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Day to Day Politics: When is a policy not a policy?

Thursday 19 October

When is a policy not a policy? When it lacks detail, is the answer.

There are those political leaders who have a sagacious gift for detail. In my experience no one surpassed former Prime Minister Howard. He consumed facts and figures with a childlike appetite for rice bubbles at breakfast. There was not much else I liked about him, but his grasp of the finer points of policy were formidable. So too did Hawke, Keating and Beasley, who I would rate next to Howard. Brendan Nelson also had an impressive mind for the fine print. In fact, he had a nick name but it escapes me. Why do I raise the matter?

Well it seems to me after long consideration that this Coalition Government almost by habit releases policy that is never cast in concrete. There are always details missing, leaving them open for both ridicule and an avalanche of criticism.

A case in point is the Coalition’s Energy policy.

Supposedly the details of their latest plan remain to be explained, including the modelling. Otherwise the policy is just the opinion of three heads of different energy organisations. John Howard wouldn’t allow you a crack to hide in.

On AM this morning he said:

“I can’t say how disappointed I am that rather than talking about the substance of the policy, I’m sitting here with you on AM and you are attacking the credibility of the people …”

The people who have let energy infrastructure fall into disrepair are the same people who are backing the PM’s NEG policy.

Sean Kelly writing for The Monthly today wrote:

“The people whose honour the prime minister was defending this morning make up the Energy Security Board. The board recommended Turnbull’s new climate policy, and told him that voters would save up to $115 on electricity bills from 2020.

And he was sounding crabby as all get-out because the certainty of that $115 figure was fading with every passing minute.

When Turnbull referred questions about it at yesterday’s press conference to Australian Energy Market Commission chair John Pierce, Pierce said there was “detailed analysis and modelling of this specific proposal” still to be done, which would yield “firmer estimates of those price effects”.

In other words, let’s talk about this again down the track. Later, Samantha Maiden at Sky News reported that she had talked to Pierce, and he said there were several scenarios that had been modelled, one of which began with savings of $25 a year, ramping up to the magic $115 figure over the next three or so years. Anyone surprised the government didn’t mention the 50-cents-a-week saving?

Politicians get awfully frustrated by journalists who ask them to “guarantee” figures like the $115 one, because they know that things go wrong, that modelling comes with caveats, and that circumstances change. But it was the government who chose to put that figure at the heart of its sales pitch. The flat figure of $115 was spoken of as fact to Turnbull on both Sunrise and Today. On neither occasion did he choose to point out the caveats around it.”

The point is that there are so many holes in this policy that you could drive a truck through it but it’s par for the course with this government. It is called … policy on the run.

My thought for the day

“Telling the truth should not be delayed simply because we are not sure how people might react to it.”


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  1. Ballarat

    Yes he’s not much higher than a Used Car Salesman is our Mal.

  2. Dave

    Photo ops, selfies and press releases. Nothing more from this disgraceful ship of fools….Way past their use by date.

  3. Wun Farlung

    This policy must surely spell the end for this government.
    When power prices continue to rise, as they surely will.
    The aspect of this debacle that has hardly had any scrutiny and is avoided like the plague by all is the issue of privatisation
    Once upon a time in LNP utopia everything could/should be run by ‘the market’.
    ‘The market’ can provide all/any essential service cheaper (caused by competition) and more efficiently than publicly owned services.
    I was told by my local MP it’s in the Liberal DNA
    I sent an email to him last week enquiring about the Liberal gene pool… no answer. Smart

  4. Terry2

    A small win for democracy in the Senate last night when Peter Dutton’s misguided and excessive changes to citizenship laws lapsed due to lack of support : the government failed to bring the legislation on as they realized it was doomed.

    The legislative changes sought by Dutton include increasing waiting times from one to four years before permanent residents can apply for citizenship, tougher English-language requirements but critically additional powers for the immigration minister.

    Dutton has not finished with this and he will try to get his way and if necessary he will bypass the parliament with the introduction of regulation. It has been a feature of this Minister and this government’s legislation that they will always include far reaching Ministerial discretion which, in many cases, go beyond the intent of the legislation giving the minister the final word particularly in areas of national security, immigration and citizenship, all areas where Dutton holds sway.

    Whilst the Senate has managed to defer this push by Dutton he is not one to take this lying down and he does hold grudges.

  5. Harquebus

    Here’s part of what I stated on John Lord’s page last Monday.
    “It should be an interesting week with no real solutions provided because, our politicians do not understand the energy problem.”
    This will continue until it can’t. Hard decisions are going to have to be made sooner or later. Sooner would be better.

  6. nurses1968

    And the locals buy the rubbish
    Essential Polls 17th Oct.

