“In climate change, there will never be enough figures to satisfy the climate sceptics. If you don’t believe in the science of climate change, no amount of evidence will ever convince you because, fundamentally, it’s a stupid position not to take action,” Labor’s leader squelches a popular press narrative in Darwin Tuesday. The News Corp story is a “bait the left” stunt is that Labor’s emissions policy target will cost business $25 billion.
Bill-baiting starts Tuesday. 10 “News First” Jonathan Lea asks, “When can voters learn more about Labor’s emission reduction target, how you will get there and the cost to the economy?” Read their policy?
A “look at me” moment from a TV journalist, to engineer a sense of something at stake, says The Guardian’s Katharine Murphy who has her own thoughtful analysis of a policy which has been available since December.
It’s not perfect. Labor’s carbon trading raises questions. No carbon budget exists yet, given the hyper partisan state of our energy debate, but it’s way ahead of a Coalition driven by a group of climate change deniers.
Malcolm Turnbull helpfully enters the fray, swinging at ScoMo, his nemesis, Sunday, alleging that by dumping the national energy guarantee, (NEG) Scott Morrison’s captain’s recall will drive up electricity prices. Turnbull takes issue with a Daily Telegraph column by Sky News’ David Speers on the NEG and electricity prices.
Turnbull takes exception to Speers’ characterisation of the NEG as “Malcolm Turnbull’s National Energy Guarantee”. The NEG had support from cabinet and ScoMo. It is no longer policy only because of a “right wing minority” revolt in the party room: a few MPs threatened to cross the floor unless the NEG was dropped.
Disregarding the many flaws in the NEG, Turnbull argues, “The consequence is no integration of energy and climate policy, uncertainty continues to discourage investment with the consequence, as I have often warned, of both higher emissions and higher electricity prices.” In a parting shot at Labor, the former PM helpfully calculates Labor will have to find about $35 billion through carbon credits purchased offshore by 2030.
A small fraction of the economy would be affected, argues ANU economist, Professor Warwick McKibbin. The Morrison government policy to reduce carbon emissions would subtract about 0.4 per cent from the economy by 2030, he reckons, despite much criticism of Direct Action’s usefulness and Labor’s would do the same.
But long range forecasts are fraught. And why must cost dominate? William Richard Shorten remonstrates.
“This has been a 10-year torture on climate change, where the climate has got worse, the extreme weather events have got worse, and this government is still trying to delay and discourage.”
Australians are united on global warming. New research from The Australia Institute, puts the lie to myths of a North/South divide: most voters in all states and a majority across political allegiances want the government to mobilise all of society, “like they mobilised everyone during the world wars”, to tackle global warming.
Instead, the Coalition mobilises a scare campaign to panic electors. Labor will massively tax superannuation. Business will go bust with the extra costs of international carbon credits. Labor’s climate change policy is Carbon Tax 2.0 which will impose MASSIVE costs on Australians. Basic, diversionary tactics help it evade scrutiny of the $40 billion in spending cuts required to pay for the Coalition’s promised tax breaks.
The prospect of any cuts upsets the states. Treasurers in Victoria, Qld, WA, the ACT and the Northern Territory write to fledgling Federal Treasurer Frydenberg, this week asking him to “confirm that there will be no further funding cuts to hospitals, schools, infrastructure and other essential services that Australians rely on.”
Their letter points out that a $40 billion cut in spending “is more than the Commonwealth’s entire annual contribution to the states and territories for health ($22.8 billion) or education ($21.5 billion) in 2019-20”.
Along with its Kill Bill campaign and ScoMo’s nervous tic of naming Bill Shorten twice at least in every sentence, the Coalition attacks Labor’s electric vehicle target of 50% of all new car sales by 2030; a government fleet target of 50% by 2025 and 20% tax deductions for businesses purchasing electric vehicles (EVs) with witty retro word-play; Bill’s Car-Bon tax. Suddenly we’re back in 2013 with the Mad Monk Abbott.
Meanwhile, astonishingly, our accidental PM morphs into a clear communicator, admired for his consultative style by key stakeholders in an explosion of spin from his turd polishing unit which even has a piece on The BBC News website. Yet Scott Morrison cannot, so far, voice a single reason for toppling Turnbull. Instead he is photographed in business suit and RM Williams boots clod-hopping carrot fronds in Tasmania.
“What’s over there?”, he power-points, as all leaders must, on camera. “Carrots” says a minder. On a carrot farm? What will they think of next? Root vegetables deracinated, plant husbandry done, an honest tiller of the soil for a whole photo-op, hands dirty, ScoMo turns to ask reporters, “How shifty is Bill Shorten?” As he does.
ScoMo’s parody of John Cleese as Minister of Silly Walks may well win over a few Monty Python fans and those who warm to visual puns about carrot incentives and Easter Bunny (EB). But is it wise? EB’s role may be already taken by the lovely “Dutts” as Home Affairs’ Dutton is known to sycophants such as Hunt and Sukkar.
