Wellington Range in the northeastern state of Queensland has been under surveillance from uranium mining companies for many years. Cameco, a Canadian mining company, recently reported the discovery of a large uranium deposit in this range, according to a Global Mail report.
However, this region is also home to an area dubbed one of the great rock-art precincts of the globe by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and regular guided tours are organized to the areas.
The secret wall paintings display ancient aboriginal scenes and symbols, such as “bullymen” – police-type troopers, the paintings of which were thought to be able to vanquish enemies through sorcery. Other pictures are more nature-related.
The aboriginal paintings are thought to be thousands of years old, with the earliest discovered dating more than 10,000 years back.
Despite the fact that much of the rock art is contained in ‘Designated Landscape Areas’, which means the site of aboriginal heritage is entry is limited to some, state permission for mineral exploration has still been granted.
On Friday, the Global Mail published a report drawing on six-month-long research by Noelene Cole, an assistant research fellow in archaeology with James Cook University, and associate archaeologist Alice Buhrich. Their research discovered that applications for coal and mineral exploration cover what is basically an entire art-covered ‘precinct’ on the Cape York Peninsula.
“It is astounding, internationally speaking, that a region like this would be considered for mining,” said Cole.
Cameco located the deposit in remote northern hills that contained so much of the art, that one mere complex contained a massive 3,000 images. The oldest piece of art here was dated as being approximately 15,000 years old.
“It would be like the French mining the Lascaux Caves and the Dordogne, which is World Heritage listed,” Tony Burke, Australia’s environment minister said.
His office went on to point out that although Cameco has not yet submitted a proposal for a uranium project in the Wellington region, because it is such a sizeable discovery, it is likely the company will pursue it further.
Cameco Australia's managing director, Brian Reilly, has said that his company would work alongside stakeholders to ensure the protection of the area's environment, culture and heritage, strongly suggesting that further exploration is on the cards.
Australian mining magnate and billionaire Gina Rinehart, the world’s second-richest woman, began to create a stir in the last week, when it emerged that she had also sought permission to look for minerals over some of the countries older art on Cape York.
At the time, traditional aboriginal owners asked Australia’s Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, to place the area on the World Heritage List to protect the site of their ancestors’ art. One of Rinehart’s companies later announced that it would withdraw two applications to excavate for minerals.
Cole and Buhrich found that the Queensland Government has already granted some mineral and coal exploration permits in areas meant to be protected as special Aboriginal places, according to the Global Mail.
Australia is home to around a third of the planet’s uranium resources and exports roughly 7,000 tonnes per annum.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. (Reuters / Luke MacGregor)
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange believes winning a seat in the Australian Senate would force the US and others pursuing him to back down, securing his safe passage out of the UK following his 8-month confinement at the Ecuadoran Embassy in London.
The September 14 elections in Australia could provide a platform for a man once described by Vice President Joe Biden as a “high-tech terrorist,” by raising the political stakes for those seeking his extradition, Assange explained in a recent interview with Australian website the Conversation.
By winning a seat in Australia’s upper house, “the US Department of Justice won’t want to spark an international diplomatic row,” Assange was quoted as saying.
“It will drop its grand jury espionage investigation. The Cameron government will follow suit,” he continued, adding that “the political costs of the current standoff will be higher still” if UK authorities insist on blocking his safe passage out of the country.
In January, Assange submitted his application to the Australian Electoral Commission, paving the way for his 2013 senatorial bid in the state of Victoria. Senate nominations are likely to close on August 22, and the six-year term of office would commence on July 1, 2014.
Australians living abroad can enroll to vote and run for Senate if they have left Australia within the past three years, and intend to return within six years of their date of departure. Assange said the last time he visited Australia was in June 2010.
Assange was dismissive of technical objections to his candidacy, and refuted claims that he was a traitor to his country, or that he had violated section 44 of the Australian constitution by being under the “acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power.”
He is also optimistic that regardless of the immediacy of his release, a rule stipulating that he take up his senate seat within two months would not necessarily cripple his chances: “In that case [of not being released on time], the Senate could vote to evict me. But that would trigger a big political row. Australians probably wouldn’t swallow it.”