    LNP 37% up 1%
    Labor 36% down 2%
    Greens 9% down 1%
    PHON 8% up 1%

    2 PP
    LNP 48% up 2 %
    Labor 52% down 2%

  7. helvityni

    Even the sun looks angry: ‘my energy not good enough for you,Mr Mal ? Still looking underground for solutions…clean coal, what’s that? ‘

  8. helvityni

    Mr Wind too is getting agitated: ‘listen to us, after all I have the power to blow your house down…’

  9. Jack Straw

    hevityni Mr Wind will do all this via climate Change. I think we need a 60s type protest uprising to throw these bludgers out.

  10. Klaus Petrat

    As a bit of a mathematician, I have a Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering, I distrust models from the ground up. I have created many models to put my business case and I know what needs to get in to get a certain outcome out. Mostly hogwash.

    And I do not have any respect for the “Experts” on the ESB who I doubt have any scientific background whatsoever. But I can see why there is no model.

    In my fantasy world, I picture Malcolm going to these people in desperation last Monday, not 1 month ago, let alone more. I mean last Monday. What did the poor devils have to do? Malcolm would have provided a figure, say $115 and asked them to create a model to match that. So they did a little Excel, put the years down the x-axis, the savings up the y-axis and did some shit.

    But that is my private fantasy world. But half the MSM takes this serious and the Chief Scientist sells his soul for that one.

    What a bunch of lying, incompetent, spineless bunch of miscreants they are!!!

  11. Orejano Chucaro

    Interesting what it is in the Guardian:
    ” 32m ago
    The energy debate has moved on to whether or not Labor will support it. So far, Labor hasn’t said either way. It has been very careful to be critical of the process, and what the government is using to make some of its claims, such as the $110-$115 saving (which is an average which kicks in some time between 2020 and 2030) but not explicitly slam the policy itself.

    Now it has moved on to talking why it might support it, because it looks like an emissions intensity scheme, which is Labor’s preferred option. That has now placed the government in the unusual position of denying something contained within its policy.”

  12. Adrianne Haddow

    Of course, the energy policy lacks detail.
    Malingering Mal is still waiting for the IPA to supply all the details which will continue to maximise their profits and increase the proliferation of their favourite investments in the mining industry.
    Savings of $115 a year by 2020…… wow!

  13. Matters Not

    Terry 2 – Yes they can make some changes via Regulation BUT regulations changes can also be disallowed if the Parliament so wishes. Even Dutton would know that. (But maybe … )

    Dutton does not wish to be bound by the Separation of Powers doctrine. As he told the Cabinet some time ago – If you leave it to the Judges, they might make the wrong decision. Better to leave the right decision making in the hands of Dutton (Hilarious.)


    ABC ONLINE. ‘…why won’t forcing energy buyers to sign contracts for certain types of energy shift the bargaining power to the sellers and push up prices’. The fatal flaw in turdballs ‘guarantee’.

  15. guest

    My questions: If they take away subsidies for coal, who will invest in coal? If renewables become cheaper than coal, who would not choose renewables? How cheap is gas?

  16. Klaus Petrat

    guest, that is correct. But right now, coal is subsidized in many subtle and not so subtle ways. See what they plan for Adani, 1 Billion loan, Royalty holidays (I think that is what they said), most likely operating subsidies such as fuel, machinery etc. and worst of all, nobody gives a shit the massive scar of the mine will leave for generations to come. Not to speak of cost of ground water pollution….

  17. Matters Not

    guest re:

    who will invest in Coal …

    The LNP government! Intervening in the market place is the new black for the LNP.

  18. Kronomex

    It’s a Claytons “policy”, plain and simple. You can bet that the projected savings of, gasp, that’s the price of a small bag of lollies, $2.00 a week somewhere in the dim dark (figuratively or literally and it will all be Labors fault anyway) future will not eventuate. The power companies will of course find ways to keep putting up their prices and the LNP will “Tsk, tsk.” it and keep taking the brown envelopes.

  19. Peter F

    One minister ( Friedeggburger)I think) said on ABC yesterday that if providers failed to see their obligations they would lose their licence. What percentage off the industry is the government prepared to deny licences to before the whole system collapses? Another well thought policy development from the adults in charge.

  20. Möbius Ecko

    Frydenberg has suggested that 53% of Marine Sanctuaries be opened up to fishing and exploration.

    What is it with these conservatives that all they want to do is ruin and destroy. The only thing they want to build is their own bank accounts and that of big business friends, who in turn build the bank accounts of the conservative politicians.

  21. Shogan

    The National Energy Gimmick is no different to any other LNP policy, it’s nothing more than a Headline looking for a storyline to give it some semblance of substance!!

  22. jim

    Energy just like water should belong to us the populace which we should only be charged for the delivery costs of it .

    “Telling the truth should not be delayed simply because we are not sure how people might react to it.”
    Telling the truth should not be delayed simply because your mind will end up in lies that haunt you to your grave.
    You bet you is….err..smack.

