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Australia’s energy security sacrificed to the Coalition’s internal power struggle

In 2001, John Howard introduced a renewable energy target (RET) to support the initial development of renewable generating capacity in the country and get it through the early stages where costs were high and private enterprise would be unlikely to support it without the legal requirement the RET provided.

In June 2007, Peter Shergold, then Head of Prime Minister and Cabinet, presented John Howard with a report produced by the emissions trading taskforce whose “key message was go soon because the longer you delayed, the higher the cost you imposed upon yourself and the greater the investment uncertainty.”

Consequently, the Liberal Party took to the 2007 election a policy to establish an emissions trading scheme.

EXCERPT FROM LIBERAL PARTY POLICY DOCUMENT 2007 ELECTION: A re-elected Coalition Government will establish the world’s most comprehensive emissions trading scheme in Australia, commencing no later than 2012.

Labor won the election and, by 2009, was well into negotiations with the Liberal Party, now led by Malcom Turnbull, on the details about how the system would work.

These negotiations, led by Penny Wong for the government and Ian McFarlane for the Opposition, were very close to completion – until the wreckers stepped in, Tony Abbott, Barnaby Joyce, and Cory Bernardi large among them.

Led by the Opposition Leader in the Senate and godfather of the liberals climate sceptics, Nick Minchin, the undermining of consensus began.

NICK MINCHIN: For the extreme left it provides the opportunity to do what they’ve always wanted to do, to sort of de-industrialise the western world. You know the collapse of communism was a disaster for the left, and the, and really they embraced environmentalism as their new religion. I don’t mind being branded a sceptic about the theory that that human emissions and CO2 are the main driver of global change – of global warming. I don’t accept that and I’ve said that publicly. I guess if I can say it, I would hope that others would feel free to do so.

CORY BERNARDI: Well I think that scientists need to justify their own actions. They will keep putting forward and saying we’ve got all this evidence, the evidence is increasingly discredited, why have they done it, what’s their motivations for doing it? Are they afraid to stand up to the extreme green lobby?

TONY ABBOTT: We want to be careful that we’re not jumping on a bandwagon or being taken in by a fad. It seems that the world has cooled slightly since the late 1990s. One of the things which I think has disconcerted a lot of people is the evangelical fervour of the climate change alarmists because they haven’t pursued their case with the kind of careful moderation that you normally associate with the best scientists.

BARNABY JOYCE, NATIONALS SENATOR, QUEENSLAND: And you can go to Copenhagen, you can go to Disneyland, you can go wherever you like but the position of the National Party on this will be quite clear, to understand the word no.

An increasingly frustrated Shadow Minister for Resources, Ian McFarlane, tried to bring some reality into the debate.

IAN MACFARLANE: The reality is, you are not going to see another coal fired power station built in Australia. That’s, that’s a simple fact. You can talk about all the stuff you like about carbon capture storage, that concept will not materialise for 20 years, and probably never.

Abbott rolled Turnbull shortly after, destroying any further negotiations with Rudd, followed by a ruthless and dishonest campaign that led to the repeal of Gillard’s carbon price.

The policy that Abbott took to the 2013 election committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 5-25% on 2000 levels to be reviewed in 2015 to consider a longer term target in light of international agreement. He also committed to the RET of 20% by 2020 with a review in 2014.

In preparation for the Paris climate talks, the Bestest Ever Minister in the Whole Wide World as judged by the oil-producing nations, Greg Hunt pulled one of his accounting tricks by moving the base year for emissions reduction from 2000 to 2005. The reason he did this was because 2005 was a particularly high year for emissions.

To get an understanding of what impact that has, the following is an excerpt from the latest Quarterly Update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory:

“Australia’s annual emissions for the year to March 2017 are estimated to be 550.1 Mt CO2 -e. This figure is 0.8 per cent below emissions in 2000 (554.4 Mt CO2 -e) and 9.1 per cent below emissions in 2005 (605.0 Mt CO2 -e).”

Hey presto, an extra 8.3% reduction just by changing base years.

Despite professing bipartisan support before the election, the Abbott government also attacked the RET, initially with threats to abolish it altogether but reaching eventual agreement with Labor to reduce it from 41,000 GWh to 33,000 GWh by 2020.

