and yet our dopey politicians are prepared to let Australia burn along with the rest of the world because taking action on climate will burn holes in the very very very large pockets of the business people who pay for their electioneering.
Category Archives: idiot politicians
UN climate change report card: Scientists predict Australia will continue to get hotter | ABC Radio Australia
Grandmothers, grandfathers, mum, dads, uni students, workers, high school students, kids in strollers. Italians, Greeks, English, Kiwis, Malaysian, Japanese, Indigenous, Dutch…all Australians of course. Straight, gay, bisexual, transgender. Taxi drivers, labourers, doctors, scientists, child care workers, teachers, a dentist. These were some of the people whom I chatted to on Sunday March 16, 2014 at the inaugural March in March in Brisbane. All were pissed off.
For those Australians living under a rock, or only relying on main stream media for news (same thing), the March in March was a protest rally organised as part of a grass-roots campaign to send a message to the new Australian government that the policies they have introduced and plan to introduce are…. well……crap. It took place in every capital city and numerous regional cities over 3 days.
So, how many people turned up and what were they protesting about? The second question is easy. The answer is “everything”. Tony Abbott has, through ideological blindness and contempt of the Australian people, managed to make himself the least popular Prime Minister on record. In only his first 6 months or so, he has broken numerous important promises and has implemented a number of others that suit the rich at the expense of the poor but were not mentioned prior to the election. He has engaged in cronyism of the highest order appointing toadies and bootlickers to positions in the bureaucracy that they are not qualified for, presumably on the proviso that they toe the line and piss off as many people off as possible. Judging from what I saw and heard, people were protesting issues such as treatment of asylum seekers, environmental destruction, climate change denial, stripping of services, dishonesty and lying, secrecy and the obvious hypocrisy where the budget is concerned. They were protesting because they feel disenfranchised, taken for granted and from many I spoke to, they are sick of being treated like they are idiots. I subscribe to all of the above.
Intelligent Australians know when they are being lied to, and they are starting to realise that this government has set out on a course of social re-engineering in an ideologically driven campaign to favour big business at the expense of everyone else, an ideologically driven desire to initiate a class war where the disabled, elderly and unemployed are treated like second class citizens and where those people who don’t fit into Tony Abbott’s 16th century catholic ideals get to be vilified and discriminated against. This is what we’re angry about.
More than 100000 people marched over the weekend and the vast majority have never protested before. A number of the socially conservative media types have denounced the march as disorganised with no clear message. I find this highly amusing and narrow-minded. The fact that so many people were protesting about so many issues and decisions made by this government should send a shiver up the spine of every conservative politician. In essence, we 100000+ people aren’t saying there is one or two things wrong with the government, we are saying EVERYTHING is wrong with the government. This was never going to be a single issue protest as was seen in the anti-Vietnam protests of the seventies or the union heavy industrial relations protests of the last decade. This march was a motion of no confidence in the government on EVERYTHING.
Now, I have often remarked on Twitter that I cannot find anyone in my large circle of acquaintances willing to admit that they voted for the LNP. I have a fair idea which ones did, but they won’t admit it. On Sunday, I spoke briefly to an older lady who called me over to compliment me on my sign. She told me that the most important part of my sign was the top part. “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH”. She went on to inform me that she had voted conservatively all her life and had done so in the 2013 election that brought Tony Abbott to power. She said, “Never again will I vote for this lot. They have pulled a swift one with the electorate and are going too far with their agenda. Abbott has become the Sarah Palin of Australian politics. She was crazy.”
I realise that this was just one person of many and she may well be an anomaly, but what if she isn’t? How many people who voted for the LNP last election were sitting at home on the weekend but feeling equally betrayed, just not enough to get out and protest? I can only wonder and hope there are plenty. So, Tony Abbott can publicly make jokes about the March in March, but you can bet he’s well and truly aware and privately concerned. If he isn’t, he is more arrogant or stupid (or both) than I thought.
So, where to from here? I am already thinking about next year’s March in March and how to do my bit to attract even more people to attend. It will probably take 250000 people attending to get the main stream media to report it.
Cleaning up my computer (I’m hopeless at storing files in an orderly fashion) I’ve decided to stick a few posters I’ve created in a post here to share before deleting them. I’m certainlyno graphic artist having only Paint and Powerpoint to make them. Naturally they are political and I’mquite pleased with them but I do need to make space….
I bang my head on the desk. Here is an excerpt from a speech given by Tony Abbott in Canberra last night…
“Man and the environment are meant for each other. The last thing we do – the last thing we should want – if we want to genuinely improve our environment is to want to ban men and women from enjoying it, is to ban men and women from making the most of it and that’s what you do. You intelligently make the most of the good things that God has given us.”
Allow me to translate…
Genesis 1:28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
I think the key here is the final sentence, “You intelligently make the most of the good things that God has given us.” The problem is, Tony Abbott is not an intelligent man. Relying on the Bible to inform you about decisions that should be soundly informed by science is not intelligent. Presumably, if Tony Abbott was intelligent, he would recognise the contradiction between what he says and what he does and he would certainly understand the inference in the first sentence of this excerpt. He basically states that man and the environment depend on each other for survival and he absolutely correct…but not in the way that he probably thinks.
