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Tag Archives: Adani

Post-Coal Theming and Preventative Unemployment

The Anti-Adani protest has generated divisive anti-worker rhetoric. Preventative unemployment should be a key focus towards a post-coal world. This article discusses the importance of themes in the narrative towards a post-coal world and explores the approach to preventative unemployment policy.

Say No To Adani Is Just the Beginning

The anti-Adani movement is growing. It has progressed from a place of prominence on social media to a place of prominence in main stream media.

I have spent countless hours trying to engage with the Anti-Adani movement. I have persisted for a long period to bring the topic of jobs to the centre of the discussion. Placing the worker at the centre of the framework is crucial, as we move towards a post-coal world.

This is crucial because the Anti-Adani movement’s aim to shut down the Adani mine is just the beginning. It is not the end. A move towards alternative energy and away from coal is evident. Protests against existing mines are just a matter of time. The industrial landscape will change forever.

However, any discussion regarding jobs is dismissed and not taken seriously.

Screaming to Shut Down Jobs

Every Adani protester is protesting to shut down jobs and is part of a wider movement which will build and push to shut down even more heavy industry.

The wider narrative in the Anti-Adani movement, when the point of jobs is raised, makes this issue much bigger than Adani by default.

The Theming of Rebuttals

I have engaged almost every day in the Adani debate online, across various platforms for at least a year. In my experience, the rebuttals towards any argument put forward regarding jobs fall into a number of themes. The post-coal world is the framework for these themes, not just Adani per se.

Divisive 

This rebuttal insists that only Great Barrier Reef workers hold any importance and these workers are more important than Coal Workers.

Dehumanising

This rebuttal dehumanises coal workers as a lower status of human. Job creation for this group is not considered. There is the assumption that these workers work in a dead industry and it is up to them to get out. Some insist it is up to the current coal mine owners to transition employees out now. Protestors see coal as an ugly and dirty industry. Therefore, stigmatisation of coal workers occurs.

Externalising Blame to the Coal Worker

This rebuttal is related to the above and shifts the blame of climate change to the actual worker. ie Coal workers are ruining the planet.

The Assumption of Automatic Transition

Coal workers will all automatically transition to a renewables job and this is the best fit for ex-coal workers is the assumption.

The Assumption of Geographical Transition

The assumption is that renewable energy companies will hire the ex-coal workforce. The other assumption is the same location will house the new industry. See above.

The Dismissal of Impact

This rebuttal rejects that coal mining has any significant contribution to the Australian economy and renewables will generate much more revenue and jobs than coal. Also, local economies will remain unchanged. This rebuttal also assumes that small business or the allocation of public services funding and infrastructure funding will not change.

Sacrificial Lamb

This rebuttal insists that we must sacrifice all coal jobs for the greater good; because if we don’t then there will be no world and no jobs.

Personally Directed Themes

When I raised jobs as an issue, the following themes occurred.

Personal investment – The major theme is ‘pro-coal‘. It is my observation that participants in this movement are unable to differentiate between pro-jobs and pro-coal.

Another theme is “Queensland Bias” as it is my home state.

Guilt – The other major theme is guilt. This is usually a counter-argument after jobs are raised. For example, accusations relating to; not caring about the Great Barrier Reef, GBR workers, First Nations people and land rights and not caring about Farmers.

From my perspective, it is important to include the personally directed themes, as these themes are quite prevalent. In addition, I would argue that these types of retaliations are an active part of a phenomenon which dismisses the worker by delegitimising the concern of the pro-jobs advocate.

Political Difficulty

This poses problems for any politician who tries argue the point for jobs. Not just at this moment regarding Adani, but as this movement progresses towards the insistence of more closures of heavy industry. On Qanda, the panel and audience ultimately dismissed Senator Canavan when he raised the issue of high unemployment for local areas near the mine.

Political Theming

The theme around this post coal transition within politics is largely devoid of any conversation around the transition of jobs and skills. The political themes are:

Climate Change Targets – This theme is central to reducing carbon emissions.

Alternative Energy – This theme is central to exploring the use of alternative energy, rather than the importance of transition of jobs within this shift.

Renewables the Best Fit – Renewables as the best fit for coal workers is assumed. Attracting other industry is not discussed. The redistribution of the public sector is also not discussed.

The Importance of Themes for Transition

I have highlighted these themes, as I see them, as I believe they play a central part ensuring the recognition of the worker occurs. 

Through the attempt to understand the current phenomenon using theming, we can then identify the actors within the phenomenon and what impact the phenomenon has as it develops. We can use this insight to shape society.

The worker will remain in the background unless we reflect upon these themes. Therefore, the worker will be an accidental casualty of the movement towards a post coal world.

In addition, these themes contribute to the way we insist that political parties approach a transition. For example, the emphasis placed on skills transition and profession transition.

Most importantly, whether political parties implement curative or preventative unemployment strategies to address unemployment.

Preventative and Curative Unemployment Policy

Policy development towards unemployment takes two forms, preventative and curative. Essentially, preventative policy enables measures to prevent unemployment. Curative policy development is reactionary and punitive and seeks to address the consequences of unemployment.

On the Road to Somewhere

It is essential that political parties develop a solid transition plan based on skills and jobs. However, there is not enough detail in the current Labor and Greens transition plans. A focus on energy rather than jobs is evident. I have been unable to source a transition plan by the Liberal National Coalition Government.

The Greens’ transition plan discusses the rehabilitation of mines as the main alternative job for ex-coal workers.

Labor’s transition plan takes a more holistic approach. However, I would argue that some points such as redeployment and relocation do not focus on community.

A detailed transition plan consisting of where the new industry will be developed, a jobs and skills forecast, including projected employment types, such as ongoing and casual should be developed. In addition, an examination of the reconfiguration of new industry and public services should occur.

The road to where we are heading, how we will get there and what happens when we get there is now urgent.

Preventative Unemployment Strategies

The Shorten Labor Government does discuss preventative unemployment strategies as part of their transition plan. However, this is more implicit, rather than explicit. We urgently need a strong voice pushing a detailed jobs narrative.

Increase in Demand Side Employment 

As the transition away from coal jobs occurs, an increase in the demand for labour is essential. A forecast of job losses in coal areas should enable political parties to develop a blue print for planning.

Business incentives to encourage businesses to relocate and set up in local areas could be advantageous. In addition, job creation through Government intervention would be beneficial.

National Skills and Career Development Strategy

Often skills development is discussed from a curative point of view of ‘getting the unemployed skilled for work’. However, within a preventative strategy, the addition of career development is an essential addition. The development of new skills to supply labour is essential as the transition away from coal assumes an increase in unemployment. This shift is structural and understood. Therefore, the worker can complete career development programs during their employment with a coal based employer.

A focus on preventative unemployment would see a national strategy employed where employers are subsidised to release existing labour for new skills development training.

Funding of Universities to develop appropriate courses and recruit staff ahead of time is also vital.

Reconfiguration of the Labor Market

A micro approach to local economies should examine the requirements to reconfigure the labour market within Australia. Within a preventative strategy as alternatives or additions to renewable jobs and how this should be configured should be examined. For example, in conjunction with renewable jobs, local government areas may be identified as specific hubs. Such as telecommunications hubs, community sector hubs, aged care hubs.

A reconfiguration, redistribution and a reassessment of public sector need and staffing establishments required to adequately service the population should also be considered. Regional unemployment figures, rather than national unemployment figures, should be a measure of success.

A Strong Supply Side Voice in a Pluralistic Framework

The changes required towards a post coal world, including an increase in labour demand, a change of career and wages for many workers and a loss of increment/experience level is perceived.

The suppression of voice of the supply side of labour is a dangerous pressure from Liberal National Governments. They may argue that secure employment and strong labour regulations may reduce the desire for employers to employ more entrants into the new industry. They may argue that new industry in a new market is volatile and wages should be kept as low as possible and work as flexible as possible to enable growth.

However, a preventative framework should be a pluralistic framework. Therefore, the Government, employers and unions should work together to set the standards and improve worker security in new industries and in transitioning local economies.

From Punitive to Preventative Unemployment

Punitive measures underpin curative unemployment strategies. These have become increasingly harsh and prevalent since the 1990’s. Curative policies focus on the unemployed rather than the labour market. Therefore the motivations of the unemployed are questioned (and punished) rather than a recognition that there is not enough demand for labour in the market.

This transitional shift to a post coal world could also transition the job search framework. In a preventative system creating labour demand to match the under-utilised supply would be the focus. A preventative unemployment strategy would see a Government motivated to intervene to create jobs, invest in skills and career development.

In a curative system, the underlying assumption is punitive. The jobless are blamed for their own unemployment. This is usually a lack of motivation and intrinsic propensity to learn or work. ‘Curing’ the causes of lack of motivation or desire to work are the strategies employed. Currently, these are financial penalties and working as free labour for welfare benefits.

In a preventative system creating labour demand to match the under-utilised supply would be the focus. A preventative unemployment strategy would see a Government motivated to intervene to create jobs. Also, invest in skills and career development of new and transitioning workers and incentivize business.