In a joint statement in April 2015, the environment and industry ministers said: “We will also remove the requirement for regular two-yearly reviews of the RET to give the industry the certainty it needs to move ahead.”

But less than a month later, Industry minister Ian Macfarlane backflipped saying Cabinet insisted the reviews remain.

“This is an issue we thought had been resolved now by both parties for the last 18 months,” Andrew Richards from wind farm operator Pacific Hydro said. “We thought they had understood that constant reviews is not good for investor confidence. We’d like to see it removed. We hope that saner people prevail eventually and they will remove it and will allow us to go on and invest with some level of confidence.”

Wind tower manufacturer Keppel Prince said while it was glad a 33,000 GWh deal has been reached, the reviews needed to stop.

“It just has that air of uncertainty and the industry just locks up any sort of spending for probably a good six to eight months beforehand,” Mr Garner said. “Every two years we seem to run out of work because the investment just stops.”

Changing back to Malcolm Turnbull has only made matters worse. It is still Abbott, Joyce and Bernardi who are driving the debate which is now totally devoid of any discussion of climate change. They are currently leading the campaign to destroy the clean energy target.

As Turnbull theatrically struts around throwing out childish taunts like Blackout Bill and No Coal Joel, it should be remembered that it isn’t Labor who has changed their support for emissions reduction and renewable energy.

You cannot privatise an essential utility and then create such uncertainty that the industry effectively grinds to a halt.

Our energy crisis can be laid squarely at the feet of a divided Coalition whose own power struggles over the last decade have made it impossible for them to come up with any sort of enduring policy.


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  1. economicreform

    The coalition parties have no principle and no brains. We do not need or want this rabble in government.

  2. diannaart

    it should be remembered that it isn’t Labor who has changed their support for emissions reduction and renewable energy.

    Yup, while Labor could have done a whole lot more to aid transition to sustainable energy sources, it has not been holding the reins for the past few years. Years into which long term investment was and remains vital. I am not surprised, the LNP missed their opportunity to govern for Australia. I have to wonder just when will the LNP realise their star chamber of Abbott, Joyce, Bernardi, et al are a huge mistake and ditch the little tin-pot lordlings?

  3. Kaye Lee

    Our minimum commitment was to reduce emissions by 5% on 2000 levels by 2020. We have been assured we are on track to exceed this target,.

    Except the government’s own report from the Department of the Environment and Energy released last month said that our annual emissions for the year to March 2017 are estimated to be 0.8 per cent below emissions in 2000.

    Considering emissions went up 1% in the last year (largely driven by an increase in LNG exports), and they have spent most of the emissions reduction fund, abandoned the solar roofs initiative, reduced the RET, disbanded the Green Army, and insisted that coal-fired power stations keep going…what are our chances of actually getting anywhere near our targets without bullshit accounting tricks?

  4. Peter F

    Abbott says the world has cooled slightly: I wonder which scientific data he relies on to gather that understanding. Surely science is not part of his assessment.

  5. Kaye Lee

    Barnaby Joyce would travel around to regional areas with one man travelling road show for sceptics Bob Carter

    BOB CARTER: The temperature in 1958 is the same as the temperature in 1979, is the same as the temperature in 2005. How many of you in this room are under 50? There’s been no global warming in your lifetime. None. Zip. Zero. None. Temperature has gone down and carbon dioxide has gone up. How is it possible to have a Prime Minister that believes that increasing carbon dioxide emissions are causing dangerous global warming?

    I don’t have a message. I’m a scientist. I work in the area of climate change. And as a scientist I don’t have an opinion, I don’t have a political view. But as Barnaby said, you have to beat down the door of every voting senator, forget the Labor ones, every voting Liberal senator, forget the National ones, they’re going to vote against it anyway. The Liberal senators have to be convinced this bill’s got to be defeated a second time. They voted against it once.

    Sounds pretty political to me.

  6. Kaye Lee

    Global mean surface temperature change from 1880 to 2016, relative to the 1951–1980 mean. The black line is the global annual mean and the red line is the five-year lowess smooth. The blue uncertainty bars show a 95% confidence limit. Source: NASA GISS.