While we exist, we do indeed need the environment for our survival, and while we exist, the environment needs us for its survival in that it needs us to look after it and not over-exploit it for resources or damage it. I am 100% confident that if humans disappeared tomorrow, the environment and every living thing in it would breathe a collective sigh of relief and just get on with living and under a lot less pressure. What Tony Abbott doesn’t seem to understand is that it we are more than capable of damaging the environment to the point that it can no longer sustain human life on it. As most of my readers are intelligent, there is no need for me to go beyond referring to the end-Permian extinction that resulted in no land animal bigger than about 10kg surviving and 90% of living things disappearing. Tony Abbott doesn’t get it. It is beyond his abilities and highlights the lies in his speech.
More and more I am convinced that Tony Abbott is cut from exactly the same cloth as a large number of the loony far right Republicans in the USA, the hypocritical Bible literalists, who use their faith to justify pretty much any decisions they make no matter how wrong or stupid.
So, what does Tony Abbott view as intelligently making “the most of the good things that God has given us”? In the case of Tasmanian forests where he wants to liberate the trees, it is less of this…
and more of this…
Less of these…
and more of these…
To read all of Tony Abbott’s speech, put on your headgear, keep a bucket handy and go here.
I promised myself I would ignore the No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics Party (CSP) because quite frankly I found them to be so far on the right hand fringe of Australian politics, they have a tiny tiny following and so are really of no consequence and very little interest except in a kind of old school, circus freak show kind of way. No offence meant to any circus freaks by the way.
I used to write about the CSP a fair bit, mostly focussing on the dishonesty of a few of their hierarchy. Nothing too serious of course, just
making up grossly exaggerating professional credentials, misrepresenting blog comments and lying about stuff including their nonsense claim that they are a centrist party. Their position on climate change is out there with the wackiest of the wacky as evidenced by their devotion to the ever loopy Christopher Monckton and their endless spouting of just about every denier canard ever uttered. You will notice I’m not providing any links to anything I’ve written about them because it’s easy enough to find. Just search my blog for “CSP” and you’ll have plenty to read.
Anyway, I was sent an email today by a colleague pointing me to the AEC website and this announcement…
I was wondering why they changed their name? Not catchy? Perhaps they realised that it’s a bit too prescriptive? Maybe a name change will result in a better result at the next election? Maybe it’s all three. In the last election they saw their vote for the Senate positions drop from 0.2% in 2010 to 0.13% in 2013. They could do worse I guess. Anyway, given the timing it’s clear they have seen how easy it was for a couple of morons from other fringe parties to get elected by vote harvesting and they want to try to get their own moron elected in the rerun for the WA Senate spots next month. They even admit as much….not the moron part but the rest, in their own Press Release. Try and ignore the spelling and grammatical errors and poor setting out. Whoever wrote it was probably a bit excited. Link here.
Nice logo…very American looking and the Party name also has a very American feel about it. I’m almost inclined to think whomever came up with both has been spending a lot of time visiting The American GOP sites and watching Glen Beck or Sean Hannity videos on YouTube. They are always carrying on about attacks on their freedom and future prosperity. You could have gone all out and whacked “liberty” in there somewhere. The Freedom, Liberty and Prosperity Party (FLAP) Now, before anyone discounts FLAP and says that’s a bit silly, what was pointed out to me in the email, was this part…
Oh dear….. Anthony, you are either completely out of touch or a bloody genius! Even I, in my 40′s, know enough about youth culture to know there is an internet meme attached to the word FAP. Fap is…..ummmmm. Well according to the Urban Dictionary…
Yes yes I know that the Urban Dictionary isn’t a real dictionary but I can guarantee that if you go out into the street and ask a heap of people aged 15 to 25 what “FAP” is, most of them will give you the Urban Dictionary definition. It is of course a lot older than that and it originally was an adjective meaning drunk or befuddled. Either way, whomever came up with it, clearly didn’t think it through…. or did they? I wouldn’t be surprised if a number of apathetic politically naive young voters see FAP, have a chuckle and vote for them. No harm in that, FAP will need all the help they can get. Now that people are waking up to the wrecking ball Abbott, they are hardly likely to give their vote to a party that is even further to the right than him. The turmoil that he has created will see voters wanting stability in the Senate and these knucklehead fringe dwellers that try to vote harvest and do shady preference swaps won’t get a look in, especially if voters go and look at the policies. Speaking of which, I’m pleased to see that FAP are continuing with all their principles, including their conspiracy ideation about “Agenda 21″. Good stuff. That’s the sort of thing the loony right- wing Tea Party in the USA carry on with. Maybe I am sensing a theme here. American looking banner and American sounding name, American culture has permeated into our youth, our youth are fairly apathetic but will find FAP funny…hmmm. Genius! Anyway, speaking of American politics…
Why climate change defeats our short-term thinking – On science, religion, politics and ideology | Judith Brett | The Monthly
Sometimes we come across short essays or other pieces of writing that are so well written, they present our own thoughts perfectly such that it is impossible to see any other way of saying what they have said. This is one such piece. Please share this widely.