The Worker Front and Centre

A consideration of the themes identified in the narrative in the shift towards a post coal society is critical to transition towards a narrative which places the worker front and centre in the climate change framework.

We need a detailed transition plan urgently. The implementation of preventative unemployment strategies will ensure a smooth transition to a post-coal world.

Is the Adani seeking funding body – the NAIF some sort of sick joke?

Redcuchulain is concerned that the NAIF – the Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility has various issues to sort through before they decide upon a loan to Adani within the next few days.  This article highlights a petition which calls on the Federal Government to suspend the operations of NAIF.  That is until the Auditor General can conduct an appropriate investigation on the governance of the program.

An Unfortunate Acronym

Dictionary definition: naïf

nʌɪˈiːf,nɑːˈiːf/

adjective
1. naive or ingenuous.
noun
1.a naive or ingenuous person.
naïf

The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility

Of course, we are now more familiar with the NAIF as applied to the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility. With bipartisan support, The Government set up NAIF in July 2016. The aim was to provide concessional loans to finance development in Northern Australia. The fund has over $5 Billion dollars at its disposal. Seven independent board members sit on the board. Based on the Board’s recommendations, the Minister for Northern Australia (currently Senator Matthew Canavan) has the authority to approve the expenditure.

The NAIF board came under fire from critics in March 2017. They had yet to approve a single cent in funding, despite over 80 applications lodged. The NAIF Board had met just four times and had paid the board members a total of almost $560,000. (Under fire: NAIF board members under fire earning over $500k: Rockhampton Morning Bulletin)

Environmental groups have been arguing that the real reason behind the NAIF is to facilitate the transfer of Government money to the Adani Carmichael mine. The Australian Conservation Foundation claim that the fact that five of the seven directors have coal mining industry links are proof of this. Dirty Deeds Video – Australian Conservation Foundation. The NAIF have so far refused to comment on allegations regarding conflicts of interest.  They simply say that ‘all of their Directors are aware of their obligations’.

Conflicts of Interest

The NAIF does have a published conflict of interest document NAIF Conflict of interest policy. Under this policy ‘examples of Directors’ Conflicts of Interest are where a NAIF Director also sits on the Board of another company which is applying for a financial facility from NAIF or where a NAIF Director holds shares in a company which has applied to NAIF for a financial facility.’

These provisions are insufficient.  Particularly in the context of extremely large projects which may increase demand in a particular sector. One could reasonably expect personal gain even if not having a personal interest in an entity applying for funding through NAIF.

Former Treasurer Wayne Swan has described the Governance of NAIF, which was set up with bipartisan support,  being like ‘Lehman Brothers’. Northern Australia Fund Governance as dodgy as Lehman Brothers : Australian Financial Review. The Auditor-General has indicated that a review of the NAIF may take place in the next year’s work program.

Some Shocking Revelations

This was all before the shocking revelations of the past week. The ABC, Guardian and Buzzfeed politics published stories regarding conflict of interest.  The stories allege that one of the Directors, Karla Way McPhail, has a severe conflict of interest with respect to the NAIF decision on Adani. Ms. McPhail is featured in a story (below) in the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin talking up the Carmichael mine. Mining skills shortage threats if we miss training; Rockhampton Morning Bulletin

The articles published over the last week allege that Karla Way-McPhail has:

  • Business interests which place her in a conflicted situation over the Adani mine decision.
  • Appointed because she has a personal friendship with Minister Matthew Canavan
  • Is a hyper-partisan supporter of the LNP and has recently deleted some Facebook posts which would confirm this.

ABC 30th May 2017 – Potential conflict of interests of NAIF Board Members

The Guardian 31st May 2017 – Conflict of interests for Director on NAIF Board

Buzzfeed Politics 1st June ‘Director on NAIF scrubs Facebook posts’

Buzzfeed Politics 2nd June 2017 “Minister appointed Mate to NAIF board”

ABC 2nd June 2017 – “Conflict of interests over approval of $900M loan spark Senate questions

Will There Really Be an Investigation, Barnaby?

Whilst these allegations certainly look concerning and Barnaby Joyce has promised there will be an investigation, is the problem with the NAIF not at a higher level?

How can Matthew Canavan, the Resources Minister, also be the Minister responsible for NAIF? Of course, Senator Canavan wants to get Adani approved. He has put a huge amount of work into the project. He would not be human if he was prepared to see it fail at this stage. Big mistakes are often made in projects and participants are too personally invested. This effect is known as the ‘Sunk Cost’. Recovery of work done is not possible. None of us want to fail.  With failure, Senator Canavan risks a loss of political capital.

We are all human. Minister Canavan and the NAIF board members are as fallible and imperfect as the rest of us. Systems are supposed to be designed in such a manner as to protect us from our own nature.

I am in no way questioning the personal integrity of Minister Canavan, Ms. McPhail or any of the other board members. It is clear that all of these people have passion and drive and have contributed a lot to this country.

The Public Should Have Faith in the System Where Adani is Concerned

NAIF would appear to have been set up incorrectly. With a decision as important as a $900 million loan to Adani, it is imperative the public have faith in the system. A good start would be to split the ministerial portfolios a different way. This is so Senator Canavan, the decision maker, is not conflicted himself. The rest of the process regarding applicant selection, conflict of interest management and how board members should behave in the media I will leave to the Auditor-General. Needless to say, it should be to a standard which should satisfy a former treasurer.

If we fail to get the system right and leave this to the goodwill of the people concerned it may turn out badly for Northern Australia. Of course, there is always a small chance that it has been set up to achieve the results desired and that the choice of acronym is some sort of sick joke. In that case, if we fall for it, we are indeed a country of naifs!

Concerned about NAIF.

Sign the petition now.

https://www.change.org/p/malcolm-turnbull-suspend-the-northern-australia-infrastructure-facility-naif

[interaction id=”59374cbdbe3db6a6300b0823″]

 

Climate change, greed and lies – raising the dead in the Galilee

By Mike Mizzi

This week saw the approval, again, of the Adani coal project in the Galilee Basin: an open cut monstrosity that deems turning one of Queensland’s most bio-diverse regions into a great big coal hole as sound economic policy.

It is difficult remaining objective about a subject like this. In fact the amount of angst and downright anger the Australian people are beginning to have with extractive energy. We have seen a Chinchilla farmer, George Bender, a community activist and well-loved member of the local community commit suicide as Origin Energy dried up his wells and made his life on the land unbearable. Needless to say, locals are furious and so they should be. A man has killed himself in despair over the greed filled desire by Origin Energy to tap eighteen gas wells on his property. I buy power off Origin, but as of today they have lost my custom.

But let’s get back to Adani’s mega coal mine. The Greens have been vociferous against this mine, while having won a court case to stop it they were confident the government would abide by the umpire’s decision, but not if you are Greg Hunt, the Minister for the Environment.

The Climate Council’s latest report on the Galilee, titled Galilee Basin-Unburnable Coal calculates that if all of the Galilee Basin coal was burned, an estimated 705 million tonnes of CO2 would be released each year – more than 1.3 times Australia’s current annual emissions.

The other key findings of the report include:

Tackling climate change effectively means that existing coal mines will need to be retired before they are exploited fully and new mines cannot be built.

  • Burning coal for electricity is one of the key drivers of climate change.
  • 195 countries have agreed to limit temperature rise to no more than 2°C. This puts a cap on how much coal the world can burn. Even under the most optimistic assumptions, only 12% of the world’s coal reserves can be burned.
  • Moving away from fossil fuels means that new energy sources, like solar and wind, must come online rapidly.
  • Any new coal mine is fundamentally at odds with protecting Australia from the impacts of climate change.

The Galilee Basin coal could emit more than Australia’s entire emissions each year.

  • More than 90% of known, extractable coal in Australia’s existing coal reserves must stay in the ground. Therefore, there is no justification for opening new coal mines – the most pressing challenge Australia faces is how to phase out existing coal mines well before their reserves are exhausted.
  • If all of the Galilee Basin coal was burned, it is estimated that 705 million tonnes of CO2 would be released each year – more than 1.3 times Australia’s current annual emissions.

Potential export markets for Galilee coal are rapidly dwindling as the world moves away from coal toward renewable energy.

  • China’s coal use dropped by 3% in 2014 and is projected to fall a further 2.5% in 2015. In March, China announced that it will cut coal consumption by 80 million tonnes by 2017 and by a total of 160 million tonnes between 2014 and 2020.
  • Global investment in new renewable capacity is now greater than investment in fossil fuels, and the gap is expected to widen as investment in renewables surges ahead.
  • Potential export markets for Galilee Basin are dwindling fast. Only India remains a possibility and it is wavering in its commitment to importing coal.

There are increasing signs from global investors that they consider Galilee coal too risky of an investment.

  • A total of 11 international banks have now publicly announced that they will not be involved with any projects in the Basin.
  • HSBC, one of the world’s largest investment banks, has cited plummeting cost of renewable energy and the reduced coal demand from China as having significant consequences for Australia’s coal investments and increasing the risk of stranded assets
  • The $890 billion Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global, the largest pension fund in the world, recently announced it would reduce its exposure to fossil fuel risk by divesting more of its coal-related holdings, sending a strong message to the financial sector.

