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Kaye describes herself as a middle-aged woman in jammies. She knew Tony Abbott when they both attended Sydney University where she studied for a Bachelor of Science. After 20 years teaching mathematics, with the introduction of the GST in 2000, she became a ‘feral accountant’ for the small business that she and her husband own. Kaye uses her research skills “to pass on information, to join the dots, to remember what has been said and done and to remind others, and to do the maths.”

If you want evidence-based decision making then you need to actually consider the evidence

Why is the government considering giving Adani a billion dollars?  According to Richard Denniss, it’s a muscle-flexing exercise for Barnaby’s boys.

“Subsidising the world’s largest export coal mine at a time of declining world demand for coal…has become a way to prove the Nats can get things built and to show their rivals in the Coalition that the junior partner has some real power.”

Barnaby concedes that they might cop “some flak” from environmentalists whilst completely ignoring the concerns from other coal producers.

Glencore’s head of Australian coal said in 2015 that “bringing on additional tonnes with the aid of taxpayer money would materially increase the risk to existing coal operations”.

Even the former Coalition resources minister, Ian Macfarlane, now the head of the Queensland Minerals Council, admits that some mining companies are opposed to Adani’s subsidies, stating “it’s a competitive world and some of our members see it as giving an advantage to one of their competitors”.

Thankfully, the decision on whether to give Adani the money is not up to Barnaby or his former staffer and cheerleader for coal, Matt Canavan.  In order to be eligible for a ‘loan’ from the Northern Australia Investment Facility, the project must be uncommercial.  NAIF’s rules require it to only lend to projects that “would not otherwise have received sufficient financing from other financiers”.

But the man running the Carmichael project for Adani, Jeyakumar Janakaraj, told a CEDA function a few weeks ago that they have plenty of financing options including selling off 49% of the Abbott Point port.

“There is a lot of sources of funds which are available to Adani and we will use these shareholder options as and when required.  This project will get funded, this project will see execution this year.”

This reinforced what Adani spokesman Ron Watson said late last year when speaking about Adani’s application to NAIF for funding for the railway.

“It’s not critical. We have obviously applied for it because it’s available,” he told Fairfax Media. “This is something that governments of all political persuasions have done in the past and I assume will do in the future. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s make or break for the project.”

So how to get subsidies for a project that claims it doesn’t need them?  Richard Denniss revealed Barnaby’s cunning idea.

Joyce’s solution is to argue that while the mine will be profitable, the monopoly railway line that would connect the coal mine to the port will not be commercial and, in turn, that the railway line will be eligible for a NAIF subsidy. Perhaps a court will have to decide if the monopoly railway between a profitable mine and a healthy world market could ever be considered “uncommercial”.

Adani’s political support, at state and federal level, is driven by the supposed number of jobs that will be created by the project.

Adani claims that 8291 jobs will be created in construction, while there will be 11,834 operational jobs, which is in stark contrast to the testimony given by their own economic advisers ACIL Allen who caused a stir in 2015 when they told Queensland’s Land Court that just 1464 direct and indirect jobs would be created with only 483 of those jobs in the Local MIW Region.

Adani has insisted that those comments were in relation to the mine only, not the other parts of the project like the railway and the port, but the report clearly states that they are modelling “the economic impacts of the Carmichael coal mine and rail project (the Project) proposed by Adani Mining Pty Ltd (Adani).”

“The Carmichael mine is to be located in the Galilee Basin, in Queensland, with the coal to be transported by rail to the Port of Abbot Point.  This report does not consider the economic impact of any expansion of the port at Abbot Point. My understanding is that this is a separate project subject to different commercial considerations from the Carmichael Project.”

According to the EIS for the Abbott Point port expansion, it will create between 82 and 164 direct and indirect jobs for less than a year of construction with ongoing employment of 1 direct job and 1.1 indirect jobs into the future.

Since those reports were produced, Adani have significantly scaled back the first phase of the mine.

“The first phase obviously will be very small, we have a 25-million-tonne open-pit mine to run,” Janakaraj said.

Carmichael’s smaller scale will reduce the power challenges in the near term, with the first stage small enough to be powered by diesel generators.

This might put a dint in Clive Palmer’s hunt for public money from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to fund a $1.25 billion coal-fired power station and carbon capture and storage facility linked to his Galilee Basin  China First project, which has not yet started.

Also relevant to the discussion is the fact that Indian coal imports fell 22 per cent in January 2017 year on year.  This is now the second financial year in a row of decline and the rate is accelerating.

When asked what he hoped Adani would deliver for Queensland, the state’s Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham suggested jobs were a bigger priority than royalty flows.

“The main thing is obviously the jobs it will deliver to the state, both in construction and in long-term development of the Galillee Basin, there is no doubt about that, it is the jobs we are focused on,” he said.

Perhaps he is unaware of Janakaraj’s boasting to shareholders about his true intentions.

“We will be utilizing at least fourty-five 400-tonne driverless trucks. All the vehicles will be capable of automation. When we ramp up the mine, everything will be autonomous from mine to port. In our eyes, this is the mine of the future.”

When Malcolm Turnbull challenged for the leadership, he said “There must be an end to policy on the run and captain’s calls. We need to be truly consultative with colleagues, members of Parliament, senators and the wider public.  We need an open government, an open government that recognises that there is an enormous sum of wisdom both within our colleagues in this building and, of course, further afield.”

If Gina’s boy Barnaby wins this one, we will know that evidence-based decision making is well and truly dead in Australia and that the man who said in 2010 “A zero emission future …  is absolutely essential if we are to leave a safe planet to our children and the generations that come after them” is now totally impotent.

The suppository of all wisdom’s verbal diarrhea flows unchecked

 

Returning triumphant from his taxpayer-funded pollie pedal ride, Tony Abbott has engaged in a media blitz to pass on his diagnosis of the problems of modern politics.

First, he wrote an article in The Telegraph outlining how the Coalition was on the road to defeat and what they should do to turn it around.  Then we find that he has replaced Scott Morrison for the regular gig with Ray Hadley on 2GB.  Also appearing on Sky, Abbott seems determined to be noticed.

And he is not expecting any backlash for speaking out.  Talking to Ray Hadley, Tony revealed that he shirtfronted senior minister Matthias Cormann when he criticised Abbott for a similar spray against the government in February.

“Mathias and I had a man-to-man talk you might say about that particular outburst of his,” he told 2GB host Ray Hadley. “We had a very blunt conversation about it. If you don’t like what someone is doing, rather than speak out publicly at least in the first instance you should have a man-to-man discussion.”

Can he not see the hypocrisy of that as he takes to the airwaves to tell the country what his government is doing wrong rather than discussing it in the party room?

So what wisdom did the failed ex-PM have to offer?

Mr Abbott says to retain power and please the public the government must reform the Senate (I thought we just did that); stop subsidising wind power (and presumably subsidise coal instead); dump the Human Rights Commission, “a nanny-state bureaucracy which persecutes journalists but does nothing about Muslim extremists” (he had to get “Muslim” in there somewhere and he has never considered human rights important); protect workers but make it easier for future generations to get work (no mention of how); abolish the Safe Schools program (which we all know is a Marxist brainwashing exercise to make all children transgender); and “don’t apologise for Australia; celebrate it” (as we cut foreign aid, fail to act on climate change, and fail to close the gap on indigenous disadvantage).

No mention of foreign policy.  No mention of taxation reform.  No mention of housing affordability.  No mention of the corruption and nepotism of the political class.  (Ok, that last one was a flight of fancy on my part.)

Speaking of Abbott’s failed attempt to join the priesthood, Fr Brian Wright said:

“The study of theology did not capture Tony’s imagination.  He did passably well; not as well as his academic background may have indicated.  I do not recall that he ever talked about theology while at Manly.  His concern was with churchmanship.  Tony is inclined to score points, to skate over or hold back any reservations he might have about his case.”