  23. jim

    The Liberals do have some policies and they’re working fine for them, heres one of their policies from 2013,

    B Cassady,
    On the face of it, the Victorian Government’s decision to bail out SPC Ardmona with a $22 million grant surely leaves the electorate confused about what fundamental beliefs underpin the Liberal Party.

    How can the Liberal Party, at the federal level, insist that taxpayers’ money should not be used to prop up unsustainable industries, while the same party at the state level makes a virtue of the practice?

    Same party. Same company. Two very different philosophies. One undermining the other.

    And this is the Liberal parties “side effects”.

  24. guest

    The car industry departs this week. Vast clearing of vegetation in Qld. A colony of some 18 000-40 000 penguins has died of starvation in the Eastern Antarctic through the fishing of krill (and in Oz, Marine Parks will be reduced so we can fish more). The government is negotiating with an Indian Company whose environmental and economic behaviour is questionable. Farmers fear contamination of artesian water in the Galilee Basin. In Canada they are extracting oil from tar sands (this is the level of desperation) and piping it across the USA to the Caribbean coast. Gas and oil are piped from Siberia into Europe. Oil is burnt at the rate of millions of barrels a day. Gas is being extracted through a fracking process which fractures rock stratas and injects chemicals to drive out the gas.

    Do I need to go on?

    We are in the process of destroying the planet in the name of economic growth and in defiance of the science, driven by people who claim to be “technologically agnostic”. That is, they claim to be proposing an energy scheme which will solve all energy problems – a scheme cobbled together in recent days – and which has no guarantees, no concerns for the implications of the Paris Agreement, no understanding of the toxic nature of burning fossil fuels, no understanding or concern for Climate Change, no concern for a world population heading towards 9bn.

    This Government is setting out to cook the planet on the cheap. Too many of its advocates rattle as they walk with filthy lucre in their heads.

  25. John


    The total flying insect biomass decreased by more than 75 percent over 27 years in protected areas, according to a study published October 18, 2017 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Caspar Hallmann from Radboud University, The Netherlands, and colleagues.

    The researchers found that this dramatic decline was apparent regardless of habitat type, and changes in weather, land use, and habitat characteristics were not able to explain the overall decline.

    Researchers in Germany have documented a steep decline in flying insects at dozens of nature reserves in the past three decades, and agricultural pesticides may be to blame, said a study Wednesday.

    While it is well documented that butterflies and bees have been disappearing in Europe and North America, the study in PLOS ONE is the first to document that flying insects in general have decreased by more than three-quarters across Germany since 1989.

  26. Wam

    Truth is not so funny sitting on a houseboat on the murray, at night, Lord. Just sad!
    Happy for NZ, but. Looks like the women are the negotiation experts here with Gillard and in NZ with Ardern.
    On the drive own I met a retired tCommonwealth public servant from accounts. He said always plenty of work when labor is in but nothing to do when the libs are in government.
    ps science often has a givenagenda but discoveries change such aims. Independent committees are given terms of reference to prevent discovery that may affect projected outcomes. The libs want science to behave like that so their outcomes are accurate to expectations ie their truth is our truth and your truth is a lie.

  27. guest

    John, you have not given any reason for your missive, but (a) you might be taking the mickey out of me and my misery, or (b) you are adding to my mention of the losses being seen in the environment. With regard to the loss of bees, you are right to be concerned because bees are necessary for pollination, so that mass loss of bees is of great concern.

    Loss of insect biomass means loss of food for insectivorous creatures. For some people, such a loss is of no importance. Which is the really worrying aspect of the ignorance of what is happening in the environment, especially when the loss is inexplicable. But then we find that the daily use of fire retardants could have deleterious effects on water supplies and subterranean watercourses near air bases in Oz.

    Who would have thought that nano-particles of plastic would spread across the world and infiltrate our food so that we end up eating our own trash?

    Of course, for a start Rachel Carson warned us in her book “Silent Spring” in 1962.

    When all else fails, blame Labor.

  28. corvusboreus

    Given that John raised legitimate ecological concerns, with informational links to credible scientific articles, I suspect reason (b).

  29. guest

    Thank you, corvusboreus. I am rather sensitive of my negativity. I knew some of what John @6.56pm wrote but not the extent of it. I cannot believe the magnitude of the rapid destruction of Nature on this planet.

    Nor can I believe how the Coalition government is assisting in this destruction with its discarding of the advice of the Chief Scientist Alan Finkel and the introduction of a Clayton’s energy policy. And that the Premier of Qld believes the fiction that the Adani mine will provide 10 000 new jobs.

    I see now that councils in Qld will pay $31m for a new airport for Adani. Add to that $1bn for a railway line paid for by a special fund not actually set up for that purpose. No subsidies?

    Are we mad? How can we allow all this to happen before our eyes when we know it is wrong? It goes against everything we understand about Climate Change, about the fragility of the environment and the shonky nature of Adani. We are being set up for a con job by a fizza who is stuffing up everything.

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