Now, I know that consistency isn’t a strong point with people generally. And I don’t have a problem with people who change their minds. As John Milton Keynes was alleged to have said, “When the facts change, I change my mind. How about you, sir?”
No, it’s not as Donald Trump administration would have it, “When I change my mind, the facts change and it’s all fake news anyway, because as Abraham Lincoln said to George Washington, you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet!”
I found it hard to reconcile the Abbott government’s insistence that the workers killed installing insulation were the fault of the Labor government’s lack of oversight, while announcing that they’d get rid of all the red tape which slowed down business.
But lately, the Liberals are creating a new gold standard when it comes to saying one thing one minute, then another thing a minute later. Sometimes they’re even contradicting themselves in that same sentence when they tell us that negative gearing doesn’t make house prices higher, but removing it would make them lower.
Most you probably noticed Josh Frydenberg floating the idea of allowing the CEFC to invest in “clean” coal, and I suspect that many of you would probably argue that like it’s allowing QUIT to invest in clean tobacco.
Of course, you do have a strong argument, and I’m not denying that the idea of “clean coal” sounds more of an oxymoron than “Malcolm Turnbull’s principles” or “humble One Nation MP”, but I’m prepared to say that it’s not impossible that we may be able to create “cleaner” coal if we put our minds to it and pour money into researching it. Of course, I’m also prepared to say that unicorns may exist, that Scott Morrison may not be planning to be PM before the year is out and any day now, Donald Trump may announce he’s resigning because he’s done everything possible to get impeached but the Republicans are stupider than he imagined… It’s not the possibility of clean coal that I find inconsistent. It’s a strange idea. But the Liberals do have a lot of stranger ideas, like putting Cory Bernardi on their senate ticket or telling us that One Nation is now more “sophisticated than it was twenty years ago.
No, it’s their recent decree to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation that’s the weird thing. Late last year, Mathias Cormann and Josh Frydenberg lectured the CEFC about the need to strive for an annual return well above the bond rates. In other words, they were told that they needed to be investing in profitable enterprises. None of this helping out evolving industries and giving them a helping hand while they become more commercial. Nope, we want commercial decisions which make a profit, and not just a small profit: 3-4% above the interest rate!
So imagine the surprise from the CEFC when they hear that just a few short weeks later, they get told that Mal and his mates are looking at changing the legislation to enable an investment in coal from the fund. The fact that clean coal isn’t profitable is no problem. I almost expect Frydenberg to be telling us that “Field Of Dreams” is the evidence on which they intend to base energy policy, and if we build it, they will come.
Of course, this is on top of the fact that a voluntary levy which coal companies paid to investigate clean coal was used for political advertising. Of course, it’s rather scandalous that the money to pay for the advertising was deducted from state royalties. But that’s not what I found most interesting about the ABC’s story.
No, for me it was this simple statement which the ABC seemed to skate over:
‘With a lack of research projects to finance, the levy was suspended in 2012. In 2013, the coal lobby changed the mandate of Coal21 to downplay research and allow its funds to be used for “coal promotion”.’
Let me just repeat that first bit for you, “With a lack of research projects to finance, the levy was suspended in 2012.”
Or let me just put it in bold: With a lack of research projects to finance!
In other words, our government now wants to give taxpayer funds to something that even the coal industry itself didn’t think was worth looking at. The levy was stopped, not because it was too expensive in these hard times for coal producers, but because they had more money than there were projects to fund.
So, if you thought George Brandis was bad when he suggested that asylum seekers were breaking the law, but he wouldn’t tell us which section of the migration act they were breaking because that – like operational matters, on-water events and where they’ve hidden Christopher Pyne – is a secret, then you ain’t seen nothing yet. Just wait till they tell us that we can give millions of taxpayer dollars to the coal industry to research something that even they themselves thought wasn’t worth spending money on. Just wait till they tell us that it’s a mistake to be “ideologically driven”, but the coal industry is the way of the future. I mean, didn’t you see those great ads? Not only that, thanks to all the money they’ve been given, they’ll soon be making even better ads. They’ll have Scott Morrison, holding a lump of coal, telling us that it’s only through coal that the Budget will be back in the black, and it’s only the coal industry that stands between us and the Marxists forcing their clean energy ideology on us all. Not only that but they’ll have a row of dancing girls with lights powered by coal – that’s both the dancing girls and the coal.
Coal – if it’s good for humanity, it’s god for the Liberal Party!