Nothing has changed.  Even in the church, for Tony it was all about the politics and not about the substance as shown by his comments on why he left.

A “cooperative” style of management ran counter to the Church’s age-old hierarchical structure.  l felt “had” by a seminary that so stressed ”empathy” with sinners and “dialogue” with the Church’s enemies that the priesthood seemed to have lost its point.”

Abbott craves power.  His only method to achieve it is to latch onto niche causes that he thinks will make him popular and to attack anyone or anything that stands in his way even if it is his own government.

While Abbott insists he is against dumping a sitting Prime Minister, I am sure he will have no such hesitation in rolling a defeated one and he seems to be doing everything he can to make that happen.

Informed citizens or contented consumers

There is great value in maintaining a national broadcaster that is publicly owned and funded, politically independent and fully accountable. Public ownership brings a distinct difference to the broadcasting system, with national broadcasters required and able to provide comprehensive, innovative programs not influenced by commercial imperatives.

But it seems the government’s appointees to the board of the ABC have a ‘new direction’.  As Richard Ackland put it, they want to turn what was once “a bright shining jewel in an ocean of mediocrity” into “mainstream sludge.”

In October 2014, the government appointed Peter Lewis to the board of the ABC.  This was a highly inappropriate appointment as Mr Lewis, who has a background in commercial media finance with Channel 7, was the author of a controversial, and secret, review of the ABC that was still under consideration by the board.

“Mr Lewis’s appointment appears to be a reward for him having devised a blueprint for how the ABC should be cut. It also looks to be an attempt by the Government to impose an agenda of commercialisation on the ABC.

Peter Lewis should never have been appointed to conduct a review of the ABC due to his recent employment in senior roles with media companies that are competitors of the ABC. It is even worse that someone with such a clear potential for conflict of interest has been appointed to the broadcaster’s governing board.”

A month later, Matt Peacock, 7:30 reporter and ABC staff-elected director, was told he faced redundancy after management placed him in pool of candidates to assess on ‘skills matrix’.  At the time, he was one of the board members who had to decide where to make the $254m cuts from the broadcaster.  One can only wonder how a threat like that would affect his ability to represent the staff on the board.

In November 2015, the government completely ignored the independent nominations panel who makes recommendations about ABC board appointments to appoint Donny Walford whose only qualification appears to be being a South Australian woman who owns a private company that helps women get on boards.

They also appointed Kirstin Ferguson, a Queensland woman whose background is mostly in the resources industry.  Neither woman has experience in the media.  They appear to have been chosen specifically for their gender and location to even things up.

In December 2015, it was announced that Michelle Guthrie, a former executive at Google and News Corp, would take over as Managing Director.

Under her watch, the ABC has announced a series of controversial changes starting with the abolition of the ABC Fact Check Unit. Then the closure of The Drum opinion and analysis website. In November the ABC announced it would make cuts to TV science program Catalyst that included redundancies for up to 9 staff, a decision that infuriated the scientific community. It then revealed significant programming changes to Radio National, including the removal of almost all music programs from the station.

Guthrie told the ace reporters, researchers and producers who put together Australia’s premier investigative current affairs TV show Four Corners that she would like to see in the lineup more stories about successful business people.

When it came to the program about children on Nauru speaking about their dire existence as captives of Australia’s offshore refugee policy, the managing director thought Four Corners should have found some happy children to interview.

Phillip Adams, who has presented Late Night Live on Radio National since 1991, says: “On the Richter scale of dread this is the most intense I’ve ever seen – and I lived through the Jonathan Shier years.”

Of Guthrie, Adams says: “She seems to talk to fellow bureaucrats, not program makers.”

In February this year, the government appointed Georgie Somerset to the board.  She is a beef cattle farmer and member of lobby group AgForce Queensland which is “a peak organisation representing Queensland’s rural producers.”

AgForce lists as a policy success its continued “fight to ensure that the significant international scrutiny that the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area is attracting is informed by credible science and practical targets rather than emotion and politics.”  They want “voluntary methods” rather than “mindless regulation.”

“I believe that agriculture is a cornerstone for the Australian economy and ensuring that the agricultural community has a voice in important decision making and policy setting forums is essential,” she said.

The government once again ignored the nominations panel to also appoint Vanessa Guthrie, chair of the Minerals Council, one of the most powerful lobby groups in the land.   She has more than 30 years of experience in the mining and resources industries, holding a variety of senior executive roles at Alcoa, Woodside Energy and Goldfields Limited.  Until last year, Guthrie was the managing director and chief executive officer of Toro Energy.

Simon Mordant, who was hired using the Gillard government’s merit-based appointment process and whose tenure runs out in November, said he was a “passionate believer in arts and current affairs, and a strong believer in the role of an independent public broadcaster. I was interested in the role in the context of public service. I also feel I can not only contribute to, but also learn a great deal from, an industry going through dramatic change.”

He will also probably become a victim of the Coalition’s reckless need to purge all things Gillard.

Last month, the Prime Minister appointed his long-time friend Justin Milne to be the chair of the ABC board.

Milne and Turnbull worked together at internet service provider Ozemail in the 1990s and Turnbull appointed Milne to the NBN board in 2013.  He also sits on the board of Tabcorp Holdings.

Outgoing Chairman James Spigelman was disappointed to not have his term extended but his parting words show he was fighting a losing battle against the ‘new direction’.

“The ABC has a great future. I tried when I was first appointed to give a framework to what I thought was important to the role of the ABC, that the ABC has to treat its audiences as citizens not as consumers.

It’s a big difference. Treating them as citizens means not only treating them with respect but treating them as people with rights and duties, not as people with wants and needs.”

Unfortunately, it is doubtful this current board even understood what he meant.

For the sake of our children and our planet, we must demand better

In 2012, former judge and anti-corruption campaigner, Tony Fitzgerald, wrote an article titled The body politic is rotten in which he espoused the view that “ethics, tolerance and civility are intrinsic elements of democratic society and that the politicians’ mutual contempt and aggressive, “end justifies the means” amorality erodes respect for authority and public institutions and compromises social cohesion.”

He called for greater scrutiny of candidates and more rigorous preselection processes to find the best person rather than “professional politicians with little or no general life experience and unscrupulous opportunists, unburdened by ethics, who obsessively pursue power, money or both.”

“Populism, paranoia and unrealistic expectations are encouraged and the naive and gullible are made envious, resentful and disdainful of fellow Australians.  Financial backers are provided with special access and influence and supporters are appointed to public positions. Information is withheld, distorted and manipulated and falsehoods and propaganda are euphemistically misdescribed as mere “spin”.

Opposition, dissent and criticism are discouraged by personal abuse, often protected by parliamentary privilege, and unwelcome ideas are condemned as “elitist” or “un-Australian”. The public interest is subordinated to the pursuit of power, party objectives and personal ambitions, sometimes including the corrupt acquisition of financial benefit.

The huge gulf between governance principles and political practice can be directly traced to the calibre of those whom parties select to represent them. Unless and until that improves, the present national embarrassment will continue.”

I would add that the quality of political debate sunk to gutter level with the Bradburyesque victory of Tony Abbott in the Liberal leadership ballot in 2009 and his subsequent unholy alliance with Peta Credlin who wrote “the brutal reality is that negative works.”

A few days ago, Tony Fitzgerald again spoke of the sorry state of politics in this country where “many politicians regard ethics and empathy as barriers to success.”  Peter Dutton, Scott Morrison and Mathias ‘deal-with-the-devil’ Cormann immediately spring to mind.

“Politics today is a clash of interests, not ideas. The established parties, which receive large sums of public money to finance their campaigns, are controlled by professional, “whatever it takes” politicians driven by self-interest and ideology and addicted to vested interest funding.

To them, political ethics is merely an amusing oxymoron. Power provides a rich opportunity for personal and political advantage: cronyism, the sale of access and influence and the misuse of public money are now scandalous.

