In June, the Business Council of Australia issued a joint media release titled “We All Have a Stake in Moving Forward with the Finkel Review.”
The energy industry, its customers and other stakeholders agree: the Finkel Review presents a major opportunity to implement a coherent national blueprint to modernise our electricity system and meet our emissions reduction goals.
Our organisations believe that the worst outcome for energy consumers and suppliers alike would be the absence of any credible and enduring energy and climate policy in Australia. Without reform we will endure higher prices, reduced security, lost investment opportunity, and stubbornly high emissions.
The consequences of failure are too significant to allow this opportunity to pass. The Australian political system must act to deliver clear and enduring energy and climate policy.
The release was endorsed by:
Australian Aluminium Council
Australian Council of Social Services
Australian Council of Trade Unions
Australian Energy Council
Australian Industry Group
Brotherhood of St Laurence
Business Council of Australia
Cement Industry Federation
Clean Energy Council
Energy Efficiency Council
Energy Networks Australia
Energy Users Association of Australia
Investor Group on Climate Change
National Farmers’ Federation
Origin Energy chief executive Frank Calabria said that “to deliver a genuine reduction in prices for Australians, we must also find a way through on energy policy, including a Clean Energy Target. This is necessary to unlock investment in much-needed new supply to replace our ageing coal-fired power stations, and transition us to a cleaner, more modern energy system”.
Australian Energy Council chief executive Matthew Warren said the longer politicians took to “deliver certainty and investment, the worse the situation will be” and backed the creation of a target.
“This can only be fixed by solving the climate-energy policy impasse which has blocked new baseload generation investment for the past decade,” he said.
AGL Ceo Andy Vesey also emphasised the need for targets to help increase supply.
“The reality is the best way to bring down prices is to increase electricity supply, which is why we are investing in new generation and support a Clean Energy Target to unlock additional supply,” he said.
In fact, the only group opposing a clean energy target (or better still, an emissions intensity or emissions trading scheme) is the Minerals Council of Australia and their mouthpieces, and even some of their members have had enough with their coal advocacy.
BHP’s Australian minerals operations president Mike Henry said “We support a strong bias to action and we support the recommendations included in the Finkel Review. We need clear, stable, refreshed energy policy that enhances the structure and operation of the market, while realising the emissions reductions that are so important.”
While the MCA had insisted for decades Australia’s economic policy should be about “industry competitiveness” it quickly morphed into a lobby group demanding billions in public subsidies for uncompetitive coal projects.
The MCA – and its state-based satellites the Queensland Resources Council (QRC) and the NSW Minerals Council (NSWMC) – came to support public subsidies for Adani’s unbankable Carmichael mine, an unneeded coal power station in Queensland, an unabated brown coal plant in Victoria and opposing AGL’s planned 2022 shutdown of the Liddell plant in New South Wales.
The proposed price tag for the coal subsidies may be huge but the National Party and the right-wing of the Liberal Party – egged on by credulous reporting in most of the Murdoch media mastheads – have danced to the MCA’s tune, even gleefully passing around in the national parliament a lump of coal the lobby group provided as a prop.
The tentacles of the MCA spread far and wide.
Sid Marris, a former analyst with the Minerals Council of Australia, and a 16-year veteran of News Ltd, has joined Turnbull’s staff as an advisor.
Then the chairman of the Minerals Council of Australia, Vanessa Guthrie, was appointed to the ABC board despite not making the shortlist prepared by an independent panel.
Last November, Ian Macfarlane, who was until recently a Coalition Minister, was named as the new chief executive of the Queensland Resources Council (QRC).
When the parliament was debating the repeal of the mining tax, the MCA sent every member and senator a hi-vis mining vest emblazoned with “australiansforcoal.com.au” and their name. Senator Ian Macdonald chose to wear his in the chamber causing Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan to object to the “bloody commercial message”.
“I support the mining industry too, but…it sets a precedent. Next thing we’ll have, you know, ‘Bill Heffernan: Friend of Marijuana’, ‘Friend of Coca-Cola’, without my permission! I have told the Minerals and Mining Council to shove this, and everyone else should too.”
Under pressure from two of its largest contributing members, BHP and Rio Tinto, the MCA recently sacked its CEO Brendan Pearson.
It remains to be seen whether the MCA can change direction and drag itself into the 21st century. If not, it, and the luddites who promote its coal fixation, will become irrelevant to the discussion.