Despite all these facts Greg Hunt seems to think that he can create economic and ecological miracles in the Galilee. Perhaps he knows how to make the dead rise, too.

 

Question Time fact check

In case anyone is unsure about the Coalition’s message, they are about “jobs, growth, and community safety…jobs, growth and community safety.”

Pull out the string and that is what you will hear from every one of them.

Oh, and “the Cabinet is doing exceptionally well” even if we do say so ourselves. Ok, even if we were just told to say that by Peta.

But every time they try to elaborate, we are subjected to a load of “trust me” that bears very little resemblance to truth.

Take Question Time today.

Every opportunity he got Joe Hockey repeated the figures that the Coalition created 38,000 jobs last month and 334,000 jobs since coming to office. He then went on to compare average monthly job creation with the previous government saying he was creating eleventy times more than they were.

A quick look at the Labour Force Survey for July 2015 shows that Joe is using the SEASONALLY ADJUSTED ESTIMATES (MONTHLY CHANGE) which states that “Employment increased 38,500 to 11,810,700.”

So Joe was correct about job creation for July but the same source shows he is wildly wrong about his other figures.

Between November 2007 and September 2013, employment increased from 10,583,200 to 11,645,800 – an increase of 1,062,600 in 70 months at an average of 15,180 per month. Remember this covered the period of the global financial crisis.

Between September 2013 and July 2015, employment increased from 11,645,800 to 11,810,700 – an increase of 164,900 in 22 months at an average of ….hang on….7,495 per month.

Under this government, full time jobs have increased from 8,133,700 to 8,170,400 – an increase of 36,700. Part time jobs have increased from 3,512,100 to 3,640,300 – an increase of 128,200, showing part time employment increasing at three and a half times the rate of full time jobs

Surprisingly, even with all these extra people employed, aggregate monthly hours worked decreased from 1,641.5 million hours in September 2013 to 1,633.2 million hours in July 2015.

A spokesman from Hockey’s office told me they use the ABS figures and the ANZ job ad survey. Using the job ad survey is obviously spurious as it does not differentiate between new positions and vacancies in existing positions, presumably because someone has taken another advertised job. Joe appears to be claiming his policies are responsible for every advertised job and is claiming credit for creating them, new or not, despite the different story shown by the ABS labour force figures he chooses to quote at other times.

And then we had Tony berating environmental groups for standing in the way of the “10,000 jobs that will be created directly by the Carmichael coal mine”, even though evidence from an economist commissioned by Adani itself – Jerome Fahrer of ACIL Allen – given in the land court earlier this year said: “Over the life of the project it is projected that on average around 1,464 employee years of full-time equivalent direct and indirect jobs will be created.”

Adani claims they are the jobs for the mine and about 70km of the 388km railway. An Adani spokesman said the higher figure included contributions from the mine, the Abbot Point coal terminal near Bowen, and the 310 kilometre rail line connecting the two.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche previously said the rail line alone could provide 2400 new jobs. Considering the source we can count on that figure also being highly exaggerated.

Even if Adani’s interpretation was correct, it meant the port and railway line would have to create “8500 or so plus jobs” for the 10,000 jobs figure to stack up. And as they cannot find a financial backer, the whole argument is moot.

A 2013 report by Deloitte’s found that the total Australia-wide value-added economic contribution generated in the Reef catchment in 2012 was $5.7 billion with employment (as measured in full-time equivalent workers) of just below 69,000. Why would you risk this unique asset?

Lenore Taylor points out the absurdity and inconsistency of the Abbott government’s approach when it comes to wind farms and jobs in renewable energy.

“When an environment group successfully uses 16 year-old national environmental laws to delay a project, the Abbott government tries to change the law to prevent them from ever doing it again.

But if an anti-windfarm group can’t find a way to use existing laws and regulations to stop or delay a project, the Abbott government tries to change laws and processes to make it easier for them to succeed.

The first is called green “vigilantism” and “sabotage” and the second is, according to environment minister Greg Hunt, a reasonable response because “many people have a sense of deep anxiety, and they have a right to complain.”

The government calls regulations that stop fossil fuel or mining projects “green tape”, but a wind commissioner and yet another scientific committee to look at unsubstantiated health complaints regarding wind turbines is apparently no kind of “tape” at all.

Question time also contained an attack on Labor for being xenophobes for questioning labour arrangements in the Chinese Free Trade Agreement. We’re all for jobs but 457 visas are an integral part of creating those jobs….apparently.

All in all I would say the first part of our new three pronged aspiration, jobs, is not doing quite as well as Hockey and Abbott would have us believe.

 

While Abbott Isn’t The Yakka Skink, Greg Hunt May Be The Ornamental Snake!

Last week, as I pointed out, there are plenty of coal mines up for sale. So why is Adani so determined to build a new one?

On the face of it, we have one of those “silly” court decisions. A mine that’s going to create more jobs than we could possibly imagine is being held up over concern over a couple of animals.

As our illustrious leader put it:

“While it’s absolutely true that we want the highest environmental standards to apply to projects in Australia, and while it’s absolutely true that people have a right to go to court, this is a $21 billion investment, it will create 10,000 jobs in Queensland and elsewhere in our country.

“Let them go ahead for the workers of Australia and for the people of countries like India who right at the moment have no electricity.

“Imagine what it’s like to live in the modern world with no electricity.

“Australian resources can give them electricity and the interesting thing about Australian resources is that invariably they’re much better for the environment than the alternative.”

Now, leaving aside the fact that Adani itself have admitted that the figure of 10,000 jobs may have been what some people have called “slightly exaggerated” – which in business-speak is code for “outright lie” – and leaving aside the idea that way Mr Abbott has phrased his response it sounds like none of “the people of India” have electricity, it’s his use of the word “while” that I find most strange.

If you think about it, it suggests that somehow when a project is worth $21 billion these other things shouldn’t apply. Take these examples:

“While your leg is very important to you, unless you have it amputated, you’ll be dead within six months!”

“While I understand that you need the money, this bank doesn’t normally accept your dead mother’s false teeth as collateral no matter how much sentimental value they have.”

“While I understand that slavery is mentioned several times in the Bible, and while I understand that slaves have a lot less mortgage stress, the fact remains that it’s not really a strong justification for the Abbott government’s new workplace proposals.”

Of course, the strangest thing the statement from about our man with the plan is that last bit.

‘…the interesting thing about Australian resources is that invariably they’re much better for the environment than the alternative.”

See, we have good, clean Australian coal. Not like those noisy, dirty, unsightly wind farms or those filthy rays from the sun. Is anyone doing research into the danger of adding to skin cancer if we increase our solar energy output? I think there’s a four million grant to some university to take that one on. Australian resources – anyone who doesn’t support them is not only unpatriotic, but an environmental vandal.

And as for Greg Hunt, it’s hard to imagine that anyone could do less for their portfolio than Abbott does as Minister for Women, but our environmental minister certainly gives him a run for his money.

The sad, sad truth is that if Tony Abbott wasn’t Prime Minister he’d be the sort of man you don’t bother to argue with because it’s better to walk away and hope that he receives the treatment he needs before he falls on hard times.

 

Wonderful Humanitarians – The Altruism of Our New Coal Miners

“Coal is good for humanity, coal is good for prosperity, coal is an essential part of our economic future, here in Australia, and right around the world.”

Tony Abbott.

Now you’ve probably read something about the wonderful humanitarian efforts of Adani and Shenhua and their plans to create thousands of jobs with new coal mines. Of course, when I say “thousands” that’s at the upper estimate, so a more realistic estimate might be dozens of jobs by the time both mines are operational. Mainly in the PR industry.

But I can’t help but wonder what makes these companies so altruistic. Why start a big new coal mine when you could buy one? And when I say “you”, I’m not speaking generally, I mean you personally. If you don’t think you have the money I’ll lend it to you.

Actually, in fairness, I should say that we may have missed our chance because the mine I’m referring to was actually sold the other day. Price? $1. Maybe we could offer the new owners $2 and give them the chance to double their money in a week. The mine I’m referring to is Isaac Plains, so you can check that I’m not making it up by clicking the link.

But don’t worry there are plenty of other mines for sale. Just Google “coal mines for sale Australia” and you’ll see plenty.

Which makes the plans by Adani and Shenhua seem terribly generous. They’re going to all that trouble to set up a new mine when a mine like Isaac Plains – which a Japanese firm bought for $430 million in 2011 – can be snapped up for small change… literally. Those two companies must surely be just thinking of Australians and how they can help us out by  starting a brand new mine in an industry which has about as much future as a buggy whip company. (Although “Fifty Shades of Grey” has led to a bit of a resurgence in those…)

I can see no other reason about from sheer altruism for them embarking on these projects.  Although I am overlooking sheer incompetence.

I mean, Shehua Australia Holdings, for example, don’t seem all that good at financial management, filing its accounts late in 2014. And 2013. Mm, oh 2012 as well. But wait in 2011… nah, sorry, they were late then as well. Ok, anyone can be late. I mean, it’s not against the law. Oh, the Coorporations Act? Let’s not get technical. If it was good enough for the Abbott Government to break the law by releasing the Intergenerational Report late, it should be good enough for a company.