The “winning is all that matters” conduct from politicians affects community attitudes. Australian society is gradually becoming less egalitarian and more cynical and self-centered as economic policies redistribute wealth upwards, widening the gap between “haves” and “have-nots” and producing a largely powerless underclass.

In the circumstances, community unrest and political instability are inevitable, as is the eruption of disruptive ultra-nationalist groups which promote sham nostalgia, foster prejudice, rebrand ignorance as common sense, encourage resentment toward an educated, progressive “elite” and mislead the gullible with crazy theories and empty promises. They thrive on the anger felt toward the political establishment by ordinary people who see themselves as outsiders.”

Cue Pauline Hanson’s One Nation.

We have a right to expect that politicians behave like normal, honourable people: treat everyone equally, tell the truth, explain decisions, disclose any direct or indirect benefits for themselves or their allies.  We have a right to expect decent candidates chosen on merit rather than talentless party apparatchiks gifted positions in reward for blind allegiance to factional powerbrokers and unquestioning support for the party line.

Our elected representatives should be role models for ethics, integrity and altruistic public service.  Parliament should be a forum in which they identify and prioritise the challenges facing our nation now and into the future and, using all the expert advice available, honestly discuss the pros and cons of viable alternatives.

Without oversight, and a big stick, it seems this will remain an unattainable dream.

Instead, we are subjected to a “venal, vicious and vulgar” power struggle where so much time is wasted on denigrating each other as important decisions are ignored.

Fitzgerald advocates for the establishment of an effective national anti-corruption organisation, an independent parliamentary integrity commissioner with investigative powers and a multi-party parliamentary committee to penalise breaches.

For our part, it is up to all of us to inform ourselves about candidates and to know who we are voting for.  If the party can’t field a decent candidate then don’t blindly give them your vote.  Make them preselect worthy people rather than puppets.

For the sake of our children and our planet, we must demand better.

It’s not the ABC’s fault that you look like idiots

It was inevitable that James Ashby’s One Nation would fall out with the ABC.  James likes to very much control the questions that can be asked of his band of miscreants, and by who, and he likes the power to terminate the interview when he sees fit.

And is it any wonder.  When One Nation Senators go off the leash, their lunacy is revealed for all to see.

Watching Malcolm Roberts dismiss Brian Cox and NASA evidence of climate change on Q&A was just a taste of things to come.

Pauline blames Barrie Cassidy for her self-destruction just before the WA election when she expressed her admiration for Putin and her opposition to vaccination.

And then there were those bastards at Four Corners who did a “stitch-up” by asking where James’, or is that Pauline’s, plane had come from.

Pauline’s response?

She would be talking about the allegations raised in the program “in my own time, when I think it is right.  I will explain everything if there are questions to be answered.  There is not really, but anyway, I will be making some comments with regards to that.”

This from the woman who sells herself as the honest politician.  If it was just a witch hunt by the ABC then it should be easily cleared up.

And now we have Andrew Probyn “big-noting himself” by reporting that Hanson and Brian Burston, along with four other MPs, were to go on an ANZAC day junket to Afghanistan and Iraq.  The trip was subsequently cancelled due to security concerns.

Malcolm Roberts went into full meltdown.

Pauline seems to think the ABC’s reporting of her upcoming trip would have put the soldiers that would have had to protect her at risk.  It apparently had nothing to do with her inflammatory remarks about Islam not being a religion and her concerted and continuing campaign to ban the burqa, halal certification, Muslim immigration, the building of mosques and pretty much all things Islam.

I would hazard a guess that the ADF were extremely grateful to be able to cancel the trip considering the government has already warned about a possible ANZAC Day terrorist attack.  As Crikey points out, while wondering how a small crossbench party can get two spots out of six delegates, “If you’re not in the Defence or Foreign Affairs portfolio, a trip to Afghanistan primarily consists of opportunities to don body armour and have your photo snapped with Australians troops.”

Brian Burston has demanded that funding be cut to the ABC or One Nation will block government legislation.

“I’ve contacted (Finance Minister) Mathias Cormann and said One Nation wants the ABC funding reduced by $600 million over the forward estimates,” Senator Burston told The Australian.

“If they’re not forthcoming in reducing funding to the ABC as part of their budget repair we’ll have to seriously consider what budget repair options (we ­support) that the Liberal Party puts forward. It’s about time we apply a little bit of pressure on the government to do something about the left-wing, Marxist ABC.”

Burston has been on a mission to destroy the ABC from the outset as shown by the following excerpt from his maiden speech:

“A further example of elite contempt for ordinary Australians is public broadcasting. The cultural Marxist takeover of the ABC began in the late 1960s when Allan Ashbolt stacked the current affairs department. Ashbolt introduced the radical critique of mainstream Australia that had become fashionable in university departments of humanities and social science. Almost 50 years later, there is not one conservative program or anchor on the ABC—not one, in a billion-dollar enterprise. The ABC’s oppositional stance to traditional Australia has grown to include the two other taxpayer-funded public broadcasters, the Special Broadcasting Service, SBS, whose explicitly ethnic mission is to cater to the identity and interests of the multicultural community, and most recently the National Indigenous Television network, NITV, created to represent the identity and interests of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. For budgetary reasons, NITV is now within the SBS stable. All three broadcasters are biased against mainstream Australia. They distort Australian political culture and support aggressive political multiculturalism. The systemic bias of public broadcasting is one of the clearest manifestations of a hostile cultural establishment. This bias has been known for decades but the conservative side of mainstream politics has failed to correct the situation. The time for complaint and diagnosis is over. It is time for the nation to break the bias of public broadcasting before that bias breaks the nation.

How might this be done? The main proposals have been to defund and privatise the ABC. But the country needs public broadcasters. Despite or perhaps because of their biases, the ABC, SBS and NITV have constituents who benefit from their services. It would be sad to throw the babies out with the bathwater. Might not balance be achieved between channels? A fair balance might be struck by leaving the minority ethnic channels intact while transferring funding from the ABC to establish a new channel that might be called the Patriotic Broadcasting Corporation, whose explicit mission would be to represent the identity and interests of mainstream Australia. It would present news and current affairs from the perspective of the historic Australian nation. Stripped of its mainstream content, the remaining ABC structure would receive funding commensurate with the size of its inner city, Greens-voting constituency. Australia needs more diverse public broadcasting in keeping with the growing diversity of the population.”

Just to be clear here, in the lower house, One Nation received 1.3% of the primary vote and the Greens received 10.2%.  In the Senate, One Nation received 4.3% of the vote and the Greens got 8.7%.

One Nation blames journalists for trying to “get Pauline Hanson’s scalp”.  What they fail to see is that they are the architects of their own demise by the sheer idiocy that spews forth every time they open their mouths.

HSR could be a game changer

Once again, we find our Prime Minister arguing the case for something he thinks is a “thoroughly bad idea.”

In an address to the Brisbane Club in March 2015, Malcolm Turnbull condemned Joe Hockey’s proposal that first-home buyers be able to dip into their superannuation.

“My own view is that would be a thoroughly bad idea,” Turnbull said, in response to questions after the address.  “It’s not what the superannuation system is designed to achieve.”

Aside from greatly reducing retirement income and also the stockpile of money available for investment by superannuation funds, it seems only logical that this would drive up house prices with more first home buyers having to compete with investors for a limited stock of housing.  Even if you have a deposit, the sale will still go to the highest bidder.

We are constantly told that it is a supply problem causing the housing crisis in Melbourne and Sydney and that our urban transport infrastructure cannot cope today let alone into the future.  The rapidly expanding city population puts strain on local ecosystems, open spaces, clean air and clean water and concentrates the impacts of waste and garbage.

Tony Abbott is calling for a halt to immigration, completely ignoring the impact that would have on the ratio of aged people to workers in our society and consequently on productivity and growth.