My only criticism is that Judith Brett could have used an alternative title. My suggestion “The cognitive deficiencies of climate change deniers and why their mental disability will affect future generations.”
from The Guardian
Why does Tony Abbott support $10 billion per year in fossil fuel subsidies but oppose an aid package for food manufacturer SPC-Ardmona?
The Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was only elected in September 2013, but already has a rapidly growing list of broken promises and inconsistent decisions regarding public funding support for private industry and non-profit organisations.
Meanwhile, Tony Abbott has intervened into Toyota’s workplace affairs by supporting cuts to employee wages, has privatised the Australian Valuation Office, is in the process of winding back Tasmania’s forest World Heritage listing, defunded all international environmental programs (including those run by Oxfam, Save the Children and Caritas) and cut $4.5 billion from international aid programs, has started to dismantle Australia’s marine park protection system, repealed poker machine reform designed to protect victims of gambling addiction, and approved coal-baron Clive Palmer’s coal mine in the Galilee Basin.
What’s more, the prime minister seems very happy to continue to give taxpayer’s money to fossil fuel companies to the tune of $10 billion per year in subsidies.
The fossil fuel subsidy decision is particularly inconsistent with his stance on industry support for SPC-Ardmona and the car industry. This is a prime minister who in December declared an end to corporate welfare.
But he said “we don’t want to see corporate welfare … we don’t believe in corporate welfare”.
“This government will be very loth to consider requests for subsidies, we will be very loth to do for businesses in trouble the sorts of things they should be doing for themselves,” he warned.
Fossil fuels subsidies are the most pernicious and distorting of subsidies. The biggest in Australia is the fuel tax credit scheme, which is worth $2 billion per year to mining companies, the equivalent of each taxpayer in Australia handing over $182 to the mining companies.
The national president of the Mining Union, Tony Maher called out this squandering of public funds in an article for The Drum:
I’m pro-mining to my core. But a mining sector that grows too fast causes social and economic problems that will cause damage for decades to come, if we let it. …
Down the track, it would also make sense to look again at tax and whether we are getting a fair return from mining company profits.
Ditto, subsidies. Does it really make sense for taxpayers to be funding a rebate on diesel fuel for the mining industry at a cost of $2 billion a year?
The union is a firm supporter of an emissions trading scheme, and a renewable energy target, and opponent for the fuel subsidy. In a Senate submission in 2008, it wrote:
It has been especially glaring that the mining industry, one of the most profitable industries in Australia, has received the highest rate of fuel tax credit. It is rebated the full 38.143¢ per litre, and so effectively receives its fuel free of excise. This has provided the mining industry with an incentive, in relative terms, to use liquid fossil fuels, and it has taken up that incentive with gusto.
The Australian Taxation Office has stated that for the 2006-07 year, the mining industry was easily the heaviest user of the fuel tax credit schemes, claiming $1.47 billion of the $4.9 billion claimed. The next highest claim by an industry was transport and warehousing with $1.28 billion.
The latter industry made 171,085 claims for the credits, while the mining industry made just 6,735. This vast difference demonstrates that mining industry claims are made by a relatively small number of very large companies, while the transport claims often come from small businesses.
The mining industry’s claims on the public purse have grown rapidly over the last decade, from $754 million in 1999-2000 to $1.47 billion for the most recently-reported year. It has virtually doubled over the course of 8 years. …
That the mining industry receives such extensive fuel tax credits while claiming to be internationally competitive and unsubsidised has attracted significant criticism from an environmental perspective.
The continuing level of significant subsidy weakens the substantial argument that the industry is otherwise able to make that is it one of Australia’s great success stories. Industries that rely on subsidies or other forms of protection are not generally able to be portrayed as a success story.
Further, the mining industry is not a deserving case. There are no grounds in terms of equity, social justice or industry development to justify a significant subsidy to the mining industry.
Tony Maher made a good call when he said “Let’s stop being fooled that the interests of a small club of mining billionaires are the same as the interests of the broader Australian economy. They’re not.”
Despite global warming posing an imminent threat to Australia, and its predominate cause being the burning of fossil fuels, the Australian government is using your tax dollars to literally pay these fossil fuel companies to pollute.
As I’ve noted in the past, Tony Abbott and his government seem intent on turning Australia into a reckless “charco-state” (the coal equivalent of a petro-state).
These fossil fuel subsidies don’t just pay companies to pollute our air, water and atmosphere. They also distort our markets by making fossil fuels, like diesel and gas, artificially cheap. Special tax treatment for big oil, gas and coal projects allows fossil fuel companies to rapidly depreciate their assets, like drilling rigs. This means they get away with paying taxes that other companies are forced to.