Univeristy of NSW lecturer, Jeff Knapp seems to think that Shenhua is pretty sloppy with their adherence to the rules, pointing out that they made a basic mistake in 2012 by including interest paid as cash paid to suppliers and employers in their financial report, but then he’s an academic, so what would he know. According to Knapp this a pretty basic mistake, but  then he also thought that refusing to release tax details of millionaires for fear of kidnapping was pretty silly, so like all those interested in accounting, he clearly has an anti-Abbott agenda.

So let’s hear a big cheer for these two companies who are doing something out of the goodness of their hearts and not simply out for profit, like the wind and solar industries.

And as they’re not established industries – after all, clean coal is still in the development phase – perhaps we could get the Clean Energy Finance Coorporation to lend them some money, because they’ll have a pretty hard job getting it from a bank!

Gee, I hope that’s not another idea of mine that the Abbott Government steal.

 

Premature congratulation

The Abbott government suffers from a bad case of premature congratulation.

We have had a parade of Hockey, Cormann, Frydenberg, Abbott and others telling us that they have halved Labor’s debt – which is a rather bizarre claim considering the gross debt has increased by $83 billion (and counting) since they took office.

Joe Hockey tells us that “job creation across the economy is running at around 15,000 new jobs a month. This is three times larger than the average of around 5,000 jobs a month last year.”

Aside from the fact that there is no measure of “new jobs” (job ads do not differentiate between new and existing jobs), comparative figures show that, in the 19 months from August 2013 to March 2015, there was a rise of 52,300 in the number of people employed and a rise of 56,200 in the number of people unemployed.  The aggregate monthly hours worked fell from 1,647.3 million hours to 1,628.7 million hours.  In other words, employment has not kept up with population growth and those who are working are working less hours.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister Christian Porter informs us that cuts to red tape have delivered $2.5 billion in savings in compliance costs since coming to Government.  To arrive at this figure they have done some very creative accounting.

People buying prepaid mobile phones will only have to go through the identity check once, not twice, saying that will save $6.2 million.

He said rejigging the e-tax website so the data entered the previous year shows up would save time and cut costs by $156 million and he said there was a $17 million saving in scrapping regulations that banned people using mobile devices on take-off and landing in planes.

The costs were partly calculated by working out how much time people or businesses would have spent complying with the rules and then what their time was worth.  Who would have thought that turning off your phone for a minute would have cost so much?

Andrew Robb has been showered with praise for completing several free trade agreements.  The secrecy surrounding these negotiations makes it very hard to understand the full implications but the FTA with Japan alone led to a $1.6 billion write down in revenue.  One must wonder why these countries, after years of negotiation, were all willing to sign off so quickly all of a sudden.  I fear our Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme will be under attack very soon, along with our plain packaging laws, and that manufacturing will have no future in this country.

We have also been barraged by a litany of self-congratulation for “stopping the boats”.  Whilst the number of boats is less, they certainly haven’t stopped, even under the threat of incarceration and torture at the other end.  But more to the point, what has this policy achieved in helping the growing tide of displaced people around the world?  We pretend to care about deaths at sea but apparently don’t give a toss about what is happening to those we turn away.

The gold award for premature congratulation, however, must surely go to Greg Hunt who, in one day, would have us believe that he cut our emissions by 4 times what occurred under carbon pricing and for 1% of the cost.  This unbelievable statement is so wrong on so many counts it is hard to know where to begin.

A study by the ANU showed that emissions reductions directly attributable to the carbon price in the electricity sector alone had achieved an abatement of between 11 and 17 million tonnes over its two year life while raising around $6 billion in revenue.  Abatement would have been even higher had the industry believed the carbon price to be permanent.

Whilst it’s true that demand has been falling for some time, 2013’s 0.8 per cent economy-wide fall in emissions was the largest annual reduction in the 24 years of monitoring. In the power sector, the industry most directly covered by the carbon price, emissions fell 5 per cent.

Hunt’s ridiculous statement that the carbon price was $1,300 per tonne has been lambasted by experts for the lie that it so obviously is.  The real price was in the 20-odd dollar range, and if the carbon tax had been allowed to develop into an emissions trading scheme, which it would’ve by now, the price would be linked to the European system which is trading at around the $10 mark.

Hunt’s other glaring omission is that while the Coalition’s policy is a cost, the carbon tax raised revenue.

What the government has actually done is spend $660 million of taxpayers’ funds buying a possible 47 million tonnes of carbon abatement – 25% of their total budget for 15% of the required abatement.

As reported in New Matilda, there’s also no guarantee the contracts companies won in Thursday’s ‘reverse auction’ will be discharged before the 2020 deadline. Many of them extend for seven or 10 years, and the government has not provided information about when the abatements need to be achieved.

“The experience with grant-based mechanisms is some of the projects proposed or actually contracted don’t happen in actual fact,” Professor Jotzo said. Even if they do, the types of projects contracted so far are largely land-fill and agriculture abatements, many of which may have been occurring already under ‘carbon farming’ initiatives, or would have occurred anyway.   Hunt is very much counting his chickens before they have hatched.

A very excited Andrew Robb also informed the Mines and Money Conference in March that “Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt has quickly approved 145 projects worth over $1 trillion in economic value; the majority of which are in the resources and energy sector.  Federal project approval times have been slashed to below 200 days from an average of 470 days in 2012.  We have created a ‘one-stop shop’ for environmental approvals that eliminates duplication between states, territories and the Commonwealth, saving business $426 million per year.”

The trouble with fast tracking approval is that companies lie and it takes expensive court cases to prove it.

A Queensland court has heard expert evidence from Adani’s own witness that the Indian company which wants to build Australia’s largest ever coal mine has drastically overstated the project’s benefits to the Queensland public.  And in other explosive evidence, a senior company official said he “could not comment” on speculation the company had been structured to siphon profits off to Singapore, Mauritius and the Cayman Islands, to avoid Australian company taxes.

Adani’s claims about the number of jobs the project will create have already been referred to the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission by the Australia Institute, which argues they have been inflated by 300 per cent.

Adani has also claimed that the mine would generate “$22 billion in mining taxes and royalties in just the first half of the project life”.   Even their own expert belies this claim, estimating that royalties will actually amount to just $7.8 billion and corporate taxes will add around $9.96 billion over the 30-year period under consideration.  This too is being challenged as they apparently used a company tax rate of 32% rather than 30% and have been actively structuring their company to “optimise” their tax obligation.

Earlier this month, as part of the Land Court proceedings, the mining giant argued that the world is on track to a 3.1 degree temperature rise and if they don’t dig up the proposed 60 million tonnes of coal annually, another, potentially foreign, company will. Such a rise in temperatures, Adani’s expert witness conceded, would ultimately destroy the Great Barrier Reef.

When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, considered to be a close friend of Gautam Adani, attended the G20 conference in Brisbane last year, he announced a $1 billion loan for the Adani project from the State Bank of India.  Apparently, this offer is being withdrawn, adding to the growing list of banks and financial organisations refusing to offer finance for the proposed mines.

So despite all the back-slapping and self-congratulation indulged in by the Coalition, it is hard to find any tangible benefit from having the adults back in charge.  The reality is that the debt and deficit are worse, unemployment is worse, our sovereignty to make health and environment laws is at risk, our emissions are increasing, investment in renewable energy has ceased, we are endangering the Great Barrier Reef, and we have done nothing to help asylum seekers.

But rest assured, by keeping your phone on during take-off and landing, you are saving the country millions.

Think very carefully, Queensland

When Queensland goes to the polls next Saturday they will be voting for their future – the future of their freedom, their democracy, their environment, the Great Barrier Reef, and their children.

Because of Queensland’s chequered political history and the behaviour of the current government, all political parties were recently asked to acknowledge good governance obligations expressed in very simple terms; that is, to:

  • make all decisions and take all actions, including public appointments, in the public interest without regard to personal, party political or other immaterial considerations;
  • treat all people equally without permitting any person or corporation special access or influence; and
  • promptly and accurately inform the public of its reasons for all significant or potentially controversial decisions and actions

Bizarrely, the Liberal National Party alone refused to commit to those constraints or to explain its reasons though Newman, under pressure at the leader’s debate, seemed to change his mind (possibly).

It is effectively telling voters that, if it is elected, it will do as it pleases; in effect, it will continue the behaviour which marked its first term and led to its heavy losses in recent by-elections.

With its single house of Parliament and history of political malpractice, Queensland is especially vulnerable to the misuse of political power.

In an article titled “Queensland political ethics:  a perfect oxymoron”, Tony Fitzgerald recently said of the Newman government

“During its brief term in power, the present government treated the community with contempt. From behind a populist facade, it engaged in nepotism, sacked, stacked and otherwise reduced the effectiveness of parliamentary committees, subverted and weakened the state’s anti-corruption commission, made unprecedented attacks on the courts and the judiciary, appointed a totally unsuitable chief justice, reverted to selecting male judges almost exclusively and, from a position of lofty ignorance, dismissed its critics for their effrontery.”