The landslide second re-election of Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa on Sunday plays into his strategy, as it will intensify pressure on Swedish authorities whose case against him is “falling apart,” Assange said. “The Swedish government should drop the case. But that requires them to make their own thorough investigation of how and why their system failed.”
Following his victory on Sunday, Correa, who characterized the current standoff over Assange as a problem of “neocolonialism” and not asylum, said a diplomatic solution “must be found… as quickly as possible.”
Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadoran embassy in London since June, after claiming asylum in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning on sexual assault allegations. British authorities have vowed to detain him if he steps foot outside of the embassy in light of the European Arrest Warrant issued against him.
If handed over to Swedish authorities, Assange fears he will be re-extradited to the United States to be questioned over the WikiLeaks release of thousands of US diplomatic cables.
Assange’s political hopes are married to the new WikiLeaks Party, which he plans to register soon with a 10-member national council. He believes that the party would easily clear the hurdle of attracting the minimum of 500 dues-paying members required to be registered in Australia.
When asked what the WikiLeaks Party would entail, he stressed that “maximum inclusiveness” would be key.
“The party will combine a small, centralized leadership with maximum grass roots involvement and support,” he said. “By relying on decentralized Wikipedia-style, user-generated structures, it will do without apparatchiks. The party will be incorruptible and ideologically united.”
The headstone of Ben Zygier is photographed in the Chevra Kadisha Jewish Cemetery, in Melbourne on February 14, 2013.(AFP Photo / Martin Philbey)
Australia is seeking answers from Israel concerning the death of ‘Prisoner X,’ an Australian national who committed suicide in Israeli prison, Foreign Minister Bob Carr said as the ministry prepared to file a formal report on the case.
"We have asked the Israeli government for a contribution to that report," Carr told the press on Sunday.
Australia wants to give Israel the opportunity to submit an explanation of the circumstances surrounding the prisoner's death, the minister said.
"I need to know what the contact was between Australian agencies and those of Israel, and I need to see what the Israelis want to tell Australia," he explained. "The key is to get all the information."
Australian foreign office chief Peter Varghese is preparing the report, which will "canvass all the consular contact between Australia and between Israel,” Carr said. Israeli authorities are reportedly also preparing to release their inquiry into the prisoner's death.
The Australian-Israeli national known as ‘Prisoner X’ was identified by media earlier this week as 34-year-old Ben Zygier. In June 2010, the man committed suicide while being held in a high-security Tel Aviv prison.
The incident raised many questions, as well as speculation. Zygnier was reportedly in prison for 'grave crimes,' but there has been no official comment on the nature of those crimes. He was also rumored to be a Mossad agent.
Israeli officials claimed that Zygier was treated fairly while in prison. But Zygier's lawyer, Avigdor Feldman, said his client had been under intense emotional pressure while in custody, which could have led to his suicide.
"His interrogators told him he could expect lengthy jail time and be ostracized from his family and the Jewish community,” Feldman told Israel’s Channel 10.
Australian authorities first asserted that they were absolutely unaware of the Zygier's case, but later admitted that months prior to his death they learned that Israel had detained an Australian-Israeli citizen on national security grounds.
An anonymous Israeli official told The Australian that Canberra knew about Zygier's case “long before” he died.
The Australian media also reported that the Israeli Security Agency informed Australian authorities immediately after Zygier's arrest in February 2010.
Customers check the latest technology in an Apple retail store in central Sydney. (AFP Photo / Greg Wood)
Apple, Microsoft and Adobe have been summonsed to appear before the Australian parliament at a hearing into why the tech firms sell their goods to local consumers at higher prices than in the US.
The parliamentary committee for infrastructure and communications announced that a public hearing will be held on March 22nd in Canberra.
"The Committee is looking at the impacts of prices charged to Australian consumers for IT products – Australian consumers often pay much higher prices for hardware and software than people in other countries," the committee said. "The Committee has been examining claims made by organizations such as CHOICE, and the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network."