Finally, fossil fuel subsidies are socially dangerous because many pension and superannuation funds have fossil fuel investments, risking tens or hundreds of billions in retirement savings in a carbon bubble.
What’s the basis for these decisions?
Why are massive $10 billion subsidies for one industry acceptable, but a relatively modest aid package for SPC-Ardmona unacceptable?
No doubt there are many answers to these questions.
One possible answer can be found in the work of Drew Westen, professor in the Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. The author of The Political Brain, Westen describes the neurological differences in the brains of conservatives and (in US terms) liberals.
Westen, and the likes of liberal neuro-linguist George Lakoff, posited that the way that conservatives viewed money was tied to morality.
To very briefly summarise, if a person is rich, it is proof that they are a good and moral person. It demonstrates that they must be hard-workers, wise investors, who are self sufficient and possess personal discipline.
The corollary of this is that poor people, who lack money, also lack morality. To a conservative, lack of money proves that you must be lazy, ill-disciplined, self-indulgent, deviant and dependent on others.
The role of government is to support morality and punish immorality. Thus, people on welfare are immoral and thus should be penalised, while rich people should be further rewarded and incentivised to continue to be moral.
This moral system, in my view, underpins the Abbott’s government’s approach to corporate welfare, and especially to the environment.
In the conservative world-view, companies like Holden and Ford, or SPC-Ardmona are unworthy of government support because they lose money. By definition, because they need government aid, they’re immoral, dependent, ill-disciplined and lazy.
Meanwhile, companies like hugely profitable fossil fuel companies and coal miners like Clive Palmer, are good, moral companies. Their enormous profits are proof of their morality.
What does this have to do with climate change?
The conservative world view is threatened by the very existence of climate change and global warming.
If making money and profits through mining and burning fossil fuels are moral behaviours, but those activities cause dangerous climate change which threatens you and your loved ones, then can it be moral? Any suggestion that fossil fuel extraction is harmful therefore threatens the basis of conservative morality.
If nature and natural resources exist as things to be conquered, exploited or used to make moral profits, then regulation that prevents this by definition is immoral. When it comes to conservation, environmental protection and climate change mitigation, the conservative morality of Abbott sees laws that protect biodiversity and our natural heritage as illegitimate hindrances to the moral activity of making profits.
Regulation is a form of interference in moral activities, and at worst, creates dependency. Renewable energy subsidies and targets distorts the profit-meritocracy.
Tony Abbott will always support subsidies for fossil fuel companies because they are moral companies, although at times his political instincts have made him a weather-vane on the issue.
Support for renewable energy, assistance for disadvantaged people, foreign aid, or industry packages for Holden, Ford and Australian manufacturing should be opposed because it is the role of government to punish immorality, and lack of money is proof of that immorality.
As I said, there are many possible reasons for Tony Abbott’s stance on fossil fuel subsidies and “corporate welfare”. You may have your own view; let me know in the comments.
Find out more about fossil fuel subsidies here.
A regular reader of this blog has sent me some poetry which I have faithfully reproduced below.
Old LNP, you give us cause to liken you to dinosaurs!
For, though we cry for visions new, we only ever get from you
That ancient line, Big Money-backed; ‘The status quo shall stay intact’
(Except of course, where laws prevent extracting one-o-one percent
From planet Earth and working folk. Such laws you term a needless yoke)
And furthermore, old LNP, convince us that this cannot be,
That of your sitting members, HALF, consider climate change a laugh?
For, there’s a website, paywall-free, which highlights this, so all may see.
And as we read, what do we learn, from those whom basic physics spurn?
I’d blush to reproduce a word. Their thinking is beyond absurd.
Oh Wide Brown Land, we treat you thus! We choose by vote to speak for us,
In chamber, lobby, statue’d hall, some tiny minds that shame us all.
Contrary minds that argue ill and doubt that water flows downhill.
Observe that this unreason now, draws in, like gulls behind a plough,
The backward and the none-too-bright, both audience for shock-jock’s spite
Plus, bigots who express their views when marriage laws are in the news,
Predicting we will have at least, new unions, ‘twixt man and beast.
Such ignorance, cut loose to roam, seeks out–it must– the safest home.
And as you know, old LNP, it only ever comes to thee.
shamelessly stealing this from Andrew Elder and his blog Politically Homeless
Scott Morrison should be sacked
…but he won’t be, and that’s why the Abbott government is pretty much done for.
It is not OK to conduct military incursions into other countries’ territories. It has never been OK. Morrison promised never to comment on operational matters, but he had to comment on these ‘repeated incursions‘ before the full details came from Indonesia, or from some source other than his own mouth.
All the PR smarties tell you that if you have bad news, get it out early and get it out yourself. Some news, however, goes beyond mere ‘bad news’ or even a misunderstanding. Military incursions into other countries’ territories is in this category.
The other category error that Morrison made was to blame the Navy, as though it blundered into Indonesian waters:
It was brought to my attention at just after 4.00pm Wednesday that Border Protection Command assets had, in the conduct of maritime operations associated with Operation Sovereign Borders, inadvertently entered Indonesian territorial waters on several occasions, in breach of Australian Government policy.