The Q Forum has raised millions of dollars for the Queensland LNP and helped make the party the richest single political organisation in the country, according to the latest Australian Electoral Commission figures.

In July the LNP changed electoral disclosure laws to increase the threshold at which donations had to be declared, from $1,000 to $12,400.

The figure has since been inflation-adjusted to $12,800.

As a result, public disclosures of donations have become far less detailed.

Former Fitzgerald Inquiry special counsel Gary Crooke, who helped jail Queensland government ministers over corruption in the 1980s, described fundraising by charging for access to ministers as a “cancer” that kept coming back in politics and a betrayal of a fundamental public trust.

“They’re at it again with bells on, running these things where they are selling no more and no less than the community’s property that they hold in trust, in order to feather the coffers of a political party,” he said.

Mr Crooke, who also served as Queensland Integrity Commissioner, said such practices were “so unethical and so much in breach of fundamental duty that there should be a law prohibiting it”.

Now we have the bizarre situation of Campbell Newman (and others) suing Alan Jones for his allegations that Newman lied to him about the New Hope mine before the last election.

The decision to allow Acland to mine another 3m tonnes of coal a year was announced on the Friday before Christmas.

New Hope and its parent company, Washington H Soul Pattinson, donated more than $700,000 to the LNP at a state and federal level between 2011 and 2013.

Asked if New Hope’s donations influenced the government’s approval, Newman said: “I will not be commenting on Alan Jones.”

Asked by Guardian Australia if LNP officials had indicated whether the party’s donations had risen since it raised the secrecy threshold, Newman replied that he had “no idea”.

Ian Walker took a donation from a board director of New Hope Coal before his election in 2012 and, as the minister for science, information technology, innovation and the arts, subsequently oversaw the department which cleared levels of air pollution from uncovered coal trains in Brisbane before the expansion of New Hope’s Acland mine.

The pollution study by Walker’s department was released to companies including New Hope a week before it was made public in 2013.

Clean Air Queensland’s organiser Michael Kane claimed the government study clearing the pollution levels by averaging emissions over 24 hours was “absolutely the wrong methodology.”

New Hope’s chairman, Robert Millner, was called before the Independent Commission Against Corruption (Icac) in NSW last year over a donations controversy involving another Washington H Soul Pattinson subsidiary of which he was chairman, Brickworks.

Jones has also attacked the government over the energy minister, Mark McArdle, and the environment minister, Andrew Powell, accepting entertainment from New Hope in its corporate box at a Wallabies rugby game in Brisbane in 2013.

But what can we expect when the head of corporate affairs for a mining company has been in charge of developing policy on the environment for Queensland’s ruling Liberal National Party (LNP) since 2012.

James Mackay also worked full-time for the LNP during the 2012 election, while he was being paid $10,000 a month by the company, QCoal.

Mr Mackay has chaired the LNP’s state environment and heritage protection committee, which develops policy for discussion at the party’s annual conference, since being voted on to the committee in 2012.

Shortly after coming to power in 2012 the LNP introduced a bill to remove “green tape” or what it considered to be unnecessary or superfluous environmental regulation.

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said at the time that the state was “in the coal business” and if people wanted new schools and hospitals they had to accept that the state needed royalties from coal mining.

QCoal boss Mr Wallin gave $120,000 to the party in two donations just before the 2012 state election.

Campbell Newman is trying to tell us that mining will boost employment.  In 2013-14 it did not even rate in the top ten employers by industry with about a quarter of the number of people employed in health care and social assistance.

The mining lobby keeps telling us about the great contribution it makes to the Australian economy. There is a lot of exaggeration in this and often much worse.

  • As Ross Gittins in the SMH and others point out mining accounts for about 10% of our national production, but only 2% of employment. The large increase in mining investment in recent years has mainly been to purchase equipment from overseas.
  • About 80% of our very profitable mining industry is foreign owned. BHP/Biliton is 76% foreign owned, RioTinto 83% and Xstrata 100%. This means that 80% of mining profits accrue to foreign shareholders and not to Australians. In this situation it is important for the owners of the minerals; we Australians, that we get some worthwhile return either in taxes or royalties.
  • State governments do receive royalties from mining companies for the exploitation of our national resources, but they hand a lot back to the mining companies. According to the Australia Institute, the states gave the mining companies $3.2 billion in concessions last year – mainly in providing railway infrastructure and freight discounts. In Queensland, these concessions or subsidies were equivalent to about 60% of the royalties the Queensland government received.
  • Michael West in the SMH on 27 April 2014 points out that Australia’s largest coal miner, Glencore/Xstrata paid no company tax at all over the last three years despite an income of $15 billion.  According to West it achieved this remarkable result of paying no company tax by paying 9% interest on $3.4 billion in loans from overseas associates.  This 9% incidentally was about double the interest it would have had to pay in the open market or from a bank. Having paid 9% on these borrowings to load up its “costs” in Australia it then lent money to ‘related parties’ interest-free. We are not told who these related parties were. But there is more. Apparently there has been a large increase in Glencore’s coal sales to ‘related companies’ from 27% to 46%. This would seem to indicate transfer pricing to shift income to lower tax countries. In this regard Michael West reported on the complex Glencore company structure. ‘The Glencore structure is now run as a series of business units controlled by one company [Glencore/Xstrata Plc) which is incorporated in the UK, listed on the London and other stock exchanges, with its registered office in Jersey (a tax haven) and its headquarters in Baar, Switzerland. It is probably all legal but is it right?

Indian-based company Adani has a large mine proposal at Carmichael in the Gallilee Basin and needs to build a rail line 388 kilometres to Abbott Point port where the coal will be exported.  Campbell Newman has offered $300 million of taxpayer funds to build the railway despite Adani having trouble finding finance for its mining operation with most financiers saying it is not commercially viable.

Adani plans to export 100 million tonnes a year of coal to India and provide 2400 jobs.

Adani’s chief executive Sandeep Mahta estimates their coal plant generates more than $6 billion in royalties for the Queensland Government in its first decade of operation.

Reef tourism generates over 60,000 jobs and $6 billion a year in revenue to the Queensland economy.

If you agree with Campbell that the coal business is your future and you are prepared to sacrifice the Reef and the revenue and tourism jobs it sustains for a project that the banks won’t touch then you will probably vote for the Coalition.  Get back to me on how that works out.

PS  Could we please have less public kissing.

tony and lisa

 

Gina’s web

In 2011, as reported by Graham Readfern at Crikey, Gina Rinehart held a lunch at her house by the Swan River in Perth, at which West Australian Premier Colin Barnett, WA environment minister Bill Marmion and Chinese Ambassador Chen Yuming were in attendance to hear a presentation on climate change from the “sceptic” Professor Ian Plimer.

Plimer must have done well because, according to disclosures made to the Australians Securities and Investments Commission, Professor Plimer was appointed to the boards of Gina’s companies Roy Hill Holdings and Queensland Coal Investments on January 25 2012.

Dinner guest Environment Minister Bill Marmion’s chief of staff is Colin Edwardes, the husband of Cheryl Edwardes, who is the head of “external affairs, government relations and approvals” at Hancock Prospecting. Cheryl is also a former WA environment minister.

As PerthNow pointed out, Marmion was in the position of considering environmental approvals for Hancock Prospecting projects — of which there were four pending.

Let me just emphasise this.  The WA environment minister’s chief of staff’s wife is employed by Gina Rinehart to secure government approval for her mining ventures.

And of course it doesn’t stop there.

Even considering the Coalition’s self-confessed penchant for doing business at weddings at the taxpayers’ expense, three senior members of the Coalition travelling all the way to India to a wedding of someone they have never met, at the behest of someone who was not related to the couple and whose own family says is an untrustworthy person motivated by greed, should have rung alarm bells far greater than the thousands the politicians subsequently claimed in “study” expenses for the jaunt.

At the time of inviting the politicians to the wedding, Mrs Rinehart was about to clinch a $1 billion coal deal with the bride’s grandfather – G.V. Krishna Reddy, the founder of GVK, one of India’s largest energy and infrastructure companies.

Three months after the politicians joined Mrs Rinehart at the Indian wedding the GVK conglomerate bought a majority stake in the billionaire’s ”Alpha” coalmine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin for $US1.26 billion.

When Barnaby Joyce decided to run against Tony Windsor for the seat of New England, Gina Rinehart contributed $50,000 directly to his campaign though some reports had the contribution at $700,000.

Image from Facebook

Image from Facebook

When Gina turned up to his election victory party, Barnaby said “Gina is a great friend and I’m a good mate of Gina’s and she’s got an Australian company which employs Australian people which pays tax in this nation and I’m so proud,” he said.  “We need lots of Gina Rineharts, not one, [because] when we have a nation of lots of them we’re going to be a stronger nation.”

Barnaby Joyce hugged Gina Rinehart and told the waiting media he is proud to call her his “mate”.

“When we have someone like Gina, who is an Australian who actually is so different from other companies who are actually not Australian, then we should be proud of them [and] we shouldn’t kick them around,” he said.