"In what's probably the first time anywhere in the world, these IT firms are now being summoned by the Australian parliament to explain why they price their products so much higher in Australia compared to the United States," said ruling Labor government MP Ed Husic, who helped set up the committee.
Australian “people’s watchdog”, CHOICE found that Australians pay on average 34% more for software, 52% more for iTunes music, 88% more for Wii games and 41% for computer hardware than US consumers, their official website states. The research indicated that the majority of these price discrepancies were likely due to price discrimination from large international firms.
Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates after victory in his men's singles final against Britain's Andy Murray on day fourteen of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 27, 2013. (AFP Photo/Greg Wood)
There is only one tennis player to have won the Australian Open three times in a row in the sport’s open era and his name is Novak Djokovic. The Serb gave Andy Murray no chance in Sunday’s decider - 6-7, 7-6, 6-3, 6-2.
The world No. 1 won a rematch of the 2011 final, worsening Murray’s career record to five losses in six Grand Slam finals.
Both players kept their serve throughout the opening two sets and only tiebreakers could separate the players. The first went to Murray after Djokovic made a double fault in the beginner and Murray never offered him an opportunity to make a return break – 7-2. Just over an hour later, Djokovic’s time came to respond as he breezed past Murray – 7-3.
The Serb went on to break Murray for the first time early in the third, which was just enough to take the lead in the match.And he built on his success as Murray looked tired and was broken two more times on the way to Djokovic’s third consecutive triumph Down Under.
"I would like to congratulate Novak. His record here is obviously incredible," Murray told the crowd during the trophy ceremony.
"What a joy. It’s an incredible feeling to win this trophy again," said Djokovic, who also grabbed a record $2.5 million in prize money. "This is definitely my favorite Grand Slam. I love this tournament. I love this court.
"I have to congratulate Andy and thank him,” he said. "We have played so many great matches in the last two years. Bad luck for tonight, but I wish you best of luck for the season."
Belarus's Victoria Azarenka (L) addresses the crowd as she holds the trophy after victory in her women's singles final against Li Na of China on day thirteen of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 26, 2013. (AFP Photo/Greg Wood)
Tennis queen Victoria Azarenka has retained her Australian Open title and No. 1 spot in the WTA ranking with a hard-fought victory over China's Li Na.
Li, the 2011 French Open winner, stunned the favorite in the first set, breaking Azarenka early and not letting the Belarusian cut the deficit right to the end.
Azarenka woke up in the second, racing out to a 3-1 lead before Li slipped and twisted her left ankle. She had it strapped, but apparently had problems pivoting as Azarenka leveled things on court with the same scoreline – 6-4.
The Chinese harnessed her willpower and took a 2-1 lead in the decider, only for Azarenka to strain every sinew and jump to a 4-2 lead. The deficit remained insurmountable for Li, as she capitulated 6-3.
The Belarusian consequently repeated her last year’s success Down Under, which ensured she retained the number one ranking.
"It's been a long two weeks for me," says Azarenka, who collected a winner's cheque for a record $2.43 million.
Andy Murray (Reuters / Mark Kolbe / Pool)
Andy Murray has reached his third Australian Open final beating four-time champion Roger Federer in a five-set thriller.
Murray showed solid play in the first three sets, not allowing Federer a single break. But the more experienced Swiss made the most of his chances during the second set tie-break, which allowed him to stay in the match.
A tense fourth set saw the Scot come from 4-1 down to break Federer’s serve twice as he was serving for the set. But Federer stormed back to earn his second break of the match and went on to level things on court winning another tie-break.
However, Murray proved fresher in the decider as he quickly swept into a 3-0 lead and closed out the four-hour marathon 6-4, (5)6-7, 6-3, (2)6-7, 6-2. His record against Federer is now 11-9.
Murray will now face reigning champion Novak Djokovic in Sunday's final. The Serb, who beat Murray in the 2011 final and last year's semi-final, is regarded as favorite.
In the women’s final on Saturday, world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka will defend her title against sixth seed Li Na.