Peter Dutton is saying we should make migrants go live in the country.

Why just migrants?

We now have cities struggling to house and employ their populations, alongside regional communities striving to grow and attract residents, business, skills and services. We have increasing challenges for the movement of people up and down the east coast, alongside significant pressures on transport costs—for industry and individuals alike.

Surely if we built high speed rail from Melbourne to Brisbane we would solve an enormous number of our problems.

Firstly there would be the employment involved in its construction and then ongoing employment in operation and maintenance.

HSR would substantially improve accessibility for the regional centres it served, and provide opportunity for regional development.  It would allow cities to compete with each other. While Sydney might be more attractive at the moment, it is also much more expensive, so the opportunity to save costs by moving to regional areas that had easy access could be an option for some businesses.

Melbourne to Sydney is one of the busiest air routes in the world.  HSR will move millions of air and road trips on to rail. It will open up space on the existing rail network for freight, taking hundreds of heavy goods vehicles per hour off the roads.  In so doing, It will also help cut carbon emissions.

Cheaper housing in regional areas is an obvious drawcard and increased regional population would provide even more jobs as schools, hospitals, child care and aged care would be needed to cater for community needs.  Retail businesses and construction would gain a boost.

Improved telecommunications like teleconferencing and a national broadband network (a real one rather than the FttN crap) make this all the more feasible.

As with action on climate change, the longer we delay this crucial infrastructure, the harder the task becomes.

Malcolm tells us he’s a “nation-builder”.  Well here’s his chance.  Instead of just mentioning HSR in passing before an election, instead of giving $1 billion to an Indian billionaire for a railway to nowhere, instead of announcing another feasibility study on the snowy-hydro, instead of tinkering with superannuation, get started on something that could really be a game changer.

Scomo’s con job

Last Thursday, Treasurer Scott Morrison gave an Address to the AFR Banking and Wealth Summit in which he spruiked his “national economic plan” as outlined in last year’s budget.

“In last year’s Budget I said we needed to focus on jobs and growth. This year’s budget will continue this unapologetic focus.”

Morrison goes on to say “Unless you are driving economic growth, you cannot secure the jobs, wages and services that Australians rely on.”

Considering we have had over 25 years of uninterrupted growth, it is obvious that growth alone does not automatically translate into better outcomes for all citizens.  Instead, this dream run has contributed to skyrocketing wealth for the very few while the vast majority are experiencing flat wage growth, high underemployment, unaffordable housing, a decline in services and rising inequality.

Scott said he “will ensure the Budget works to place downward pressure on the cost of living – especially on energy costs and housing” with absolutely no indication of how he might achieve this.  Perhaps all will be revealed in May though somehow I doubt it.  If he has a plan then why is it a secret?

Whilst mentioning Australia’s extremely high level of household debt ($2.1 trillion), Morrison said we should be comforted by the fact that the debt concentration is in higher income households.  Households in the top two income quintiles hold around 60 per cent of Australian household debt.  For some reason, I don’t find that at all comforting.  When highly-leveraged speculative investments go bad, it is rarely rich people who suffer.

And Scott is apparently taking on the banks – or so he says.

“We are also addressing the problems in our banking and financial system to ensure our banks and financial institutions are held to account, by ensuring customer disputes are heard and resolved, that we are maintaining competitive pressures in the system to ensure that customers get the best deal and that there are serious sanctions in place to deal with bad behaviour and malfeasance.”

Considering the many cases that have come to light about wrong-doing by the banks, and in the absence of any punitive action, it is hard to believe Morrison’s words.

Speaking of himself and Kellie O’Dwyer, Morrison said “Together we have acted on the ASIC capability review to increase the resources and powers of ASIC to deal with malfeasance in the banking and financial system.”

ASIC’s role includes market surveillance, corporate law breaches, consumer credit, insider trading, takeovers, small business and financial literacy.

Are we supposed to forget that Tony Abbott cut $120 million in funding from ASIC in 2014 which caused the chairman to warn that proactive surveillance would substantially reduce?

There was also the Turnbull government’s bizarre idea of selling off the national corporate registry.  The cost to ASIC of operating the register is somewhere less than $6 million a year.  However it charges businesses and the public around $720 million a year for using it – a return to government coffers of over 10,000 per cent.  The entire budget for ASIC’s operations in 2015 was $311m, less than half of that revenue from the register.

At least six bidders had shown interest in the ASIC registry privatisation before Matthias Cormann finally pulled the plug on the idea in December last year after intense opposition from Nick Xenophon, GetUp! and journalists.  For some unfathomable reason, Labor did not oppose the idea.

Morrison then moved on to tax.

“If we wish to continue to see our living standards rise — to create more jobs with higher wages — then we need to ensure our tax system encourages investment and enterprise.”

Despite everyone being in agreement that property tax concessions have skewed investment away from more productive enterprises, that is never part of Scott’s tax plan which seems to rest solely on tax cuts for businesses which “will allow small and medium sized businesses to invest more, employ extra staff and pay higher wages – putting more money in the pockets of hardworking Australians.”  This claim is not backed up by any modelling of course.

Morrison seemed unaware of the uncomfortable paradox with his segue into cracking down on multinational tax avoidance where he assured us that we now have “some of the toughest laws in the world…which are expected to raise almost $4 billion over the budget and forward estimates.”  The proposed tax cuts will give these tax avoiders a far greater windfall than any liability we may try to claw back.

Moving onto superannuation, Scott boasted of how “3.1 million Australians will benefit from the Low Income Superannuation Tax Offset.” Cool bananas, except they are just reintroducing a scheme that was axed in the 2014 budget.

On income tax, Morrison said “By pushing up the tax threshold on the middle tax bracket from $80,000 to $87,000 per year, we’ll keep average full-time wage earners on the lower rate for longer.”

Big deal.  What that means is that anyone who earns up to $80,000 gets no benefit while those who earn over $87,000 will save about $6 a week.

We were then regaled with the number of jobs that would be created in the defence industry.  For example, the over $3 billion we are spending on Offshore Patrol Vessels will create 400 jobs.  That’s $7.5 million per job to go to foreign contractors.  The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is supposed to create 2,600 extra defence industry jobs by 2023.  I’ll believe that when I see it.

Scott reannounced the government’s “record $50 billion investment in Australia’s land transport infrastructure” but it remains just words.

In January the AFR reported that delays and apparent reductions in the Coalition’s $50 billion spending plan are dragging on economic growth and contributing to an annual $18 billion of potential “missing investment”.

But it was when talking about repairing the budget that Morrison went into full obfuscation, or is that lying, mode.

“Since we were first elected in 2013 we have reduced the growth in expenditure from over 3.5 per cent to less than 2 per cent and reduced the growth in debt by around two thirds, which when Labor left office was growing at 34 per cent per annum.”

Government expenditure under Labor reduced from 24.9% of GDP in 2011-12 to 24% in 2012-13.  Since coming to office, the Coalition’s expenditure has been 25.6% in 2013-14, 25.5% in 2014-15, 25.6% in 2015-16 and in last year’s MYEFO, was projected to remain at 25.2% over the forward estimates.

As for the debt, the net debt of the General Government sector was $161,253 million at 31 August 2013.  As at 28 February 2017, net debt is $317,425 million.

Whilst saying, in one breath, that “Since last year’s Budget, almost $25 billion of budget repair measures have been successfully implemented and legislated,” Morrison insisted on blaming Labor saying that “The Budget will need to address Labor’s continued refusal to cooperate on repairing the budget.”

“We know Labor will continue to oppose us, especially when it comes to budget savings and implementing our enterprise tax plan. Not because they don’t think it’s right – but because they have chosen to play cheap politics with our economy.”

From the man who thinks welfare, education and health expenditure should be cut to fund tax cuts for the wealthy and to spend hundreds of billions on Tony’s jets and subs.

The con job continues.