“We should also be prepared to stand next to our mates because I’m a person who believes the Australian mateship quality is alive and well.”

And Gina stands by her man.

In November she flew to Canberra in her private jet to watch Barnaby’s inaugural speech in the House of Representatives which she viewed from the gallery as a “special guest”.

Some of Mrs Rinehart’s closest political friends, the Speaker Bronwyn Bishop and Liberal Party senators Cory Bernardi and Michaelia Cash, were invited to join the billionaire for an intimate gathering on the night before.

But getting back to the Alpha coalmine and the Indian connection…

A panel of independent scientific experts had raised concerns about groundwater, particularly the ability of Adani Group to model and monitor groundwater flows. In approving the mine, minister Hunt said he had accounted for the concerns

In April last year the Queensland Land Court, following a challenge by communities, said the Alpha mine should only proceed if the development meets further conditions on water use.

The court’s recommendations are not binding, and what happens next now rests with the Queensland government. In a statement, Acting Premier Jeff Seeney said: “We look forward to working with the project proponents to deliver jobs and economic benefits to Queenslanders.”

In all likelihood, the project will therefore get the go-ahead, subject to new conditions.

In September, the Mackay Conservation Group said the rail company Aurizon had walked away from an infrastructure plan it signed with GVK in 2013 that would see it build a 300km railway from proposed mines in the Galilee to port.  The group said the deal was off the table after Aurizon failed to produce an Environmental Impact Statement for the project.

However it appears that, because the Queensland government has declared the area over which the rail lines will be built a State Development Area, it meant an EIS was no longer required to be submitted at this stage.

Aurizon said it welcomed this change in process as a positive for the “regulation of development of necessary infrastructure to service this important area”.

A spokesman from GVK also confirmed the company is firmly committed to finalising its JV proposal with Aurizon.

The deal means Aurizon will take a 51 per cent share in Hancock Coal Infrastructure, which houses GVK Hancock’s rail and port projects.

The open-access infrastructure will service GVK Hancock’s Alpha, Alpha West and Kevin’s Corner coal projects in the Galilee Basin.

“This proposed transaction will provide development certainty for the rail and port projects and de-risks the Alpha Coal Project from a logistics point of view,” the spokesman said.

“The transaction will also provide a pathway for sufficient equity and debt funding for the rail and port projects to reach financial close.”

In November, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman announced that in addition to the open-ended royalty holiday already on offer to the first mover in the Galilee Basin, the state government was willing to invest hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to fund the associated rail and port projects.

Mr Seeney said the funding for the project would come from the asset leasing project the government will institute should it win the next election.

A spokesman for Clive Palmer said “On one hand this government wants to sell assets and now they want to invest in helping one company.”

In December, GVK Hancock said it is focused on finalising approvals for its Alpha coal project in the Galilee Basin before looking to finance the $10 billion project.  The comments came after French bank Societe Generale suspended its finance partnership with the project.  Citing the project’s lengthy delays, the bank said it no longer had involvement in a financing deal.

But GVK Hancock said it did not require the bank’s services at this point in the project timeline.

“The key focus for our projects at this point in time is finalising our approvals and addressing litigious challenges to our attained approvals.  Once we have finalised approvals we will then execute coal off-take agreements and work to finalise financing arrangements.”

Wall Street’s biggest banks are following the lead of UK and German financial institutions, and ruling out financing projects threatening Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.  Three of the largest investment banks in the world – Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase – have ruled out any investments in Queensland’s Abbot Point coal port.  The news follows Deutsche Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC and Barclays publicly ruling out investments in the coal port, leaving the Adani Group and GVK, who are seeking $26.5 billion to expand coal exports, dwindling options for finance. Australia’s ‘big four’ banks are now under pressure to join their US and EU counterparts.

Considering financiers, economists, and environmentalists are all questioning the viability of the project, it was somewhat surprising when, during Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s maiden visit to Australia in November, Adani signed a MOU with the State Bank of India (SBI) for a $1 billion loan to fund the project in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.

Indian opposition MP Derek O’Brien raised the issue in the upper house of India’s parliament.

“Our understanding is these banks refused the loan, so our serious concern is why a $1 billion loan was given by SBI, knowing full well that these five banks have refused,” he said.

India’s coal minister said in October he hoped to stop imports of thermal coal within three years as domestic production stepped up.

“Two thirds of the produce of Carmichael will be imported back into India, so one of them is not talking the truth, speaking the truth. Because if India wants to reduce imports and two thirds of the capacity from the Australian mine is going to be imported back into India, it just doesn’t add up,” Mr O’Brien said.

Concerns have also been raised over prime minister Modi’s ties to Adani, the company behind the mine.

Over the past decade, Adani has prospered in the state of Gujurat, where Mr Modi was chief minister.

The company’s share price almost doubled as it became apparent Mr Modi would win the May election in a landslide.

Mr O’Brien said there were clear links between Mr Modi’s Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party and the Adani group.

“There is enough to suggest there is a cosy understanding and that is why this loan was approved, not taking into consideration the facts which were on the table,” Mr O’Brien said.

The company’s debt has risen substantially in recent years, much of it short-term debt.

Public interest lawyer Prashant Bhushan said recovering the loan may not be easy.

“When they can only recover it from the assets of Adani, but you see we don’t know. The total loans outstanding from the Adani group are in billions of dollars to various banks,” Mr Bhushan said.

Indian tweeters bemoaned Modi’s support for the Carmichael mine, calling it a repayment for billionaire friend, supporter and chairman of the Adani Group Gautam Adani, who accompanied Modi on his trip to Australia (and has apparently joined five of the PM’s six recent overseas jaunts).

It appears the coal barons have the governments caught in their web and we could well end up with a very expensive taxpayer funded railway to nowhere and the environmental consequences of dredging a port for a product that is no longer economically or environmentally viable to produce.

Standing up for coal – Abbott and Newman give investment advice

Tony Abbott has told a G20 leaders’ discussion on energy he was “standing up for coal” as the Queensland government prepares to unveil new infrastructure spending to help the development of Australia’s largest coal mine.

Abbott, who recently said coal was “good for humanity”, also endorsed the mine, proposed by the Indian company Adani, to the meeting.

The Australian government has given all environmental and regulatory clearances for the $7.5 billion coal mining, rail and port project, said Gautam Adani, chairman, Adani Group, in an interview to The Indian Express.

And Campbell Newman is happy to put your money where his mouth is.

“We are prepared to invest in core, common-user infrastructure,” Mr Newman said.  “The role of government is to make targeted investments to get something going and exit in a few years’ time.”

Despite poor market conditions, high costs and the massive outpouring of concern over the environmental impacts of their projects, Indian companies GVK and Adani remain hell-bent on opening up the Galilee Basin in Queensland. The smallest mine is as large as Australia’s biggest operating coal mine and the largest, twice the size. All of the proposals in the Galilee Basin would produce enough coal to chew up 7% of the world’s remaining carbon budget, drastically reducing our chances of keeping a lid on global warming.

Adani and fellow Indian company GVK are pushing their projects and Adani wants to start construction early next year, but the key problem is access to funds.

Few banks are willing to lend when coal prices are so low and the industry is facing issues with climate change.

There are also issues with both companies.

Adani Mining Pty Ltd borrowed $516 million from another subsidiary of the Adani Group, Adani Minerals, at an interest rate of 4.25%.  Adani Enterprises, the parent group, borrowed from the banks 2 per cent more cheaply that it charges Adani Mining the subsidiary in Australia for internal loans.

Why would these loans be priced so far above commercial rates?  Potentially they could rack up losses in Australia and rip out equivalent profits to India. Some $10 million a year thereby transferred – 2 per cent on $516 million – tax free to the subcontinent.  Rupert would be proud.

Adani Mining P/L had no revenue and booked a pre-tax loss of $112 million in 2013-14. It spent $75 million on exploration and evaluation of the mining area, which was capitalised, along with $41 million of interest, into the balance sheet rather than expensed against the profit and loss.

Adani Mining’s red ink of $112 million mostly relates to currency losses. All loans are in US dollars with no hedging, giving rise to a loss every time the Australian dollar declines

The total investment so far by the Adani group in Adani Mining is now $984 million and shareholder equity is negative to the tune of $45 million which reflects net borrowings of $1.015 billion in this Australian subsidiary alone.

So we have a company with $1 billion in debt, negative shareholders funds, zero revenue and high cash burn with $15 billion still to spend, and the parent company, Adani Enterprises, has debts of $US12 billion.

Tim Buckley, director at the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, puts it bluntly: “This project is not commercially viable”. Apart from the financial deficiencies of the main participants, he says thermal coal is in structural rather than cyclical decline.

In another red flag, Linc Energy accepted $155 million from Adani a couple of months ago for its option in the project. It is worth asking why Linc boss Peter Bond would sell a royalty of $2 billion over 20 years – perhaps worth $600 million today – for just $155 million.

And then there’s GVK.