  7. pierre wilkinson

    But Kaye Lee, bullshit accounting tricks are in this mob’s DNA
    and Diannaart, whilst murdoch controls the agenda and thrives on the inanity of these three plus their sycophantic followers, whilst the shock jocks scream green conspiracy and whilst our PM speaks eloquently of how successful his government is, we can but hope to mitigate the damage being done

  8. Keith

    We have been warned that the longer it takes to pursue policy in relation to climate change the more expensive mitigation and adaptation becomes, Inside Climate News provides some insight; it provides mainly the US experience:

    Damage from Hurricane Irma, Harvey Add to Growing U.S. Costs of Climate Change

    Though, it is very likely that Munich Re’s assessment for 2017 of natural disasters will be the highest ever recorded by far.

  9. John Boyd

    And, of course, Howard actually boasted that he had never believed in global warming, it was just politically convenient to support it to counter the ALP’s support. he was quite happy for the deniers to take over after the election.

  10. Kaye Lee

    Peta Credlin admits the climate change policy under Julia Gillard’s Labor government was never a carbon tax, but the coalition used that label to stir up brutal retail politics – the coalition made it a “carbon tax” and a fight about the hip pocket rather than the environment.

  11. Kyran

    “In 2001, John Howard introduced a renewable energy target….”
    Ahhh, the lying little rodent. How many ill will’s we suffer, due to this lying little rodent?
    The 1997 Kyoto protocols that the lying little rodent signed up to were based on skewed ‘base line’ parameters. Whilst not oft said, they are well documented.
    This is the same lying little rodent that paraded his ‘fiscal competence’ behind a masquerade of ‘fiscal incompetence’.
    This is the same lying little rodent that had a ‘debate’ on being a republic, whilst tying the hands of the opponent cause.
    This is the same lying little rodent that went to war, to keep us safe, devoid of parliamentary scrutiny.
    This is the same lying little rodent that brought in ‘Workchoices’, all the while knowing it deprived workers of choice.
    The list of this lying little rodent’s transgressions are (is?) long. I use the words cautiously. It is the Attorney General, a failed barrister, granted QC status some years after he left practice, that described him as a ‘lying rodent’. My input was ‘little’. That is my estimation of his input.
    “You cannot privatise an essential utility and then create such uncertainty that the industry effectively grinds to a halt.”
    The lying little rodent has always been a fan of ‘privatize the wealth, socialize the losses’. It’s only fair he gets wheeled out so often these days. Abbott couldn’t sell it. Turnbull couldn’t sell it. They all need the lying little rodent to help their cause.
    Just as the lying little rodent is true to his cause, every so often, you get the gift of dissent.

    Here’s the thing, Ms Lee. Your comment, some minutes ago;

    “I have seen more bigotry, violence and intolerance from the ‘yes’ campaigners than any of the ‘no’ campaigners.”
    Let’s see….
    We had the old guy who smashed a pie into Alan Joyce’s face.
    We had the guy that punched Kevin Rudd’s godson in the nose.
    We had the Presbyterian minister who refused to marry two heterosexual members of his congregation because the bride showed support for marriage equality on her facebook page.
    There was the poster claiming that “gay couples are thirty times more likely to molest children” and another that claimed 92% of children raised by gay parents are abused, that 51% have depression, and that 72% are obese.
    There was the flyer distributed in Hurstville which claims that “the number of victims being raped in public female changing rooms and bathroom in those countries that has passed the same sex marriage legislation is a stunning fact to all!”
    There was the ad that showed a troubled looking office worker with a rainbow noose around her neck with the claim that “Same sex marriage increases PC bullying in the workplace,”
    Marriage Alliance says the yes campaign wants “to destroy our entire Aussie way of life.”
    Various parliamentarians have linked marriage equality to bestiality.
    Well over 1 million kids who don’t live with their two biological parents have been told their family is inadequate.
    No campaigners drove their cars into a group of yes campaign protesters in Brisbane.
    From the yes side, Benjamin Law made a crude and tasteless tweet that was very disappointing.
    There was a protest at Sydney uni where people from the yes campaign “started throwing glitter at us, starting taking our own food, the hummus, and threw it on one of our members,” and someone tried to grab a sign from the hands of a member of the Catholic Society. A NSW Police spokeswoman said “We attended but there was virtually no action taken.”
    One side are asking for equal rights for all, the other seek to exclude people from the rights they enjoy while casting themselves, from their position of privilege, as the victims. Extraordinary.”