Meanwhile, the top-seeded Italian pair of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci have won the first Australian Open 2013 titles by beating local heroes Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua in the women’s doubles.
Image from www.lincenergy.com
An Australian company claims it has found an untapped shale oil field with estimated reserves that could potentially put the country next to remarkably oil-rich Saudi Arabia. Still, extracting the discovered treasure poses a huge technical challenge.
Brisbane-based company Linc Energy has presented two estimates by respected independent consultants claiming that drilling and seismic exploration they do in South Australia has brought the prize they have been dreaming of for years – a potentially huge untapped shale oil deposit.
DeGolyer and MacNaughton petroleum industry consulting firm evaluated potential shale oil reserves at Arckaringa Basin around the town of Coober Pedy at 103 billion barrels of oil equivalent (BOE), while Gustavson Associates consulting firm put it as high as 233 billion BOE. That is practically comparable to the proven 263 billion barrel reserves of oil heavyweight Saudi Arabia.
The risked mean estimate given by DeGolyer and MacNaughton put it at a much more moderate 3.5 billion BOE.
"We didn't expect it to go this nuts," Linc Energy chief executive Peter Bond told Reuters.
With the current international market oil prices this shale oil could be worth billions of dollars by the most conservative estimate.
"How much is recoverable is always the question. Is it 3 billion barrels or is it 203 billion barrels? Even if it's 3 or 4 billion barrels… that's a massive find in this part of the world. No matter how you cut it, it's still a massive outcome," Bond said.
In any case, Arckaringa Basin might contain more oil than all of the known Australian oilfields combined, finally making the country fully energy independent.
Though Linc Energy’s shares jumped up immediately after Australian media broadcast the news, using “trillions of dollars” and other superlative degree terms, the company still needs hundreds of millions of dollars just to finish exploration, let alone extracting the black gold commercially. The most important issue now is how much of the discovered oil is recoverable.
Linc Energy, which has already spent about AU$130 million (US$136 million) drilling in the Arckaringa Basin, has hired Barclays Bank to search for a partner to invest AU$150-$300 million into the next stage of the project.
Shale oil of the Arckaringa Basin is hidden beneath serious 1-2km of shale rock, but there is still some good news. Usually, oil is extracted from shale by traditional mining, when shale is crushed and organic matter in it is heated to create liquid oil. At Arckaringa basin engineers found oil in droplets, which means it is already liquid and can be extracted by the modern fracking process.
Unlike in the US, where fracking is widespread and has a tendency to become cheaper, in Australia the costs could be many times higher. If drilling a shale well in America has an average cost of around US$10 million, in Australia it might well reach $15 million per well.
The fracking process by itself has always been raising concerns of environmentalists in the US, where it is widely used to extract shale gas, and also in Europe, because chemicals used in this process seriously pollute groundwater. But for Arckaringa Basin, situated in a practically unpopulated area of the land Down Under, fracking shale oil may pose fewer risks.
Maria Sharapova of Russia reacts during her women's singles semi-final match against Li Na of China at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne January 24, 2013. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj)
China’s Li Na thrashed Russian champion Maria Sharapova in a convincing straight sets victory in Melbourne, putting the Chinese contender through to the final. Li dominated the match, storming through to win 6-2 6-2.
The 30-year-old tennis veteran Li Na will now face off against Belarusian Victoria Azarenka. The defending champion defeated 19-year-old American Sloane Stephens in the other semi.
Sharapova made a shaky start to the match, serving up a double fault on the first point. Li Na then left the Russian in the dust, breaking Sharapova’s serve for the first time in the tournament and taking the first set 6-2.
In spite of Sharapova’s attempts to secure a hold in the second set, an unrelenting display of tennis from the Chinese number six seed left the Russian powerless to respond.
Li Na made short work of the Russian, closing the match in one hour and 33 minutes.
Prior to the match Sharapova had blazed a trail through the tournament, relinquishing just nine games on her road to the semi-finals. However, in less than a set Sharapova had lost the same number of games as in all of her previous matches combined.
The pair have met previously on 12 occasions, with Sharapova holding an 8-4 win-loss record.