I should stress that this occurred unintentionally and without knowledge or sanction by the Australian Government.
It strains credibility that the Navy veered off course and did not realise its vessels were in Indonesian waters. The Navy sent its vessels where government told them to go, and did what government told them to do. It is not OK to blame the military for government policy blunders, and ultimately such a tactic will work against the government rather than the military.
From now on people in the military are more likely to leak against this government. People in the military are more likely to have credibility that politicians lack. Any difference of opinion between a politician and the military will be resolved in favour of the military (with the possible exception of bullying allegations). When you consider that military personnel vote Coalition more than any other occupational grouping, this is a political own-goal as well as a governmental one.
Australia needs a long-term relationship with Indonesia more than it needs this or that lot of politicians in government. That relationship will change as Indonesia grows in economic and political power. A big part of Australia’s economic growth prospects lie in our increasing engagement with Indonesia. This government has no capacity for improving relations with Indonesia. Even after this government loses office, the silly-buggers of the past four months will be hard to live down.
Almost every Prime Minister in Australia’s history has been confronted with the prospect of politicising the military. On almost every occasion, they have flinched and backed down from doing that; indeed, the Coalition went too far in not standing up for service personnel returning from Vietnam and giving them fewer benefits than returnees from World War II got from the cash-strapped Chifley and Menzies governments.
Veterans from Afghanistan will get fewer benefits still, and naval personnel injured at sea while intercepting boats will get less than that. This is worth remembering when watching Abbott and his ministers proclaim themselves strong supporters of the military, and when the press gallery simply pass on words and images to that effect without comment or qualification.
If Howard had been Prime Minister, he would now be in Jakarta apologising, particularly to Mrs Yudhuyono. His smarter advisors would be casting around for someone with the same credentials with Indonesia that Dr Marty Natalegawa (PhD, ANU) and Dewi Fortuna Anwar (MA, Monash) have with this country. He would realise that a strong relationship with Indonesia is important and that anyone who had to go to maintain that would go.
Peter Reith lied about the military to advance the political prospects of the then government, and his own career. He left politics abruptly, suggesting that Howard basically lost confidence in him. Today, in the emerging Fairfax tradition of commissioning jowl-wobbling outrage from grumpy old farts as clickbait, he can make catty remarks about the Liberal Party presidency but he has little to offer (either from his own mouth or as an example) about how an elected government can and should relate to the country’s armed forces as part of governing. Always be suspicious when a media tart goes to ground.
Peter Reith was once regarded by inside-Canberra sages as a potential future leader (while Reith has gone, many of said sages are still there). Senator Ian Campbell was pretty highly regarded when Howard sacked him for, um, whatever he sacked him for. David Jull was highly regarded within the Australian tourism industry, as Morrison was. None of the inside-Canberra reasons why Morrison is Too Big To Sack stand up.
The Liberal Party is organised around strong leaders; Labor has institutional checks and balances, but the Liberals are all about the Fuehrerprinzip. The Nationals can get a look-in when they bring quality to the table, as they did in the ’70s with Peter Nixon and Ian Sinclair, but mostly they are passengers in a Coalition government.
Abbott is a weak Prime Minister: weak on ideas, weak on execution, weak on resolving conflict, weak on insisting that his team deliver more and better. The fact that he talks slowly is almost beside the point because his words seem to carry no weight. Because the press gallery are mugs, they agreed that his strutting around and declarative statements would make him a strong leader, and they are puzzled that the evidence before them contradicts their convictions. By this point in her Prime Ministership, Julia Gillard was pretty much written off by the press gallery.
What, then, should Abbott do?
Abbott isn’t going to get rid of himself, though perhaps he should. When he was in South Africa, the big decisions on Holden and Graincorp were taken in his absence. He can commentate on the cricket, but not apparently on incursions into Indonesian waters. When the big decisions have to be taken, he’s not exactly stamping his authority and nor is he conferring to find workable solutions. He’s a passenger in his own government, not the pilot or even the navigator.
Getting rid of Bishop would be too hard. She would become a lightning rod for everyone who has their doubts about Abbott. We could end up with an unmarried woman who was a former law-firm partner in the Lodge with her male partner, and my goodness we can’t have that.
Getting rid of “three star” General Angus Campbell would be too soft. Campbell was always human window-dressing and nothing would be achieved in scapegoating him, except to antagonise the armed forces still further.
Abbott hasn’t thought through the implications of appointing Peter Cosgrove as Governor-General for our relationship with Indonesia. After hyping Cosgrove so much Abbott can’t afford not to appoint him, as appointing anyone else would look like a slap in the face to a man widely admired in this country.
Getting rid of Morrison would be just right. The longer Morrison stays in office, the clearer it is that Abbott is not really sorry for the incursions, and that the whole policy of patronising Indonesia like we do Vanuatu or New Zealand will continue. Within the Liberal Party, nobody trusts Morrison: the right hate him because they regard him as a smarmy, self-promoting turd, while their opponents on the lesser right know him to be a smarmy, self-promoting turd. Right now he’s doing nothing to turn around dicey polling numbers, but if he backs down altogether and starts weeping for the wretched cast upon the waters he is gone.