Peter Dutton is Labor’s Easter Bunny, their secret weapon, notes Paul Bongiorno in The Saturday Paper, who observes that Dutton’s abortive coup, (his numbers’ man Mathias Cormann botched the arithmetic), is a living reminder of the dysfunction and deep division that is today’s post-modern conservative Liberal Party. And a reminder of Morrison’s curiously confected legitimacy, his party’s antidote to having Dutton elected leader.
Dutton is toxic in Victoria, Labor research finds. He may even be the most unpopular Liberal politician in living memory, a keenly-contested title. ScoMo’s campaign stump in Deakin with local MP, Michael Sukkar, a Dutton numbers man, is briefly diverted when a wag hack asks whether the odium Victoria reserves for Morrison has anything to do with Sukkar’s judgement that “Peter Dutton should have been the leader of the Liberal Party?”
Luckily the government has campaign strategists and consultants CT Group to lead them onward; upward. There’s a bit of static about gorgeous George Christensen’s neglect of electoral duties in Dawson, QLD. “The Member for Manila”, as wags dub him, love-struck George spent seventy days each year, visiting April Asuncion, his fiancée in The Philippines for the last four years.
“He’s a human being,” David Littleproud offers a conjugal defence but Dawson voters may argue he’s their MP, first. At least his long-distance romance keeps him off the streets; away from Reclaim Australia Rallies.
On the streets, a Liberal Party advertising truck tools around Canberra, a city Walter Burley Griffin designed for “a country of bold democrats”. “Labor will tax you to death” its slogan runs, a hoax which invokes rumours on Fake-book, (bogus Facebook pages) that Labor will re-introduce death duties.
The legend mimics Conservative negative advertising in the UK in 2010, by Crosby-Textor (now CT group) whose fear-mongering and dead cat on the table diversions failed to deliver a Tory majority in 2017 or avert Turnbull’s 2016 near-disaster.
Yet, as Lizard of Oz, Sir Lynton Crosby and former Australian Liberal Party Director, knighted for frightening UK folk to vote for their neoliberal oppressors, famously opines, “you can’t fatten a pig on market day”.
Or by weighing it. Sadly CT group has its own problems to contend with; Mohammed Saderuddin Syed, 44 the firm’s former chief financial officer has recently been charged with defrauding the company of $850,000.
The dead-cat slogan on the truck simply betrays Morrison’s mob’s desperation. Even those inside the Canberra bubble, a no-go-zone which bubble-dweller, ScoMo, invokes to dodge questions, know the Coalition’s on the run from voters wanting policy on environment, climate change, energy, – anything -even a budget passed by parliament. Josh Frydenberg’s recent dodgy estimates will never appease our high priests, the economists.
Above all, voters have had a gutful of government profligacy, waste and the game of mates. Fourteen out of a flurry of 70 appointments to boards, statutory bodies and tribunals, and diplomatic postings in the last few weeks are former Liberal or National MPs, party executives or advisers to Coalition ministers, according to Guardian Australia analysis. No-one suggests corruption, but the practice does politicise government bodies.
Corruption’s stench does, however, waft up from water rorting in the Murray-Darling Basin, while Adani’s last-minute fake approval stinks; its water management plan is not endorsed by CSIRO, despite Price’s pretence.
The Australia Institute reports that “Minister Price was reportedly threatened by members of her own Government to approve the groundwater plan or face public calls for her to be sacked. The internal lobbying reportedly included Ministers Canavan and Dutton demanding answers of their colleague last week. Adani Australia CEO Lucas Dow even flew to Canberra to push the case, having recently threatened to sue for damages if any restrictions were made to coal mining in Queensland.”
Adani still faces a number of other tests before it gains final approval from the Queensland government but the way the “approval” is rushed through, on the cusp of caretaker mode, raises serious concerns about the Morrison government’s regard for due process. It may also provide grounds for approval to be rescinded.
No-one was ever bluffed by Hunt’s Direct Action boondoggle. Now renamed “The Climate Solutions Fund”, it’s re-set to squander a $2 billion top-up paying farmers to plant trees they would have planted anyway, amongst other rorts, such as refurbishing Vales Point coal-fired power station. The move puts Australia at odds with The World Bank, the US and Europe, all of whom opposed using climate funds to retrofit coal power stations.
“If you were committed to meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement, which the Australian government says it is committed to, this is just lunacy,” says Sean Kidney, CEO of London-based Climate Bonds Initiative.
“No investors in the western world will accept any green bonds that incentivise anything like coal station retrofits. From an investor’s perspective, coal is a dead duck.”
Nothing to see here, is the Morrison dead Mallard’s response. Every truck, bus and Vespa motor-scooter in Canberra should bear the legend. Foremost is the erupting scandal of Murray-Darling Basin scheme water buy-backs. Minister for Agriculture and Water Rorts, Barnaby Joyce, fulminated against buy-backs, whilst overseeing at least three big deals; $200 million for giant corporate irrigators such as Webster farming.