Honesty and integrity or a grab for cash?

On Wednesday July 15, 2015, One Nation posted on their website an article titled HANSON TAKES HER MAIDEN FLIGHT IN HER NEW PLANE.

Miss Hanson said, “I am proud to announce, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation will be launching their new plane just finished being built by an Australian company last week. The maiden flight will be at the Caloundra airport at 10am followed by the first official flight to Rockhampton this Friday, to attend the Reclaim Australia Rally on Sunday.”

“I am thankful to now have a plane as this will enable me to visit people around the state, and interstate, including those in small remote communities who have never had their representative take the time to visit them.”

Pauline invited the media and public to attend the plane’s unveiling at the Caloundra Airport the next day.

On July 28, 2015, in an article in the ABC Sunshine Coast, James Ashby said he helped Ms Hanson find an Australian-made plane because, “Pauline’s all about keeping things local”. They travel to a political event at least once a week, he said.

On January 16, 2016, The Australian reported One Nation boss Pauline Hanson boasting about her frugality:

Senator Pauline Hanson says she fills her own plane with petrol and drives herself to the airport, parking in the budget carpark and getting a bus to the terminal.

The Queensland senator says she also always travels economy and if she needs to go to remote places she uses her own plane at One Nation’s expense.

“I’ve still got my plane, well the party’s plane, but all the trips I’ve done in that since the election I’ve filled it up myself,” Senator Hanson told Sky News.

On January 18, 2017, Independent Australia revealed that the plane was, in fact, registered to James Ashby personally and was acquired by Ashby on 5 June 2015.

Fast forward to April 2017 and now James Ashby says that the plane is his and he has nothing to hide.

Ashby has told the Huffington Post Australia that the plane, whose funding and ownership was brought into question by a Four Corners investigation, is owned by his company and he regards it as his.

While Ashby has told HuffPost Australia that the plane is privately owned by him, he did not explicitly say where the money came from to purchase the Jabiru.

Regardless, he said “I have done nothing wrong” and stated that all flying hours in the plane used for political purposes have been declared.

When One Nation Treasurer Ian Nelson started questioning James Ashby’s growing control over the party and some questionable reporting practices for donations, he was promptly removed and replaced by Hanson’s brother-in-law Greg Smith.  Keep it in the family.

On March 23, 2017, The Australian reported that the Australian Electoral Commission has launched an audit of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, amid revelations of an internal brawl over sensitive documents.

Apart from a $191,000 loan made to the party by senator Pauline Hanson and donations from Melbourne high-rise developer Bill McNee, One Nation has only disclosed a small number of financial gifts. Mr McNee, through his company Vicland, has been one of One Nation’s largest backers, donating $57,720 in 2014-15, and $10,000 leading up to last year’s election.

Senator Hanson was reimbursed for her loan last August, drawn down from a $1.62 million election refund from the AEC.

According to the One Nation site, “Pauline has never given up her fight for Parliament and to represent the Australian people with honesty, integrity and determination for a fair go for all.”

It seems increasingly apparent that honesty and integrity have very little to do with Hanson and Ashby’s grab for cash.

The insidious takeover by the IPA

When Leigh Sales asked Malcolm Turnbull why Section 18C was getting more attention than things like “out of pocket medical expenses, the fact that suicide rate among teenage girls has gone up 45 per cent in the past year, the fact that the average Australian female worker loses nearly all of her take-home pay in child care”, Turnbull blamed the ABC.

“Leigh, this is a question you should address to your editors at the ABC – very seriously. 18C is talked about constantly on the ABC, talked constantly in what’s often the elite media.”

What Sales should be asking is why the IPA, the only people who care about this pointless crusade, have such disproportionate representation and influence both in the media and in Parliament.

In their 2016 Annual Report, the IPA boasts that, during the year, they had 1,378 mentions of IPA research in print and online media, 451 radio appearances, 155 television appearances, and were mentioned in Federal Parliament 75 times.

As Elizabeth Farrelly wrote last year, “The IPA is usually described as a “radical libertarian think tank” but it’s not libertarian, since its freedoms for the few spell oppression for the many. It’s also not-thoughtful and so not-public it’s almost clandestine.”

The IPA is all about protecting the wealth of the privileged few and they will use whatever spin and misinformation they need to to do so.

Featured in their 2016 Annual Report is a “research” paper by Mikayla Novak titled The good news on poverty: Things are getting better for the poor in Australia.

What follows is an astonishing attempt to pretend that the rich aren’t siphoning off more of Australia’s wealth into the pockets of the very few, or if they are, it shouldn’t matter because more people have fridges nowadays than used to and they work a few minutes less to buy some milk.

“The key concern in the inequality debates should not necessarily be to what degree are the rich more wealthy than the poor, but whether we have witnessed an improvement in the degree of uplift in living standards experienced by the poor and disadvantaged.”

What Ms Novak completely ignores is that the gap between the lowest and highest groups is increasing as ACOSS points out:

  • The wealth of the highest 20% wealth group increased by 28% over the period from 2004 to 2012. By comparison the wealth of the lowest increased by just 3%.
  • Over the 25 years to 2010, real wages increased by 14% for those on lower incomes (10th percentile), compared with 72% for those on higher incomes (90th percentile)

According to the Conversation, a reasonable estimate is that, currently, the poorest 40% of Australian households effectively have no wealth at all: about half of them actually have negative net wealth because of their personal debts. At the opposite pole, the wealthiest 10% have more than half the nation’s total household wealth. The top 1% alone have at least 15% of the total wealth.

There is little question that the IPA is now driving Liberal Party policy as they work their way through their 75+25 demands. They have, with the help of George Brandis, Mitch Fifield, Michael Kroger and others, installed James Paterson in the Senate and Tim Wilson in the lower house.  David Leyonhjelm is also a member as was Bob Day.  The Speaker Tony Smith is a former research assistant and the new leader of the WA Liberal Party Mike Nahan was executive director for 10 years.  Janet Albrechtsen (director), Tom Switzer (adjunct fellow) and Chris Berg (senior fellow) have the media covered, with Alexander Downer’s daughter Georgina (adjunct fellow) and Andrew Bolt’s son James (Communications Coordinator) being groomed in the wings.

They are currently running their climate change denial/fossil fuel promotion program at full steam with their annual report mentioning four “research” papers:

  • Ensuring a Future for Australian Coal Fired Power Stations
  • Section 487 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act: How activists use red tape to stop development and jobs
  • Southeast Australian Maximum Temperature Trends, 1887-2013: An Evidence-Based Reappraisal
  • The Fossil Fuel Subsidy Myth

They are rabidly anti-red tape, wanting all regulations done away with, and invariably anti-union because an organised work force is anathema to their plans.

Elizabeth Farrelly’s advice should be heeded.

“Ideas themselves are not dangerous, but when money and “ideas” hold hands, get suspicious. Then get cracking. Fight for our freedom to see the strings and who’s at the pulling end.”

At July 1, 2016, the IPA had cash reserves of over $3 million after receiving donations of almost $5 million during the year including 13 separate donations over $50,000 each and a further 21 in the range $10,000-$50,000.  Reportedly, 91% of their revenue came from donations by individuals.

When they finally achieve their aim to destroy, privatise, or takeover the ABC, and to allow founder Keith Murdoch’s boy Rupert to take over the entire media with no accountability for accuracy or requirement for balance, Australia will truly be theirs.

Cue the show ponies

Malcolm Turnbull has, it seems, decided that the ‘energy crisis’ is all the fault of the Labor Premiers in South Australia and Victoria.

The blackouts in South Australia were due to Weatherill’s fixation with renewables and the closure of Hazelwood in Victoria was due to Andrews’ lack of planning.

That is, of course, total crap.

In early September last year, a few weeks before the huge storm that caused the infamous blackout in South Australia, Jay Weatherill warned that current rules allowed private electricity companies to drive “prices higher by withholding supply”.