    That old white guy, that lying little rodent, a lawyer who went to church religiously, is nothing more than a lying little rodent. Fancy a failed lawyer calling a failed lawyer a lying rodent? Fancy a churchgoer calling another churchgoer names?
    If calling a ‘lying little rodent’ a ‘lying little rodent’ is offensive, may our god’s help us. The lying little rodent, with god on his side, is of no use. Sometimes, you just have to let the past pass.
    Yeah, ok. Wishful thinking.
    Thank you Ms Lee and commenters. Take care

  12. Kaye Lee

    Don’t forget Howard’s promise going into the 1996 election to match Labor’s timetable to increase compulsory super from 9% to 12% and eventually to 15%. Six months after they released the policy, Howard and Costello nixed it in their first budget, insisting it was too expensive.

    Then in 2007, he allowed individuals to contribute up to 1 million tax free dollars each into super. That year, private contributions outstripped employer contributions for the first time.

    I agree we must let the past go but we should learn some lessons about credibility and trust.

  13. Kyran

    With that ‘super’ thingy, isn’t O’Dwyer trying to undermine that?
    We don’t need to dwell in, or on, the past. That is the provenance of that lying little rodent, and his ilk. How we inform ourselves from it is critical for the next generations. Isn’t that how we define our credibility to the next generations? Without credibility, how could we, or should we, expect their trust?
    Once upon a time, I thought bigotry, violence and intolerance were consigned, forever, to the past. Now we have a postal vote, inciting violence and intolerance, based on nothing more than bigotry.
    There are some parts of the past that aren’t worth the time of day. Credibility and trust are worth a bit more.
    Grateful, as always, Ms Lee. Take care

  14. Terry2

    Good factual research, Kaye Lee….Thank you.

    The disturbing thing is that you won’t read this in the mainstream media and if the likes of ABC Four Corners reveals the duplicity they are just playing into the hands of a coalition who just want to see the ABC defunded.

    I’m still coming to terms with the rationale Fifield provided on Insiders for the $30 million handout to Foxtel : he actually said this :

    commercial broadcasters had recently won reductions in their licence fees, and this had made them more competitive with pay TV which didn’t pay licence fees

    Surely, this is bordering on official corruption ?

  15. Glenn Barry

    I for one and eagerly awaiting the death of the lying little rodent, not so that I can attend his funeral, I will be to busy celebrating.
    Howard is a nasty anachronism, men of his ilk in eras past would argue for things like the white Australia policy, depriving women of the vote, depriving Australian Aboriginals of land rights and given the right era, advocating for slavery

  16. Michael Taylor

    Kaye, I’ve added a plugin that might make your life easier. You won’t have to put in code anymore when you want to publish a photo in a comment. Just the link will do.

  17. townsvilleblog

    So ten years on when action on climate change is even more critical the Liberal Party is split with their factions at war with each other making a sensible move towards action on climate change impossible, at least the ALP have a plan, this mob are preoccupied with fighting each other for supremacy and Turnbull doesn’t care as long as he is PM.

  18. guest

    It is amazing that Coalition politicians air their ignorance so brazenly in public. No science at all in their “what I think” air bubbles.

    It is interesting to see contributions from the Murdoch press, with twitter from the owner himself and some scribblers such as Graham Lloyd revealing again and again long-debunked denialist/sceptic musings based on vested interests, not science.

    Another Murdoch writer is Paul Monk, writing about Climate Change in his review of three Climate Change books, one of them by Tim Flannery, another by Mark Butler. Monk, in a piece entitled “Climate ripe for bold debate”, says they are writing in a “not particularly productive climate in this country”. And well might we wonder why.

    He goes on: “None of them discusses the deeper background to the matter. Yet that deeper background is vital if we are, collectively, to get a handle on this ominous and confused controversy…” Confusing? Is there not 97% agreement? Who is confused?