The Menindee Water Savings Project will fundamentally change the lives and livelihoods of all of the people in the Lower Darling Valley report The Australia Institute’s MaryAnne Slattery and Rod Campbell, September 2018. The Australian government has paid one large agribusiness $80m in compensation. No other stakeholder has received any compensation, instead they have all been made more vulnerable.
Pressure mounts for an inquiry. By Saturday, however, it’s go-low ScoMo who accuses William Richard Shorten of “throwing mud around” during the election campaign. Our own Watergate scandal is upon us thanks to research compiled by The Australia Institute and some assiduous detective work by investigative journalist Michael West. Channel 10’s, The Project’s Hamish Macdonald re-runs the story, which first broke a year ago.
The issue has been “raised before and has been addressed” says Scott Morrison whose much-lauded (by his own spin unit) clear communication style becomes cloudier the more he says; the longer his sentences extend.
“I understand the Senate inquired into the matter and sought production of documents from the government, regarding those transactions, which the government has provided,” he bull-shits before reaching for the buzz-words. “So, that strikes me there is a high level of transparency.” Expect more posturing and protestation but Labor has asked for an explanation by Monday 22 April. It’s a scandal unlikely to help Morrison’s campaign.
Nor is the Coalition’s war on climate change abatement. It is “malicious and stupid” snorts William Richard Shorten; as a reporter twits him about the cost of Labor’s carbon reduction policy on Thursday in Darwin, now another China One Belt One Road, port thanks to a Coalition financial management and security masterstroke.
In 2015, Adam Giles’ NT government leased the port for ninety years to Chinese-owned Landridge group for a mere $506 million. Andrew Robb, Former Trade Minister, who later became a star Landridge recruit, at $880,000 PA, promoted the lease and purchase of a controlling interest in port operations. It was a “powerful sign” of a commercial relationship through a free trade deal of his. Later he resigned from the firm when it did not seem to have much work from him to do. No suggestion is made that Robb acted with impropriety.
The deal did, however earned a protest from then US President Barack Obama who said he would at least have liked some prior notice. He should be so lucky. Even federal cabinet was not aware of the deal until hours before then-chief minister Adam Giles announced it publicly in November 2015. The $506 million is long spent.
Undeterred, News Corp hacks and flacks cackle gleefully at the prospect of beating up another great big new tax on everything fear campaign, praying that it’s 2013 all over again. As Darwin’s sale shows, only the Coalition, a party whose MPs have financial management in their DNA, according to fiscal wizard Tony Abbott can be trusted to propitiate our gods of the economy, free trade deals and security.
The Australian’s, Chris Mitchell, a flack with the Morrison incumbency’s propaganda arm, savages opponents of the Adani Carmichael Mine with environmental concerns. First, it is nowhere near the reef. The Galilee Basin is inland in sparsely settled, dry pastoral country. Adani’s coal will have to be railed 300km to the Abbott Point coal loader, which already services coal exporters from Bowen Basin fields 200km closer to the coast.
That settles that, then. Or does it? For James Bradley, in The Monthly, opening one more coalmine while allowing emissions to continue on their current path it is like locking our children in a burning house.
“Ecosystems around the world will collapse, wiping out most species of animals. Acidification and anoxia will devastate the oceans. Rising sea levels will destroy coastal areas, while heat and famine and cascading climate disasters will kill hundreds of millions. These are not outside possibilities. They are the inescapable and near-term outcomes of failing to reduce emissions. In the face of this reality, opening new coalmines is like locking our children in a burning house and throwing away the key.”
Divided, delusional and drowning in a Watergate scandal of its own making, the Morrison government is held by some news outfits to have “won” the first week of the campaign.
It’s a dubious claim that ignores vital evidence that voters see through the scaremongering, the nonsense about the prohibitive cost of acting responsibly on climate change – not to mention ScoMo’s Canberra bubble, his cone of silence, which is just Morrison’s update on refusing to speak on “on water” matters – a practice he began as Minister for Immigration and, later, Border Force, now a part of Dutton’s struggling super-ministry.
The phrase “on water matters” is particularly apt again now that a scandal is brewing around the rorting of water from the Murray-Darling Basin scheme that could help cause a Coalition election washout.
Seven flaws in the NEG from Environment Victoria
- It is worse than doing nothing for our renewable energy industry.
- It may give polluting coal generators an incentive to keep polluting for longer.
- It is inconsistent with our Paris climate agreement commitments or stronger targets necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 to 2°.
- It concentrates market power with the ‘Big Three’ energy retailers (leading to higher electricity bills for consumers).
- A major loophole – international offsets instead of domestic action.
- It undermines state renewable energy and greenhouse pollution reduction targets.
- It ignores the advice of the Chief Scientist and is a thought bubble with no economic modelling.
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