Despite claiming to be a “leading global infrastructure owner, manager and operator” GVKPIL has no experience operating any business outside of India. It has never successfully built and operated a coal mine – in India or otherwise. GVKPIL has not operated any business in Australia, let alone a US$10bn greenfield project in the face of massive environmental, operational, logistical and financial challenges.

GVKPIL is currently committed to 16 greenfield infrastructure projects across six different asset classes.  Many are behind schedule and / or over budget.

With a market equity capitalisation of only US$243m, GVKPIL is carrying on-balance sheet net debt of US$2.8bn.  It’s share price is at an all time low and has underperformed the Indian index by 80% since 2010.

Building Australia’s largest black thermal coal mine in the untapped Galilee Basin would challenge experienced operators, but the combination of an inexperienced developer, slack demand globally for thermal coal and a deteriorating cost of production scenario in Australia moves the project beyond speculative.

Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting sold a majority stake in two Galilee coal prospects – Kevin’s Corner and Alpha – to GVK in 2011 under a deal believed to include a $1.3 billion upfront payment and a requirement for a $1 billion payment later on. However, the latter payment is still unresolved more than three years on, with Hancock Prospecting listing the unpaid amount at $656 million in its 2013 financial accounts.  Apparently they can’t afford to pay.

That asset was written down to nothing in Hancock Prospecting’s 2014 financial accounts, which were published by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission on Friday.

“The carrying amounts of the financial assets relating to a coal transaction with GVK … is based on the ability of the purchaser, GVK, to complete the outstanding transaction conditions, which includes the payment of substantial amounts,” the company wrote. “Management believes it is increasingly unlikely that these accounts will be received from GVK.”

According to The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, GVK‘s Alpha project appears likely to remain “stranded in the valley of death”.

Six of the top ten and nine of the top twenty coal funding banks have now stated that they don’t plan to fund the expansion of Abbot Point.  Given the global scale and Australian focus of Galilee Basin projects, the Big Four banks in Australia (Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, ANZ Bank and National Australia Bank) will be critically important to the financing of this multi-billion work.

So far, the banks have been coy about saying anything about the proposals to expand coal exports through the Great Barrier Reef, falling back on sustainability policies that have, in recent years, seen them lend nearly $20 billion to fossil fuels. It has created an absurd situation where banks headquartered in Paris, London, and New York are doing more to stand up and defend the Reef than Australian banks.

It is already costing the banks. Several thousand customers have so far joined the rapidly growing divestment movement, moving to other banks in protest of the big four’s massive lending to the fossil fuel industry. And thousands more, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, sit in waiting, ready to shift their business based on whether the Australian banks will stand up and defend the Reef or fund its demise.

Rather than taking investment advice from Abbott and Newman, it’s time for us all to let our banks know what we Australians want.

Uncertain future for Adani at Abbot Point as fight for the reef continues

It’s been an eventful month for Australia’s greatest natural wonder.

It was widely reported this week that Abbot Point proponents Adani Group, GVK Hancock and North Queensland Bulk Ports would seek to reverse their plan to dump 5 million tonnes of dredge spoil into the marine park near Bowen, instead opting for land disposal. This has since been confirmed by deputy Queensland Premier Jeff Seeney, who will meet with environment minister Greg Hunt to approve the land-based alternative.

While the news was somewhat unexpected, there has been growing public discontent with the dredging approval following months of campaigning by environmental groups, tourism operators and local communities. The Australian Government has come under increasing scrutiny and pressure from the international community over their plans for the reef, and questions about the social and environmental track record of Indian coal company Adani have been brought to the fore.

Photo: Greenpeace Australia

The news has breathed life into reef campaigners who view it not as a solution, but as a step in the right direction towards a total ban on capital dredging projects within the marine park area. A Senate inquiry has supported this, calling for sediment dumping to be banned in the marine park until further studies can be conducted about its impact on the reef ecosystem.

Growing doubts over Carmichael mine

Indian coal company Adani is no stranger to controversy, insisting they will proceed at Abbot Point and the Carmichael mega-mine which will feed it. But there is growing doubt about the viability of the development.

Adani purchased Carmichael coal mine from Australian Linc Energy in 2010 during the peak of the coal boom, a deal which gave Linc royalty rights on future profits. In August, Adani agreed to buy out Linc’s future royalty stream for $155 million which they say,

“reflects Adani’s confidence in the progress of Carmichael mine, which received final federal environmental approvals from the Australian government last month.”  

However, analysts have said the amount Adani is paying out, compared with the value of the future royalties, implies they have put a 25-30% probability on the development actually proceeding.

A reef in danger

In early August, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority released their much anticipated Reef Outlook Report 2014. The five year report painted a stark picture of the reef’s health not just today, but also over the coming years which will see its resilience decline further.

“Even with the recent management initiatives to reduce threats and improve resilience, the overall outlook for the Great Barrier Reef is poor, has worsened since 2009 and is expected to further deteriorate.”

Even Greg Hunt was forced to admit the grim outlook, particularly in the southern part of the reef where he said there were “some real negatives”.

The report outlined climate change as the main threat over the coming decades, which is why building a resilient reef system is vital in combating the associated rising sea temperature, ocean acidification and increased storm activity,

Crucially, coastal development was named as a key factor affecting the reef locally. These impacts are set to increase as shipping through the marine park increases by 250% over the next 20 years.

The report stressed the large knowledge gaps which still exist about the impacts of dredging and dumping on the reef ecosystem.

“Increasing port activities directly affects local areas and uncertainty remains around ecosystem effects of dredging and the disposal and re-suspension of dredge material.”

Photo: WWF

Considering the rate at which port developments and expansions are being approved, this is particularly alarming.

The politics of environmental approvals

Four Corners followed up the release of the report with ‘Battle for the Reef‘. The investigation revealed the internal clashes within the GBRMPA in the months leading up to the approval of the Abbot Point dredging and dumping permit. It shone a light on the huge political pressure within the GBRMPA to green light the approval, despite widespread concerns among its own scientists that sea disposal was socially and environmentally unacceptable.

The revelations in the report have led to calls for a complete overhaul of the GBRMPA, leading to the creation of a new and truly independent authority who will protect the Great Barrier Reef from politically motivated approvals.

The question of political dollars buying environmental approvals gained further traction in recent weeks amid allegations that a large donation to the LNP from a Queensland property developer preceded the approval of a dredging permit for the expansion of his Airlie Beach marina.

It was revealed that long time LNP supporter and donor Paul Darrouzet gave a $150,000 donation to the party a mere week before gaining approval to dredge. Naturally, Mr Darrouzet denied any link between the two with QLD environment minister Andrew Powell quickly following suit.

Following these reports LNP MP George Christensen, whose electorate covers the Whitsundays, made a dramatic admission that he was wrong to support the sea disposal of dredge waste from Abbot Point. According to Christensen, he

“didn’t foresee the angst the dumping of dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef marine park would cause tourism operators and the residents of the Whitsundays.”

A line in the sand

While Christensen is most likely trying to save his political skin after widespread criticism and discontent within his electorate, the move represents the growing pressure on the government over Abbot Point, and more largely over their actions against the environment during their first year in power.

In light of this, Greg Hunt has sought to paint himself as the good guy, saving the reef from negligence “on someone else’s watch”.

Interviewed during the Four Corners investigation, Hunt promised that Abbot Point would be the last time sea disposal of dredge waste would be permitted in the marine park, that it was a ‘line in the sand’.

Greens Senator Larissa Waters sought clarification of these vague promises in the Senate but the government backed away from Hunt’s comments. According to Waters, the words were worthless and ‘full of holes’, failing to specify if projects already applied for will be approved.

In addition, Hunt’s promise is limited to capital dredging, meaning maintenance dredging such as at Hay Point will still be allowed. Approval for the 378,000 cubic metre maintenance dredging project at Hay Point was granted this year, despite real concerns over the damage caused to corals during the initial 2006 dredging.

Australia falling behind

While Australia regresses into a coal mining, climate-change denying stupor, the rest of the world is moving forward in its transition from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy.

Even the main recipient of our coal is moving in the right direction. In an unprecedented move, the Indian Supreme Court this month ruled all coal licenses from 1993 to 2010 illegal, deemed to have been granted unfairly and without transparency. Coal mining had become a source of massive corruption and controversy in India in recent years, with over 200 leases granted to private steel, cement and power companies without proper regulation.

While the move is sure to put pressure on India’s power supply, Australian coal is not in line to fill the void. New PM Narendra Modi aims to roll out solar power across the nation over the next 5 years with renewable energy one of the new government’s top priorities.

Meanwhile our government has decided to scale back the successful RET, crippling our renewable energy sector for supposedly driving up electricity prices – which has since been shown through independent modelling and reviews to be false.

The fact that the review was headed by self-professed climate sceptic and Caltex Australia chairman Dick Warburton (in the words of Scott Ludlam, SRSLY?) would lead anyone to question the independence of this review. But fear not, Warburton has assured the Australian public that his personal beliefs had no bearing on his findings.

Hunt continues to paint environmental groups, concerned locals, tourism operators and concerned Australians who add their name to a GetUp! petition as “as the extreme left of the Australian political scheme”. By doing so, he is alienating the majority of Australians who are rising up to demand stronger action on climate and greater protection for our reef.