This is exactly what happened during SA’s blackouts – the gas-fired power station Pelican Point chose not to supply more electricity.

Tony Wood, energy program director of the Grattan Institute, said after the February blackout, when Engie only had one unit running at Pelican Point and chose not to fire up the second, “If the price for power stays high — at say $10,000 per megawatt hour — and stays there for several hours, (Engie) can make a lot of money,” Mr Wood said.

“But if they start their second plant (sending more power into the system) and the price crashes to $300 per megawatt hour, they don’t make as much money.”

In an attempt to address this problem, the South Australian Government launched a tender to buy 75 per cent of its long-term electricity needs in an effort to increase competition.

A few days after that announcement was made, and still weeks before the blackout, United States-based Solar Reserve chief executive officer Kevin Smith said his company was interested in bidding for the tender by building a solar thermal project at Port Augusta.

The notion that this is a remedy thought up by Nick Xenephon and Malcolm Turnbull is just wrong.

We are also supposed to believe that Xenephon’s demand that pensioners get a paltry one-off payment is some sort of win for energy affordability.

Why doesn’t he just vote against the government’s budget savings measure which cuts the clean energy supplement – $4.40 a week for single unemployed, $7.05 a week for a single person on the aged or disability pension to help them with rising energy prices.  The government argues that, with no carbon tax, these payments are not necessary but they kept the compensation that working people got with the increased tax free threshold.

Not content with blaming Jay Weatherill, Turnbull then turned on Daniel Andrews saying the closure of Hazelwood was “a consequence of the Labor Party’s complete failure to lead on energy.”

“Daniel Andrews has allowed that enormous baseline power station to close.”

In fact it was the French owners of Hazelwood, Engie, who also own Pelican Point, that made the decision to close Hazelwood as it was rated as the least carbon efficient power station in the OECD and was beyond its use by date.  Five of Hazelwood’s eight boilers were desperately in need of major repairs which would have cost over $400 million to make them safety compliant.

As Turnbull and Xenephon prance around announcing more feasibility studies, ignoring that the chief scientist was already conducting a nationwide review, one thing is abundantly clear – the show ponies’ only concern is political posturing.

Transparency, accountability and integrity are nice words

Addressing the National Press Club two months ago about proposed reforms to the reporting of politicians’ expenses (which have not happened yet), Malcolm Turnbull said “These reforms speak to the heart of Liberal values – transparency, accountability and integrity.”

You gotta be kidding me.

The following are just a few examples of their “transparency, accountability and integrity.”

*Defence has approved four military exports to Saudi Arabia in the past year and the Australian government has led the push for more.  But the government is refusing to release details of the approved military sales, citing commercial-in-confidence rules.

*The UK-based Airwars organisation says Australia remains one of the least transparent members of the international military coalition, consistently refusing to disclose almost any information about air strikes by RAAF aircraft or acknowledge any incidents that may have produced civilian casualties.

*George Brandis was responsible for raids confiscating the evidence of Australia illegally bugging the cabinet offices in East Timor when Australia and Timor were negotiating a deal to share revenue from oil and gas deposits under the Timor Sea.  He also confiscated the passport of the whistleblower so he could not testify in the International Court of Justice.

*When shadow Communications Minister Stephen Conroy revealed the truth about the rollout of the Coalition’s Fraudband, his office and the home of one of his staffers were raided by the AFP who just happened to take an NBN employee with them who was allowed to photograph the evidence, despite it later being ruled subject to parliamentary privilege.  Two NBN employees were subsequently sacked for revealing the truth.

*In March 2015, the former head of the Agriculture Department Paul Grimes sent a letter to Barnaby Joyce regarding the improper changing of Joyce’s incorrect statements in Hansard.

Grimes stated “I am writing to advise you that I no longer have confidence in my capacity to resolve matters relating to integrity with you.”

A day after receiving the letter, Mr Joyce’s office warned Mr Grimes that, on the request of Mr Joyce, the letter would be deleted from government records.  Ten days later, Mr Grimes was sacked.

The independent Information Commissioner ruled the letter should be made available.  Mr Joyce’s department fought that ruling, spent $80,000 on engaging Ernst & Young to review its public information processes, and then fought the matter through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal before giving up the fight just after Parliament rose in October last year.

*The Brandis diary saga took well over a thousand days and cost tens of thousands of dollars in court time and taxpayer-funded lawyers to fight the case in the AAT and two levels of court before finally handing it over six months after being instructed to do so by the courts.

This is not an isolated incident.  Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Mitch Fifield have taken The Australian and Crikey, respectively, to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal seeking to avoid handing over their diaries.

*Information about asylum seekers has been suppressed under the excuse of “operational matters.”  Doctors and service providers who work in immigration detention centres have been gagged.

Dr Richard Kidd said the Australian Border Protection Act presents a threat to whistleblower doctors working in detention centres as they could face two years in prison if they publicly disclose failures in detention health care.

Psychiatrist Dr Peter Young revealed the immigration department had explicitly told International Health and Medical Services to ”withdraw” figures showing children in detention were suffering very high levels of mental illness.

*The Department of Education has again refused to release its modelling on how much university degrees will cost when it introduces partial fee deregulation in 2018.  The department admitted it has the data, but won’t release it because it is advice to the government.

Last year the department knocked back a freedom of information request by the national teacher’s union, the NTEU, for any briefs, spreadsheets of potential fees or assessments of the impact of deregulation because the secret modelling contained commercially sensitive information about universities.

*George Brandis revised the service agreements under which the federal government provides funding to community legal centres around Australia, specifically stating that organisations cannot use Commonwealth money for any activity directed towards law reform or advocacy, effectively reintroducing Howard era gag clauses.

*Joe Hockey said one month before the 2013 election – “I’m not afraid to accept responsibility and I’m not afraid to be accountable. We will own it from day one. We will be responsible for the Australian economy.”

Mathias Cormann said in 2014 “we are taking responsibility and we will stand by how we perform against our forecasts.”

But, despite being in power for three and a half years, have you ever heard any of them speak about economics without blaming Labor?

 

In December 2016, Mathias Cormann, announced the finalisation of Australia’s first National Action Plan as part of the commitment the Australian Government made when it became a member of the Open Government Partnership.

“The Plan contains 15 ambitious commitments focused on: transparency and accountability in business; open data and digital transformation; access to government information; integrity in the public sector; and public participation and engagement.”

Nice words from the government.  Shame their actions show them to be yet another lie.

Secrecy, being an instrument of conspiracy, ought never to be the system of a regular government.