Screenshot from http://pirateparty.org.au/
Australia's Pirate Party has become an official political organization after its registration was approved by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), the party announced.
The Commission Tweeted on Monday that the Party was officially registered on January 17. After conducting a series of tests, the Commission "found no reason to refuse the Party's application", wrote the AEC in a statement published on its web site.
The Pirate Party submitted its application in October 2012 and had received only one objection by the January 14 deadline, which was not considered sufficient grounds for a refusal, continued the AEC.
The Party, which describes itself as being "based around the core tenets of freedom of information and culture, civil and digital liberties, and governmental transparency," plans to focus on developing policies and selecting candidates for this year's federal elections, said the party's President David W. Campbell.
"More than ever before there is a necessity in Australia for a Party that holds empowerment, participation, free culture and openness as its central tenets. A Party that understands the modern emerging information society and the imperative for political transparency," said Pirate Party founder Rodney Serkowsky.
"As the Prime Minister condemns whistleblowers and publishers without trial, the spectre of data retention looms, policy is laundered and Australia’s interests are sidelined by faceless diplomats and bureaucrats… there has never been more reason to put pirates in parliament," concluded Serkowsky.
Founded in 2009 and based on Sweden's Pirate Party, it hopes to mobilize the growing number of Australian voters opposed the introduction of an Internet filter, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and recent attempts to increase regulation of the Internet by the UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU) – all of which have been actively endorsed by the Australian Government.
In a similarly controversial initiative, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange recently announced his intention to run for a seat in the Australian Senate in the upcoming elections, as well as the formation of a Wikileaks Party. Despite being confined to the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, plans for the registration of the party were "significantly advanced", said Assange.
He is able to register as an overseas candidate in the states of New South Wales and Victoria. Regulations would allow him to appoint a proxy to take up his seat, if he is elected but unable to return.
A handout aerial picture taken on January 15, 2013 shows a bushfire near Tamworth in the New England region of New South Wales, Australia.
Raging bushfires continue to burn out of control across Australia, threatening several towns in the southwestern state of Victoria and New South Wales in the east.
Eighty-four fires were devouring through the state, with more than a dozen still raging as of Friday.
Australian police have confirmed the death of a man in Victoria's southeast as the two-week forest fire emergency claimed its first civlian fatality.
The victim’s body was reportedly found in a burnt-out vehicle near Seaton as blazes rage across the area.
Last week, a 61-year-old firefighter died of a suspected heart attack while trying to contain a fire in Tasmania.
The flames have also sparked fears of a new escalation as temperatures are soaring over 45 degrees Celsius.
A blaze burning around 200 kilometers east of Melbourne has affected a number of communities in the Gippsland region and is feared to spread to residential buildings there.
Reports say the small town of Licola has been surrounded by flames.
Fire officials in New South Wales also say a blaze there has destroyed 51 homes and broken the containment lines.
Still from YouTube video/newsday251
Searching for gold may not be such a hopeless thing to do, if you know where to look. Apparently a local prospector in Ballarat, Australia knew where to look, as he has found a gold nugget weighing 5.5 kilograms, worth up to half a million dollars.
The name of the lucky man, who discovered the precious nugget, is being kept secret, the Courier newspaper reports.
Experts at the Ballarat Mining Exchange Gold Shop, who took the gold nugget for evaluation, say it was found about 60 centimeters below the surface of the earth. Gold nuggets of such enormous size are extremely rare.
The amateur gold-hunter reportedly used a cutting edge $6000 detector that helped him make the find of his life.
According to the gold shop owner Cordell Kent, if the nugget was sold just on the basis of gold content it’s market value would be around $300,000. However its size and natural shape make it worth more than that.
"If you are silly enough to melt it down, it would be worth just under $300,000 on market value but as a nugget at this size and shape, it's worth significantly more than that," he said. "A finding like this gives people hope. It's my dream to find something like that, and I've been prospecting for more than two decades," he added.
It is expected the nugget will be sold to a collector or possibly a museum within Australia.