Like Kevin Rudd on ‘the greatest moral challenge of our time’, Morrison is finished no matter what he does. He isn’t big enough to reinvent himself and spring clear of this current imbroglio, which is why he can’t really ‘resign’ in any meaningful sense. He’s just treading water and getting away with it. If you’re the head of this government and you don’t want the whole government to be similarly stuck, then you have no choice but to cut him loose and reframe the debate.
Mind you, Tony Abbott isn’t one for public debate. He’s never seen any good thing arise from public debate. Since he was at university, Tony Abbott aligned himself with powerful people and articulated their interests. The Catholic church and the monarchy are not democratic institutions, and neither is the Liberal Party in any real sense. As long as he’s in with the decision-makers, he’s happy to let what he regards as idle chit-chat run and run – but when the impressions of this government are so fluid and when simple declarative statements are contradicted by observable facts, he runs the risk that his own statements will be regarded as just more idle chit-chat, rather than the desired effect of Shut Up And Listen This Is Your Prime Minister Speaking.
It would be surprising, but not beyond the realms of possibility, for the Commission of Audit to decide that onshore processing is more cost-effective than Nauru or Manus Island. In the same way that only Richard Nixon could go to “Red China” without being red-baited by Richard Nixon, Tony Abbott could come to welcome boat-borne refugees without any of your “pick up the phone!” nonsense – but then, for the first time in his life, he would have to run a positive campaign and become a bigger person than he is. If you still believe that’s possible, read this. Fat chance – not even with the considerable power of the office that he currently occupies.
reblogged from Precarious Climate
“Happy is the country which is more interested in sport than in politics.”
You might think the big news story of the Xmas break was that Australia won the Ashes. But in the same month you were relaxing and watching the cricket, the new Liberal/National Government quietly continued attacking climate policy, following a long-standing tradition of announcing such decisions in December. Here’s a wrap-up of some of the things that happened over the holidays.
The Government released terms of reference for a new energy white paper, which sounds like it’s all about growing fossil fuel exports, reducing energy prices, and deregulation. Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane accused the former Labor government of having “bungled its Energy White Paper process [by introducing] the carbon tax and mining tax, and new layers of regulation and red tape” – code for saying it wasn’t fossil-fuel-friendly enough. The only technology Macfarlane mentioned was liquefied natural gas (LNG). Macfarlane had previously stated the government’s intention to ensure “every molecule of gas that can come out of the ground does so”, despite Abbott having said in opposition “if you don’t want something to happen on your land, you ought to have a right to say no”. It doesn’t take a genius to work out which of these two contradictory imperatives is the government’s priority.
On the same day, Trade Minister Andrew Robb announced a (draft) Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement including investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), which would give multinational corporations the power to sue a government for any policy that hurts their profits in an unaccountable tribunal with unlimited powers. The deal is not yet finally signed and sealed, but is expected to be presented to Cabinet in February, and only then will it be released to the public. Robb says the ISDS clause will not apply to “public welfare, health and the environment”, but this claim cannot be verified while the agreement is kept secret, and similar safeguards in the Peru-US Free Trade Agreement failed. You can sign a petition telling other Cabinet Ministers not to approve the deal here.
After the Senate passed a Greens motion ordering the Government to publicly release the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade negotiation text, the Government refused to do so. It looks like free trade talks are being used as an opaque avenue to sneak through policies advancing corporate power which can’t be achieved through democratic domestic political processes. Leaked drafts of the TPP have revealed a radical agenda including ISDS. Any number of policies in the public interest could threaten corporate profits, and hence could be overturned through ISDS. This represents an attack on national sovereignty and democracy at a time when we need accountable government more than ever. An Australia Institute survey found only 11% of Australians know about the TPP, almost 90% want the details of such deals made public before they are signed, and 75% oppose allowing American corporations to sue Australian governments. There are a number of petitions against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, for example here, here, and here.
The Government also released terms of reference for an agriculture white paper which failed to mention climate change. It is not clear how the Government expects Australian agriculture to prosper in the face of the impacts of the greenhouse gas emissions and coal seam gas development promoted by the Energy White Paper. Clearly the Government adheres to the Financial Review school of thought that food security is not an issue in Australia.
That night, Labor helped the Government pass legislation preventing Australians from legally challenging projects approved before 1 January 2014 on environmental grounds. This effectively allowed the Government to dodge accountability for ignoring expert advice on the environmental impacts of any project approved prior to 2014.