    So what is the “deeper background”? One aspect, apparently, is that “…everything we know about the geophysical history of the Earth and the ecosphere has been learned very, very recently…” So? What he is saying is that we do not know much about it. Really?

    He expands: ” …the global climate is highly changeable … The problem was not greenhouse gasses but other things…it is highly complex and the overwhelming majority of people simply do not grasp the science at all.”

    That is to say, this Climate Change thing has all happened before, CO2 has nothing to do with it and we have not been listening. Oh. really?

    He says: “Even if we had overwhelming consensus on the science…getting clarity and consensus in public policy in short order is another matter again.” Sounds like a Coalition argument about Marriage Equality.

    No, look, it is about “economic and risk analysis” (ie, economics beats science). It is about how to “manage the Earth, as distinct from feeling dependent on its natural cycles – as distinct from recklessly plundering it.” Natural cycles is the give-away there.

    So Flannery marvels at the technological and social changes over the past 100 years – and Monk seizes the opportunity to criticise “utopian vision” of the Left-wing Stalin and Mao kind. (Does he mean renewable energy here in Oz?) So he advises “more haste, less speed”.

    In his exposition he recommends various books for us to read in order to educate us about the “deeper background” he thinks we need to know. But I will recommend some reading for him, from a write also coming out of the ANU, namely Tony Eggleton and his book on Climate Change (2013).

    Eggleton says this (p. 168): “Surely there is a body of science that underpins their (Denier/sceptic) views.? …The answer is because there is no such body of knowledge. I Iooked. I searched extensively…”

    Furthermore: “At present the world is warming at the rate of 1 degree C in 60 years: that is, 20 times faster than any previous sustained rate of temperature change.” (p. 133)

    And: “…the atmospheric CO2 gradually rose during the C20th from a pre-industrial figure of 280 ppm to the unprecendented (in at least the past 24 million years) level of 380 ppm” (now 400 ppm).

    And to conclude: ” We now have a very clear and robust long-term record of the Earth’s natural climate variation.”

    What is it that people like Paul Monk do not understand?

  19. diannaart

    When are we lefties gonna realise that Economics transcends everything, especially science.

  20. guest

    What we do understand, diannaart, is that there is no economics if we cook the planet. You know that and I know that, but I keep asking: What is the economic ideology which is so immutable that the rusted-on-business-as-usual ideologists are risking cooking the planet out of sheer stubbornness – or pigheaded ignorance? Yet, behind it all, they seem to be hoping that some kind of science will save them even as they continue in their business-as-usual.

  21. diannaart

    behind it all, they seem to be hoping that some kind of science will save them even as they continue in their business-as-usual.

    But don’t expect any road to Damascus conversion.

    The technology menu will be carefully selected: attempts to change weather patterns via cloud seeding or giant parabolas in the sky, more wall building against rising oceans and fleeing refugees, more artificial mass-production of food – under domes, in massive fisheries and throwing more and more oil, gas and nuclear into the mix, because they know it works unlike that nancy-boy sustainable stuff that causes pylons to fall over.


  22. Kaye Lee

    Even if they want to talk economics, the cost of increasingly frequent and severe weather and climate events is costing trillions.

    “The U.S. has sustained 212 weather and climate disasters since 1980 where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion (including CPI adjustment to 2017). The total cost of these 212 events exceeds $1.2 trillion.

    In 2017 (as of July 7), there have been 9 weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States. The 1980–2016 annual average is 5.5 events (CPI-adjusted); the annual average for the most recent 5 years (2012–2016) is 10.6 events (CPI-adjusted). During the first half of 2017 (January-June), the U.S. experienced a rapid succession of disaster events, which follows the near-record number of billion-dollar disasters that impacted the U.S. in 2016.”

    And that was before the latest lot of hurricanes and floods.

  23. LOVO

    Pity this busy monster…man-unkind….. ?
    Poor fella…my country…..?
    Pingoes the weasels….?

  24. Terry2

    Well, Turnbull’s answer to his own inertia on energy policy is to give AGL 90 days to come up with an energy policy.


  25. diannaart


    Not sure whether Turncoat remembers how socialism works…

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