– Jeremy Bentham

Fifteen reasons not to give multinational companies a tax cut

Fifteen reasons not to give multinational companies a tax cut

  1. The underlying cash balance for the 2016-17 financial year to 31 January 2017 was a deficit of $44,029 million. Net debt is $323,821 million; and Australian Government Securities on Issue is $483,080 million.
  2. The ATO’s latest corporate tax transparency report showed 36 per cent of large firms had zero tax payable in 2014-15. However, this is a slight improvement on the prior 2013-14 financial year, where it was nearly 38 per cent.  The entities covered by the report are public and foreign firms with an income of $100 million or more and companies privately owned by Australian residents with an income of $200 million-plus.
  3. Of those who do pay tax, almost a third of companies are paying an effective tax rate of about 10 per cent
  4. In Australia, analysis showed the GDP loss due to profit shifting by multinationals was 0.41 per cent, or in dollar terms, $US6.1 billion a year.
  5. The ATO has 71 audits under way in the large business area covering 59 multinational corporations. At least seven major multinational audits were expected to come to a head before June 30, four in e-commerce and three in the energy and resource industries.  The ATO expects liabilities to total more than $2 billion from these seven companies.
  6. Bureau of Statistics business indicators data for the December quarter show a massive 20.1 per cent surge in profits over the quarter, while wages fell 0.5 per cent. Since the Liberal government took power in September 2013, real wages have grown by a miserable 0.3%.
  7. Due to dividend imputation, almost all the benefit from the company tax cut would go to foreign shareholders as Australian shareholders would have to make up the cut with income tax.
  8. Treasury modelling finds that the level of employment in 20 or 30 years’ time will be just 0.1 per cent higher than otherwise.
  9. Treasury’s modelling finds that the cut in company tax would cause the level of real GNI to be only 0.6 per cent higher than otherwise “in the long term”. After 20 or 25 or 30 years, the level of real after-tax wages will be 0.4 per cent higher than otherwise.
  10. Employers have already benefited from the freeze of the superannuation guarantee at 9.5% rather than the legislated incremental increase to 12% by 2019.
  11. Employers will benefit from cuts to penalty rates.
  12. Businesses have already avoided tax through instant asset write-offs.
  13. The Accord traded away the right to negotiate wage increases in return for price restraint and an increase in the “social wage.” We now see those hard won agreements being whittled away.
  14. The bigger the gap between the company tax rate and the highest income tax rate, the greater the incentive to become a company.
  15. By value 71 per cent of foreign investment applications come from countries with company tax rates lower than Australia’s rate and by number a large 97 per cent come from countries with company tax rates lower than Australia’s rate.

 

“Peace, love, and ice cream”

I feel sorry for George Christensen.  Having so many people to hate can be really wearing.

He really hates environmentalists who he describes as “gutless green grubs“, declaring in parliament that “the greatest terrorism threat in North Queensland, I’m sad to say, comes from the extreme green movement.”

George really hates groups like Greenpeace and GetUp!

“The eco-terrorists butchered the international tourism market for our greatest tourism attraction, not for the reef but for political ideology,” he said.

It takes a special kind of cognitive dissonance to ignore coral bleaching and blame a campaign to stop coal mining for a drop in tourism.

As soon as Tony Abbott’s government was sworn in, they announced their intention to make conservation groups seeking boycotts of products linked to alleged poor environmental practices liable for prosecution under consumer law.

Parliamentary secretary for agriculture Richard Colbeck told The Australian the move would prevent green groups from holding companies to ransom in their markets.

“We’ll be looking at the way some of the environmental groups work because we are very concerned about some of the activities they conduct in the markets,” Senator Colbeck said. “They have exemptions for secondary boycott activities under the Consumer and Competition Act. We are going to have a complete review of the act.”

Section 45D of the act prohibits “Secondary boycotts for the purpose of causing substantial loss or damage” but exempts people if their actions are “substantially related to environmental or consumer protection”.

George was very vocal about stopping any boycott campaigns so imagine my surprise (on more than one level) to find him calling for a boycott of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

Their crime?

The company is supporting a series of events next week in capital cities across the country called ‘Scoop Ice Cream Not Coal’. The company is getting behind a ‘Stop Adani roadshow’ in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, giving out free ice cream as opponents of the mine hold public rallies.

This wasn’t the first time – the Newman government called for a boycott and referred the ice cream company to the ACCC over their “Fight for the Reef Scoop Tour” in 2014.

In response to this ecoterrorism, George posted on his facebook page

“The US-based Ben & Jerry’s ice cream company are continuing their fight against local jobs by opposing the Carmichael mine and Abbot Point coal terminal expansion.
If you want local jobs and prosperity, boycott Ben & Jerry’s. Get a good Aussie-owned and made ice cream like Bulla instead.”

This brings us to George’s next dilemma.

One thing George really hates is halal certified food.  Bulla ice cream is halal certified and that would definitely not please his special friend, Kirralie Smith, champion of the boycott halal campaign, for whom George donated his time (or is that our time) to speak at an event raising funds to fund her defence in a defamation case brought by an halal certifier whom she accused of funding terrorism.

Ben & Jerry’s are also vocal advocates and active supporters of marriage equality and we all know how much George hates that.

Free speech, boycotts yes/no/sometimes, socialists, ecoterrorists, Muslims, gays….and now ice cream?  It’s a hard life hating all the time George.

Perhaps you should take a fresh look at the world through the eyes of Ben & Jerry.

“Peace, love, and ice cream”

Instead of moving mountains, just build us a real NBN

I am having trouble understanding this energy debate.

For starters, we own the resources and we make the rules.  Remembering that would be a good first step.

Secondly, it is glaringly obvious that privatisation has not worked to keep retail prices down.  The bastards won’t even turn the generators on unless they get paid enough.

As Ray Goodlass wrote in the Daily Advertiser

“evidence shows that privatisation leads to price gouging and deterioration of service levels, as so clearly demonstrated by what has happened to vocational education, child care, job centres, Sydney airport, and many other services.”

The third thing that troubles me is everyone is focusing on how we can increase supply but there is little to no discussion about how we reduce demand.  With the existential threat of climate change hanging over our heads, surely this should also be receiving as much attention.

But I guess the capitalists don’t want to make it easier for us to reuse and recycle, and try asking them to stop designed obsolescence.  Remember when appliances lasted a tad longer than just after the warranty ran out?

Perhaps if we made manufacturers responsible for the entire life cycle of their products, they might think a bit harder about waste.

Speaking of climate change, how wise is it to pin our future power hopes on water – particularly on a river that is fed by snowfall.

As experts point out, “Energy Security will be more uncertain by upgrading the Snowy Hydro scheme as water availability in the Murray-Darling basin dries up. With competing uses for water and the increasing likelihood of drought brought on by climate change, increasing our reliance on water to provide electricity is ill-advised.”

Writing for The Australian Financial Review, Frontier Economics’ Danny Price said the largest beneficiary of Snowy 2.0 would be base-load coal-fired generation because it would be many years before surplus renewable energy could be used to pump water up the hill.

On the other hand, ARENA has been partnering in two proposals that would not require coal but they get little attention.

The reason that has all of a sudden become a political football is because of the Coalition jumping on the blackout caused by a storm in South Australia.

But Snowy Hydro 2.0 will do nothing to help SA which is a very long way from the Snowy Mountains.

ARENA announced last November that they would be providing   $449,000 of funding for the Australian National University (ANU) to map potential short-term off-river pumped hydro energy storage (STORES) sites around Australia.

As distinct from large-scale, on-river hydro, pumped hydro uses two reservoirs, separated by an altitude difference of between 300 – 900 metres and joined by pipe. Water is circulated between the upper and lower reservoirs in a closed loop to store and generate power.

According to ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht, there are “potentially hundreds of smaller, environmentally suitable, off-river STORES scale sites” waiting to be developed around the country.

A possible STORES site has already been identified in South Australia, with an altitude difference of up to 600 metres in the hills to the east of Spencers Gulf using sea water.

The proposed 100 to 200-megawatt power station, which could store power for up to 8 hours, would be close to Port Augusta and Whyalla, reducing the need for as much new transmission infrastructure, and the pumping could be powered by wind and/or solar rather than coal.

An off-river pumped hydro system can vary in size from 50 to 500MW, with the Australian National University estimating it would cost around $1 million per megawatt to construct — or about the same as duplicating an interconnector.

There is another ARENA-supported project being investigated in Queensland at the site of a disused open pit gold mine that would be used to store the power from a 200MW solar farm.

In his haste to outdo Jay Weatherill, it seems Malcolm failed to consult Infrastructure Australia, the independent statutory body with a mandate to prioritise and progress nationally significant infrastructure.

Their response was not enthusiastic.

“While the project would help manage electricity supply security during times in which traditional power generators would be too slow to respond, recent news that Tesla can supply 100MWh of battery storage to South Australia in 100 days shows that the lead time for a project like this may well be its downfall.

With the ability to locate storage batteries across a distributed network rather than having to move mountains a virtual storage plant can be built across a whole city connected not only to the grid but also networked to the internet where they can send and receive information to each other.”