Fortunately, after splitting the Government’s climate action repeal bills into three components, the Senate rejected the bill to repeal the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), surprisingly with the help of independent Nick Xenophon and Democratic Labor’s John Madigan. Effectively this postponed the battle over CEFC until July, when new Senators will take their seats. The Government continues to argue CEFC is a waste of money, while CEFC counters that it can help cut emissions and actually make a profit. The other repeal bills, the Climate Change Authority (CCA) and the carbon price, remain to be voted on. On the signature issue of the carbon price, the Government continues to try to repeal it, Labor continues to advocate moving early to an emissions trading scheme, and the Greens continue to defend the present laws under which emissions trading is scheduled to begin in 2015.
The same day, the Greens successfully moved for a Senate inquiry into the Direct Action Plan, which Greens leader Christine Milne says “will expose Direct Action as a ploy to distract Australians from the government’s refusal to take the advice of experts.” Submissions to the inquiry close 20 January.
Meanwhile, hundreds rallied with Environment Victoria against the Victorian government’s plan to create a local brown coal export industry by allocating mining permits for 13 billion tonnes of reserves and spending $90 million subsidizing new mines. Climate Code Red blogger David Spratt said at the rally:
[The Victorian government] can protect the Victorian people and their way of life, their land and farms, their water and food security by keeping fossil fuels such as coal and coal seam gas in the ground and build the clean, renewable economy. Or they can head into a dirty, export coal rush. They can’t do both.
That night, Environment Minister Greg Hunt (who would be more appropriately titled the Anti-Environment Minister) approved Adani’s proposed T0 coal export terminal, as well as dredging for two other new terminals, at the (appropriately named) Abbot Point. T0 alone will export 70 million tonnes of coal per year. Abbot Point will be the world’s biggest coal port and open up the Galilee Basin, whose nine proposed mega-mines would export enough coal to produce potentially 700 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, almost twice Australia’s domestic emissions and greater than the emissions of all but six countries. Hunt simultaneously approved an Arrow coal seam gas processing facility on Curtis Island which will export 18 million tonnes of LNG per year, and a transmission pipeline to supply it. You can sign petitions against the Abbot Point approval here and here.
In his press release approving this, Hunt had the gall to say: “Today I am announcing new plans to protect the long-term future of the Great Barrier Reef.” His plan consists of ensuring dredging occurs close to the shore – never mind that global warming is killing coral reefs as well as endangering the rest of the world. The approval process ignored climate change because two Federal Court cases over previous projects have found that overseas emissions are irrelevant to export approvals. Adani assures the Government it will “commit to reducing GHG emissions through its procurement and operations practices”. As ABC Environment’s Sara Phillips put it, “should we interpret this statement as meaning that we shouldn’t worry about the 700 million tonnes of CO2 facilitated by this project because Adani will be buying recycled paper?”
The Abbot Point and Curtis Island approvals came just a month after Hunt approved the Kevin’s Corner coal mine, and a year after the former government approved GVK’s Alpha coal mine. Alpha and Kevin’s Corner are the first two of the Galilee mega-mines, and together will produce 57 million tonnes of coal per year. Climate blogger Graham Readfearn has calculated this equates to 124 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, which over the mines’ 30-year lifetimes adds up to triple the lifetime emissions of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
Attorney-General George Brandis announced a law reform inquiry to “identify where traditional rights, freedoms and privileges are unnecessarily compromised”. It will focus largely on weakening environmental and other regulations because of their supposed infringement of corporate rights. Destroying the environment we depend on apparently does not count as an infringement of our freedom.
Fairfax newspapers reported that at the latest TPP meeting (where the secrecy intensified even further), Australia is failing to defend its plain packaging tobacco laws and is offering to agree to ISDS in exchange for greater access to sugar markets.
At the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), all states and territories signed up to take on responsibility for federal environmental assessment powers within 12 months (including Labor governments, despite federal Labor claiming to now oppose the policy). This makes official what began in September as a secret agreement between the federal Government and the coal state Queensland. State governments are notoriously pro-development, that is even more so than federal ones. As Greens Senator Larissa Waters points out: “If states had this power in the past, the Franklin River would be dammed, cattle would be grazing in the Alpine National Park and there would be oil rigs on the Great Barrier Reef.” The states continue to wind back their own environmental regulations.
With no remaining legal avenue to challenge approved mining projects, 120 protestors blocked construction at Whitehaven’s Maules Creek coal mine in NSW. 350.org’s Aaron Packard wrote about it afterwards: “It is unfortunate that it has to come to this, but we have no choice. When the Government fails, as it has so drastically with this mine and with so many other coal and gas mines around the country, it is up for the community to take a stand.”
The Government finally made good on its promise to release a full budget update with the Mid-Year Economic Forecast. Unsurprisingly there were a number of previously unannounced cuts, including to the Environmental Defenders Offices (which provide expert legal advice and representation on environmental issues and are thus opposed by mining companies) and Energy Efficiencies Opportunities Program (which like the CEFC actually makes money for the government, but is opposed by fossil fuel electricity generators because reducing energy demand reduces their profits). There were no cuts to fossil fuel subsidies. The document contained no mention of the Emissions Reduction Fund, the centrepiece of the climate Direct Action Plan. The only fully costed climate policy was $800 million over five years for the “Green Army”, which would employ 15,000 young people to do things like revegetation and clearing rivers, which will have no significant impact on global warming as it fails to target the fossil fuel industry.
