Every day the duplicity of this government becomes more apparent. In order to assist their political puppet masters, the Coalition is prepared to condemn future generations to the enormous task and cost of coping with catastrophic climate change.
Joe Hockey, in another crass display of duplicitous behaviour, tells us that Labor left us with a debt of $667 billion. What he fails to mention is that this is projected debt for 2024. By that time, if we continue on this path of destruction, I would suggest our debt will be far higher as we cope with natural disasters of increasing intensity and the health and social costs from rising temperatures and pollution of our air and water.
Our tourism trade will suffer as the reef dies, the old growth forests are logged, marine creatures are slaughtered, and animals become extinct as their habitat is handed over to miners and developers. Our farmers will struggle with drought as the Murray-Darling dries up. Summer will be a time to fear as bushfires rage around the southern states and cyclones and floods devastate the North. Our exporters and airlines (if we have any) will face sanctions from countries that have emission reduction strategies in place.
The WHO’s Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan, joined the ever-growing chorus from influential leaders when she said:
“Climate change will affect, in profoundly adverse ways, some of the most fundamental determinants of health… we need champions throughout the world who will work to put protecting human health at the centre of the climate change agenda.”
The group Doctors for the environment Australia focuses on the environmental causes of human illness and the means to address them. At their recent conference an impressive display of speakers urged doctors to become vocal and active in campaigning for urgent action on climate change.
Greg Hunt was heckled as he, in all seriousness, said that Australia would use its presidency of the G20 as a “catalyst” to help the “G4” – the US, China, the European Union and India – complete the groundwork for a new deal to lower emissions. He spoke about the value of trees in carbon reduction amidst taunts about logging the World Heritage forests in Tasmania. Do as we say, not as we do?
In October last year, Hydro Tasmania announced a record $238 million profit, $70 million of which came directly from the carbon tax. When asked if Tasmania would receive compensation for scrapping the tax, Greg Hunt said “We are not proposing compensation to businesses as a result of the carbon tax repeal.” But they are more than happy to give billions to polluters to update their factories.
Tasmanian opposition energy spokesman Mathew Groom said Hydro Tasmania’s record dividends had come at the cost of high power prices in Tasmania, and scrapping the carbon tax would lower power prices, but Lara Giddings said power prices were set to drop 5 per cent on January 1, independent of the carbon tax. So much for caring about Tasmania.
The Senate Committee investigating the Coalition’s Direct Action Plan have released their findings. To paraphrase…Direct Action is crap, won’t work, will cost a fortune, will require a huge bureaucracy to administer, is lacking in detail about implementation, is inadequate for now let alone the future, and is just downright madness. Recommendation – stick with our current system but up the ante.
Clean energy and low-carbon investors are abandoning Australia as the Federal government, and its conservative colleagues at state level, turn their interests and policies away from renewables and long-term carbon abatement incentives. Nathan Fabian, the head of the Investor Group on Climate Change, told the Senate committee that “Direct action is not an investment grade policy,” noting that investors viewed it more like a short-term grants scheme. Banks, he said, were likely to take a similar view, echoing the frustrations of many players in the clean energy industry who have been unable to obtain finance because of policy uncertainty.
Fabian also said the proposed review of the RET “appears to be another very clear signal that Australia will not be a market for low-carbon investing for the next few years. My members are looking at the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States, France and some South American countries as having more stable investment environments for low-carbon opportunities ” So much for being open for business.
Tim Buckley, a former Citigroup chief analyst in Australia, clean energy funds manager, and now with the US-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, told the same hearing that the Australian clean energy industry is regressing because of the lack of clarity on policy.
“We are worse than stalling; we are actually investing in assets that I think will become stranded as a result,” Buckley said. “Internationally, companies and economies are building industry capacity to transition for the long term. We should be building capacity as well and we are not doing so.”
He said Australia was currently missing out on hundreds of billions of dollars that were being invested every year in renewables, in energy efficiency and in development of these new technologies, and the hundreds of thousands of jobs being created in China, in Germany and in America. So much for jobs, jobs, jobs.
Numerous other parties have dismissed the proposed emissions reduction fund as “unfinancable” – mostly because it offers a maximum 5-year investment horizon. That reflects the view of most people – and possibly even the government – that Direct Action is not a long-term policy position, just part of a short-term political manoeuvre that has helped deliver power to the conservative parties.
Economists are convinced that carbon pricing will yield the greatest environmental bang-for-buck at the lowest economic cost. Justin Wolfers, an Australian professor at the University of Michigan, says:
“Abbott’s plan doesn’t effectively harness market forces; it relies instead on the government handing out cheques. One problem is that we’ll end up subsidising a lot of abatement that would have occurred anyway. Another is that the plan imposes extra costs because it uses scarce tax dollars . . . All told, Direct Action involves more economic disruption for less of an environmental payoff.”
Quoting from the Federal Parliament website:
“The Senate is a house of review and a powerful check on the government of the day. The proportional representation system of voting used to elect senators makes it easier for independents and the candidates of the smaller parties to be elected. In recent decades this has meant that the government party usually does not have a majority of votes in the Senate and the non–government senators are able to use their combined voting power to reject or amend government legislation. The Senate’s large and active committee system also enables senators to inquire into policy issues in depth and to scrutinise the way laws and policies are administered by ministers and public servants.”
I would ask all Senators to remember their role. You have heard the expert advice. You have received submissions from stakeholders and concerned parties. You have whole departments to help you understand what you are being told. On the basis of what you have learned, you have recommended that we do not proceed with the Emissions Reduction Fund, that we have an Emissions Trading Scheme, and that we increase out targets.
The lie about the carbon tax hurting business and families just has to stop. Families were well compensated for the small increase in power bills due to the carbon price. Trade exposed businesses were also compensated. Renewable energy and sustainable practice received funding, and research and development was leading to whole new industries. And if you were really all that concerned you could make power GST free.
Mr Abbott, your absolute intransigence on this matter, your insistence on “we said we’ll do it so we will”, regardless of all expert advice to the contrary, makes you unfit to lead our country. You show no intitiative, you are unable to react to changing circumstances, you are unwilling to take advice, and you are prepared to sacrifice all for the short term gain of the wealthy. And as for you Greg Hunt and Malcolm Turnbull, you are despicable – you know the truth but are unwilling to speak it.
People of Western Australia, I urge you to consider how important it is to have a genuine house of review in the Senate. Our fate lies in your hands.