Nikolay Davydenko (AFP Photo / Karim Sahib)
The draw for the Australian Open gave Russia’s Maria Sharapova a green light through to thefinal and potential second round trouble for Nikolay Davydenko, who could face four-time Melbourne champion Roger Federer.
Second seed Sharapova will start with an all-Russian match against lowly Olga Puchkova and could face seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams in the third round, and fifth seed Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinals.
Serena Williams, who could become the oldest top-ranked woman to succeed in Melbourne, was drawn in the other half along with reigning champion Victoria Azarenka meaning Sharapova won’t meet either of them until the final.
In the men’s draw, Roger Federer starts his 15th Australian Open against France’s Benoit Paire, while former World No. 3 Nikolay Davydenko must overcome a qualifier to face the Swiss legend.
Federer is second in the world, while poor form has recently seen Davydenko go down to 40th. The Russian, however, proved his class last week by reaching the final of the Qatar Open and thrashing fifth-ranked David Ferrer on the way.
World No. 1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic faces 58th-ranked Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu in the first round and could face fifth seed Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals.
Andy Murray, the U.S. Open champion and third seed, starts against Dutch player Robin Haase and could play Federer in the semi-finals, while clay king Rafael Nadal is still recovering after injury.
Rolling Stone has been covering Australia's global warming extremes for two years, and they've stepped up their coverage in light of the continent's current extreme heat emergency:
Though Australia's existing heat record, set in 1960, still stands for the moment, officials believe it may soon be surpassed. The nation's Bureau of Meteorology has been open about the impact that rising greenhouse gases are already having there: The agency's website declares that Australia is "experiencing rapid climate change," including more frequent heat waves and changing rainfall patterns.
The current heat wave has produced above-average temperatures for 80 percent of the country – the nationwide average on Monday was 104 degrees Fahrenheit – and scores of wildfires. The state of New South Wales, home to Australia's most populous city, Sydney, is facing its greatest fire danger ever, officials say. In some areas of the state, the official fire danger rating is "catastrophic.
"Nor are heat waves and wildfires Australia's only climate woes. Decades of drought are causing the salination of groundwater in the nation's prime agricultural region; warming and acidifying oceans are killing the Great Barrier Reef; and extreme storms are increasing. As Rolling Stone's Jeff Goodell reported in 2011, the tendency of climate change to "amplify existing climate signals" means that already extreme places like Australia will be the first to experience the kind of major impacts that could be in store for the rest of the world.
"Australia is the canary in the coal mine," said David Karoly, a climate researcher at the University of Melbourne, in that story. "What is happening in Australia now is similar to what we can expect to see in other places in the future."
A firefighter is almost surrounded by red hot flames as he protects a property affected by the Dean's Gully fire near the town of Wandandian south of Nowra, New South Wales, Australia, January 8, 2013.
Firefighters in southeast Australia are battling to contain wildfires near a former bombing range, where unexploded bombs are scattered.
A massive blaze near Wandandian, south of Sydney, is one of about a hundred fires burning in the state, razing through at least 300,000 hectares of land.
The Dean's Gap bushfire in New South Wales is just a few kilometers from the Tianjara plateau, which was used by the Australian Army as a practice bombing range until the mid-1970s.
"We can't do any water-bombing with aircraft or something like that in case the weight of the water when it hits the ground sets off any unexploded ordnance," Brett Loughlin, from the Rural Fire Service (RFS), said.
"So it's a total no-fly zone and that will mean [if] the fire gets into that area, there's nothing we can do for it except wait for it on the other side.”
Fire fighters are using a special gel and are bulldozing containment lines to prevent the fire from entering the military range.
High winds and record temperatures have made the task of containing the fire more difficult.
Meanwhile, firefighters in the state of Victoria are trying to control a fire also caused by Australia's heat wave.
Teams in Tasmania are also fighting a blaze as the fire caused damage to many homes in the island over the weekend.
Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard warned the residents in the affected areas and other regions to remain vigilant over the next few days.
"It is very important that people keep themselves safe, that they listen to local authorities and local warnings. This is a very dangerous day," she said.