Whilst Malcolm wants to move mountains, others are getting on with the job of providing electricity, where it is needed, as soon as possible, and with a focus on low to zero emissions.

If Malcolm wants a nation-building exercise, he should “get back to his knitting” and give us an NBN that works because I am over this FttN crap which drops out several times a day, taking my landline with it.

We, as a human species, have a deep and abiding obligation to this planet and to the generations that will come after us

2010 Sydney Launch: Zero Carbon Australia: Stationary Energy Plan 

Malcolm Turnbull: (eight days before the 2010 federal election)

Transcript

You know, it’s an interesting thing, Quentin made the point that this issue, this issue of clean energy and climate change has not been at the forefront of this election. And Bob Carr just said to me a moment ago that he didn’t think there were any media covering this meeting tonight, I don’t know whether that’s true or not. But it is remarkable that on a cold winters night this issue has managed to fill the town hall. And that tells you something *Audience Claps* that tells you something about the extent of the concern that Australians have about climate change and the interest in and hunger for information and knowledge about the way we can deal with it and the way we can move, as we must move, if we are to effectively combat climate change to a situation where all or almost all of our energy comes from zero or very near zero emissions sources.

Now our response to climate change must be guided by science. The science tells us that we have already exceeded the safe upper limit for atmospheric carbon dioxide. We are as humans conducting a massive science experiment with this planet. It’s the only planet we’ve got. We are dealing in scientific terms with enormous uncertainty. There is a tendency for people to point to the forecasts for the future, sea levels, temperatures, other impacts of climate change and say oh well you know they’ve over egged the pudding a little bit, it’s probably going to be less dramatic than that. But we are dealing with uncertainty and it may well be and indeed there is considerable evidence, that it may well be that many of these forecasts that we’ve become so used to, in fact err on the conservative side.

We are told that 2010 will be the warmest year on record since records began in the late eighteen hundreds. We know that the consequences of unchecked global warming would be catastrophic. We know that extreme weather events are occurring with greater and greater frequency and while it is never possible to point to one drought or one storm or one flood and say that particular incident is caused by global warming, we know that these trends are entirely consistent with the climate change forecasts with the climate models that the scientists are relying on. Just in the last month floods and landslides have killed thousands in Kashmir, Poland, Pakistan, Korea and China. Russia has lost at least 30% of its grain crop due to the worst fires in that country’s history.

Now sometimes the task of responding to the challenge of climate change may seem too great, too daunting. It is a profound moral challenge, because it is a cross generational challenge. We are asking our own generation to make decisions; to make sacrifices, to make expenditures today so as to safeguard our children, their children and the generations that come after them. It truly requires us to think as a species, not just to think as individuals. We are not, as Edmund Burke reminded us so many years ago, like flies of the summer that just come and go without any knowledge of what went before and what will come after. We as a human species have a deep and abiding obligation to this planet and to the generations that will come after us **Audience Applause**

Now in order to do that, in order to discharge that obligation, we must make a dramatic reduction in the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Now you can look at the targets, 50% the common sort of rubric rule of thumb is to cut emissions by 2050 to a level equal to 50% or even lower than they were in 1990 or 2000. I promise you, you cannot achieve that cut, you cannot achieve it without getting to a point by mid-century where all or almost all of our stationary energy, that is to say energy from power stations and big factories and so forth comes from zero emission sources. The mathematics simply will not get you there, the arithmetic, not as complex as mathematics. The arithmetic will not get you there unless you can do it. And so technology is of absolutely vital importance.

Now I want to congratulate Matthew and all the authors and collaborators on this report. This is a fantastic piece of work. Many people will look at it and they’ll say it’s too good to be true. And we all know that often when things are too good to be true, they probably are. But let me give you one piece of data, one fact, one insight which should give you encouragement as you read this report.

You’ll see that the key technology that this project relies upon is concentrated solar thermal power. As you know the great challenge with renewable sources of energy; solar and wind in particular, is that they are intermittent. So what do we do when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. How do we store that power. There’s a very detailed discussion that the authors will go through with you tonight, and I won’t even begin to canvas it. But there is the ability with concentrated solar thermal power stations to use the suns energy to superheat a substance, in this case molten salt, that will hold its heat for long enough to be able to continue to generate steam and hence energy after the sun has stopped shining or during or day after day of rain. So there is a real opportunity there, with that technology, to generate baseload power from solar energy something of a holy grail.

Now there are some small plants in operation that are doing just that now and there are a number of much larger plants that are about to be commissioned. But you might still say, not unreasonably, look this has not really been proven at a big industrial scale and you’d probably be right. But let me say this to you, concentrated solar thermal is a more proven technology than clean coal is. *Audience applause*

Now when I was your environment minister, I spent a lot of your taxes on technologies designed to reduce our emissions including clean coal, including solar energy, including technologies to economically store electricity so that renewable sources of energy could provide baseload power, but one of the things and it’s a sobering thing to bear in mind and those of us who follow the literature on clean coal would be aware of this, that despite all of the money and all of the hope that has been put into carbon capture and storage there is still, as of today, not one industrial scale coal fired power station using carbon capture and storage, not one.

Now this is a frightening prospect because if you look at the work that is done by the International Energy Agency or any number of bodies or think tanks that study how we can model our way to a low emissions future, clean coal is a very big part of the assumption and while I believe as a matter of prudence we should continue to invest and pursue that technology, you do start to get something of a sinking feeling as you contemplate the fact that the hope of the side has not yet stepped onto the field to play his first game, it’s a real challenge.

So all of that underlines, firstly, don’t be too skeptical about this, this is a good piece of work and the most radical technology in it is far from unproved. Secondly let’s remember governments should not be picking technologies. It’s tough enough for the private sector to pick technologies. It’s almost invariably the case that governments will get it wrong, that is why in the long term and really sooner rather than later, we must have a price on carbon.
**Audience applause**

We need to send that price signal to the market that encourages the step changes in technology that will transform our economy and it may be that concentrated solar thermal wins the day, it may be that super-efficient photovoltaics sprint ahead, it may be, despite my rather gloomy prognosis, it may be that carbon capture and storage suddenly leaps into the fore or it may be that they all have a role to play but without that carbon price you will not and cannot unleash the ingenuity, the infinite ingenuity of millions of people around the world who once they know what the rules are, once they know what the price is, will then start to work to ensure that they have presented to us and to the world the technologies that enable us to move to that low emission future.

Government support for innovation and investment in clean stationary energy is important, particularly at the early stages. It is much more important to focus on cutting edge technologies as to provide support for research into the basic science than with appallingly designed policies such as the recent cash for clunkers policy which delivers carbon abatement at a price almost $400 a tonne. I mean it is really a mockery of a climate change policy.

Now we must give the planet the benefit of the doubt, we must act now. Now the coalition as you know, no longer supports a market based mechanism to put a price on carbon and I regret that, none the less it has pledged if elected to introduce policies which by purchasing carbon offsets has the potential to meet the 2020 target of a 5% reduction from 2000 levels. On the other hand, and this is I guess the depressing prospect, the Labor party which was elected in 2007 on a platform of meeting the greatest moral challenge of our times now has no policy and sadly nothing more than what appears to be a notice for a meeting.  No leadership and no conviction.

I want to congratulate Matthew again and all his team for this extraordinary piece of work. It is very important work. It provides the most comprehensive technical blueprint yet for what our engineers, our scientists can begin to do for us tomorrow. I commend them for their work, we’re deeply indebted to you all for this work and I encourage them and others to take note of this and to build on it as we work together, I trust, to a zero-emission future, we know, is absolutely essential if we are to leave a safe planet to our children and the generations that come after them.  Thank-you very much.

**Audience Applause**

Mr Turnbull was correct in predicting 2010 would be the hottest year on record, until it was overtaken by 2014, then 2015, then 2016.  The threat has not decreased Malcolm, just the quality of the debate.

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