Released on the same day was the Energy White Paper issues paper. It foreshadows possible consideration of investing in nuclear power and dividing up the Renewable Energy Target into bands including emerging technologies, consistent with the Government’s incorrect belief that existing renewables cannot provide 100% of Australia’s energy. The paper also says the major contributor to electricity prices, network costs, will continue rising, revealing the Government’s hypocrisy in complaining about the impacts of climate policies on electricity prices. This could be avoided by instead investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy, whose prices are falling rapidly as technologies are improved and deployment is scaled up. It seems the Government really wants higher electricity prices because that means greater profits for fossil-fuel-fired generators. Submissions on the energy white paper close 7 February.
Meanwhile, Brandis appointed Tim Wilson from the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) as “freedom commissioner” at the Human Rights Commission. The IPA is Australia’s most extreme proponent of right-wing libertarian politics and global warming denialism, and would prefer to abolish the Human Rights Commission. Unlike other commissioners Wilson did not have to apply for the job; Brandis just rang him up and asked if he wanted it. Wilson argues he is qualified because “Private property is in itself a human right, and one of the things that I have always focused on is free trade which is ultimately an extension of private property” and critics of his appointment “look at human rights as some sort of legal gift from government”. Wilson’s comment on Occupy Melbourne was “send in the water cannons”.
When asked about the upcoming review of the Renewable Energy Target (RET), Abbott said the RET was causing “pretty significant price pressures”, Australia should be an “affordable energy superpower”, and he would consult with his business advisor Maurice Newman, a denier who opposes the RET. In fact the RET has reduced wholesale electricity prices, a 2012 review found its cost impact was minuscule, and the major factor in rising retail electricity prices is over-investment in poles and wires. Again, the Government’s real concern is that the RET is reducing profits for coal-fired generators. Abbott’s comments are the Government’s clearest signal yet that the RET is likely to be scrapped or weakened. The terms of reference for the RET review have not yet been released, probably because the Government is waiting until it can abolish the pro-RET CCA so the review can be conducted by the anti-RET Productivity Commission. It looks like history is going to repeat itself: the last time the Liberals were in government, when they sabotaged their own Renewable Energy Target.
The Friday before Xmas, the Government released the Emissions Reduction Fund Green Paper. I haven’t yet had time to examine the Green Paper in depth, but I intend to post more about it in future. Judging by the news coverage, it largely remains the same as the ineffective policy the Liberals took to the election (which I analysed here), though I am surprised to say (cautiously) that it may contain some improvements. Submissions on the Green Paper close 21 February.
Also announced was an Expert Reference Group which will convene regularly during the Fund’s design to advise the Government. Almost all of its members are corporate executives or lobbyists, supposedly selected for “their renowned sectoral expertise”. It includes the chief executives of the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network, Minerals Council of Australia, National Farmers Federation, Energy Retailers Association Australia, Energy Supply Association of Australia, Business Council of Australia, Australian Industry Group, and Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry – all of which oppose strong climate action. It also includes the directors of Exigency Management and Frontier Economics, the consultants who helped the Liberals design and model their policy in opposition. (The other members are from the Clean Energy Council, Green Building Council of Australia, and Commonwealth Bank of Australia, as well as real experts from ANU and CSIRO.)
Late Friday afternoon, Hunt approved two more fossil fuel projects: billionaire politician Clive Palmer’s China First mine which will produce 40 million tonnes of coal per year; and the Surat Gas Expansion which will drill 6,500 wells. You can sign a petition against the China First approval here.
Meanwhile, a group of climate activists turned up at the ANZ Bank AGM. They asked why ANZ is funding coal export projects, to which the chairman responded that they are have no qualms about funding any coal mine that has been approved by a state government (which is meaningless because, as noted above, state governments approve all developments). The chairman then refused to allow questions from citizens who had travelled hundreds of kilometres to the meeting, refused to answer questions about the financial and reputational risk of investing in coal, and pointed to a sustainability index saying ANZ is the greenest of Australia’s big banks.
Palmer had promised in October to release his political party’s agreement with the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party as a Christmas present to independent Senator Nick Xenophon. But when the day arrived, Palmer refused/neglected to do so. When asked about it, Palmer told journalists he could not release the agreement immediately because he was busy fishing, while the Motoring Enthusiasts said it was “none of your business” and there was “nothing sinister to it”. When the agreement was finally published several days later, it explained little and appeared to have had paragraphs removed. I have included this because any secret agreement between Palmer and the Motoring Enthusiasts could well be related to climate.
Some team I’m supposed to support won a game that is somehow more important than all the above.
This government is only four months old, and already its level of secrecy, deception, misdirection, and irresponsibility is staggering. I know rationally that governments in other countries such as the US and Canada operate like this so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but it’s difficult to accept that it’s now happening here in Australia. The only positive thing I can say is the Government can’t be accused of slacking off over the holidays.