This undated handout picture provided by New South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSW Rural Fire Service) on January 8, 2013 shows a NSW Rural Fire Service worker spraying water on a bush fire at Green Point in New South Wales. (AFP Photo/ NSW Rural Fire Service)(11.9Mb) embed video
A heat wave that has already caused devastating fires on the Island state of Tasmania, with 100 people still missing, has now moved to mainland Australia and is reaping havoc in New South Wales, as the heat wave looks to smash records.
In some areas temperatures have shot up by as much as 20C in three hours and combined with 50 mph winds have created disastrous fire conditions.
Right across Australia records have been broken by the heat wave and the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) has been forced to add colors to its forecast charts to take account of temperatures of 50-54 degrees Celsius.
Australia’s all-time record of 50.7 degrees; set in January 1960 at Oodnadatta in South Australia is likely to be smashed over the coming days. On Tuesday, in some places temperatures of 45 degrees Celsius were recorded.
“The scale has just been increased today and I would anticipate it is because the forecast coming from the bureau’s model is showing temperatures in excess of 50 degrees,” David Jones , the BoM’s head of climate monitoring, told Fairfax newspapers.
Australia as a whole experienced its hottest day on record on Monday, with average maximum temperatures across the entire country reaching 40.33 degrees breaking the previous record of 40.17 degrees set in 1972.
More than 130 fires are already blazing away in New South Wales (NSW), where fire officials said conditions were among the worst they had ever seen for wildfires. Fires had already burnt more than 30,000 hectares of land across NSW.
There are also wildfires burning in Victoria with 20 homes evacuates in Chepstowe, west of Australia’s second city Melbourne.
Houses destroyed by a bushfire are seen in ruins in Dunalley, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) east of Hobart, January 5, 2013. (Reuters/Chris Kidd/Pool)
Land continues to burn in Tasmania where blazes last weekend destroyed 90 homes and 20,000 hectares of farm land and forest.
Officials on the island are still unsure of the fate of 100 people who went missing since last week, after fires destroyed the town of Dunalley.
In the current terrifying conditions, fires can become so hot that they create their own lightning storms, which can in turn ignite more fires, and ember showers can fly up to 15 miles ahead of a fire, igniting new fires in areas not yet alight. Experts warn that the intense heat being generated by the fires can kill people before the flames even reach them.
The conditions hark back to Black Saturday in the state of Victoria in 2009, when 172 people were killed by fires. This time emergency services are not taking any risks and have already closed national parks, ordered tourists out of campsites and are following the movements of known arsonists.
“We are at a catastrophic level and clearly in those areas leaving early is your safest option,” New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.
The Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said that it is important for people to keep themselves safe and listen to local authorities and their warnings. She also stressed that the fires were being called catastrophic for a reason.
The Bega Valley is one of the areas authorities are most worried about, where fast moving scrub and grass fires are threatening homes.
Properties were under threat in the city of Wagga Wagga where the local highway has been closed. The Southern Ranges, the Riverina and Shoalhaven have also been given a catastrophic rating.
The heat, wind and dryness – ideal conditions for wildfires – follow a record four months of dry weather, allowing mere smoldering stumps and embers from areas already burned to blow into unburnt country.
However, the BoM is predicting cooler conditions to arrive across NSW by Wednesday morning.
This undated handout picture provided by New South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSW Rural Fire Service) on January 8, 2013 shows smoke billowing as a bushfire burns near Green Point in New South Wales. (AFP Photo/ NSW Rural Fire Service)
This undated handout aerial picture provided by New South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSW Rural Fire Service) on January 8, 2013 shows a bushfire burning 8km south west of Naradhan, north of Griffith in New South Wales. (AFP Photo/ NSW Rural Fire Service)
Smoke rises from the Yarrabin bushfire, burning out of control near Cooma, about 100km (62 miles) south of Canberra January 8, 2013. (Reuters/Tim Wimborne)
This aerial photograph taken on January 5, 2013 shows the devastation to property between Dunalley and Boomer Bay after bush fires swept through the area. (AFP Photo/Pool/Chris Kidd)