The Madness of Greg Hunt and the Carmichael Mine

Just in case anyone was left doubting the Abbott government’s disdain for environmental protection, our Environment Minister Greg Hunt has laid that to rest, approving the development of one of the largest coal mines in the world.

The Carmichael mine will be developed by Indian power company Adani. Owned by an Indian billionaire, Adani are sourcing Australian coal to fuel the surging demand for electricity in India.  They hope to begin exporting coal from the mega-mine in 2017.

The coal mine is simply gigantic – the largest Australia has ever seen, and one of the biggest in the world. Consisting of six open cut pits and five underground mines, it will cover an area seven times the size of Sydney Harbour.  The initial stages require the clearing of 20,000 hectares of bushland, home to 60 threatened species of flora and fauna.

Around 60 million tonnes of coal will be sent to the Queensland coast every year by an accompanying $2.1 billion rail corridor, where it will be exported to India from Abbot Point via the Great Barrier Reef.

CO2 emissions from the combusted Carmichael mine coal are estimated at a whopping 128 million tonnes per annum, cancelling out any of the gains made under the government’s pathetic Direct Action policy.  To put that figure in perspective, that’s equal to four times the amount that New Zealand emits in a year.

There were so many reasons not to approve this unprecedented development, both economic and environmental. Greg Hunt, however, was unmoved.

Of foremost concern – Adani’s alarming environmental track record. In India, they have been fined for illegally building on villagers’ land and destroying protected mangrove areas. They have been involved in the large-scale illegal export of iron ore, bribing officials, building an aerodrome without environmental approval, manipulating the approval process, ignoring environmental conditions and non-compliance with environmental monitoring.

Remember the Abbot Point controversy?  Well, Adani were one of the companies behind that too. Adani owns the coal export terminal at Abbot Point.  For the massive volumes of coal to be shipped overseas from their Carmichael mine, they need to expand the terminal to meet the surge in exports, which will see upwards of 450 extra coal ships travelling through the Great Barrier Reef every year.

Safe to say, this is bad news for the reef environment.

The proposed expansion of the coal export terminal requires three million cubic tonnes of seabed to be dredged, and dumped in adjacent waters within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.  Despite concerns within the GBR Marine Park Authority itself and UNESCO, as well as public outcry over the threat to the reef, Greg Hunt approved the dredging.

So toxic and unpopular is the Abbot Point dredging project, even international banks don’t want to be associated with it, with HSBC, Deutsche Bank and The Royal Bank of Scotland withdrawing funding.  But despite this, the Australian government thinks it fine to go ahead.

Despite Adani’s woeful record, Greg Hunt is comfortable allowing them to operate in one of the most environmentally sensitive areas in the world.  I am not.

The impact on groundwater has been a major cause for concern.  When operational, the mine will extract 12 billion litres annually from local rivers and aquifers, in an agricultural region already prone to drought and dependent largely on water from bores. Hunt assures us that,

“The absolute strictest of conditions have been imposed to ensure the protection of the environment, with a specific focus on the protection of groundwater.”

In what we’ve learned to be the usual Greg Hunt response, he has slapped on a bunch of ‘Conditions’ and ‘Offsets’ to mitigate any environmental damage, 36 in this case, although a Senate enquiry has shown what rubbish these are.

“These 36 conditions complement the conditions imposed by the Queensland Government, and will ensure the proponent meets the highest environmental standards and that all impacts, including cumulative impacts, are avoided, mitigated or offset.” – Greg Hunt

So what are the net benefits for Australians? Economic reports continue to show us that coal is just not profitable anymore.  There are real questions surrounding the viability of Galilee Basin coal projects in the face of a long term, downward trend in global coal prices.  A huge investment in infrastructure by Adani is needed to service the Carmichael mine, which has driven down their potential for profit substantially.

“Good quality steaming coal exported from Australia is fetching about $US67 ($71.30) a tonne in the spot market, which means that after taking borrowing costs into account there would be little profit margin.” – SMH

Any profits made will be channelled overseas to India first, then to other Asian nations who will take on development contracts like Korea, whose company POSCO who will build the rail link. In the absence of a Carbon or Mining Tax, benefits to Australians are small – apart from the promise of employment and regional development.

But at what cost?  A country is more than just an economy.  All Australians will be left with is a massive hole in the ground, linked to a dying reef by a ghost train.  In the mean time, Greg Hunt will twiddle his thumbs, waiting for the years-away clean coal technology to be rolled out.

But there’s still a glimmer of hope.  While the coal mine has been approved, Adani still need to secure billions of dollars of funding before they can begin construction (or destruction in this case).  Greenpeace, together with GetUp, AYCC and Market Forces are campaigning to stop the Big Four Banks from funding Adani.

If Australians continue to show their collective power through grassroots campaigning and action, hopefully our banks will have the sense to ditch this sinking ship.

The role of government versus the role of our government

Image courtesy of smh.com.au

Image courtesy of smh.com.au

I recently read an article titled ‘The Responsibilities of Government’ and, whilst I did not agree with everything the author said, a few things really struck a chord with me.

“The government of a democracy is accountable to the people. It must fulfil its end of the social contract. And, in a practical sense, government must be accountable because of the severe consequences that may result from its failure. As the outcomes of fighting unjust wars and inadequately responding to critical threats such as global warming illustrate, great power implies great responsibility.”

The veil of secrecy surrounding this government protects them from their duty of accountability. The blue books advising the incoming government were withheld. Operational and intelligence matters will not be discussed. Crucial trade negotiations regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) are kept secret. Ministers are kept away from the media and all interviews must be approved by the Star Chamber. The media are denied access to our on and offshore detention centres, and now the Salvation Army are to be removed as well. The first sitting of Parliament was delayed, debate has been gagged, and the Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) report was not presented before Parliament rose.

Public servants are sacked and reviews are outsourced to the private sector, or consultants are engaged, all of whom seem to have a connection with the Liberal Party and/or big business. They are given little time to review or consult, restricted frames of reference, and unrepresentative panels. Much of what they have been asked to review has already been the subject of recent review, or a review is already underway by government bodies like the Productivity Commission. It seems that these people are being paid a lot of money to give the answers the government wants to hear.

The response to the “critical threat” of climate change has been to undo the action already taken in pricing carbon, to disband all climate change advisory bodies, to decimate the CSIRO, and to refuse to co-operate in international initiatives to deal with this global threat.

Instead we have hastened to approve the biggest coal mines in Australia and the port expansion and railways to support them. Two proposed coal mines in the region could be responsible for an estimated 3.7bn tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions over their lifetimes. Greenpeace estimates if all the Galilee Basin mines hit their maximum potential, 705 million tonnes of CO2 will be released each year. For comparison, Australia’s current annual emissions are in the order of 400 million tonnes.

“The coal to be mined from the Galilee basin and exported through Abbot Point each year which will create more CO2 emissions a year than produced by both Denmark and Portugal combined.”

One of the three terminals was proposed by the Indian resource giant Adani, the second by a joint venture between the Indian company GVK and Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Coal, and the third site was to be developed by BHP Billiton. But BHP recently pulled out of its involvement in the project.

Even though port developers Adani note in their environmental impact statement, submitted to the government, “The current developments (proposed and approved) for port expansion will facilitate the export of coal, the combustion of which is recognised as a significant contributor to greenhouse gases and the global effects of climate change”, climate change was not mentioned in the approval documentation.

Adani was not required to assess downstream effects of the coal passing through its port because, it said, two Federal Court cases over previous, unrelated projects, found that it wouldn’t be necessary. They were only required to report on how port operations may interact with climate change. In order to mitigate the effects of port operation on climate change, Adani proposes that it powers up with renewable energy:

“Adani recognises that measures to reduce [greenhouse gas] (GHG) emissions through energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy technologies or low emissions materials make good business sense. Consequently Adani will commit to reducing GHG emissions through its procurement and operations practices.”

Aside from the irony of a coal port being powered by renewable energy, the ultimate ramifications of the coal being unlocked has not been considered by either the developer or the government in the approval process.

Hunt has also approved the Arrow LNG facility on nearby Curtis Island, as well as its associated transmission pipeline.

This year Unesco’s World Heritage Centre warned that the Great Barrier Reef, which has lost half of its coral cover in the past 30 years, would be placed on its “in-danger” list if there were major new port developments. A study commissioned by the previous Labor government found that dredging spoil dumped at sea travelled further than previously thought, potentially endangering coral and other marine life. The approval documents show the spoil from the dredging will be dumped within the Great Barrier Reef marine park area.

On Monday the Coalition passed changes to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to strip away any repercussions if the government fails to consider expert advice before approving major developments such as mines and ports, removing the ability for community groups to legally challenge new developments if the environment minister failed to consult approved advice, thus removing the protection that the judicial system could have offered.

Which leads me to the second quote about the responsibilities of government.

“The central purpose of government in a democracy is to be the role model for, and protector of, equality and freedom and our associated human rights. For the first, government leaders are social servants, since through completing their specific responsibilities they serve society and the people. But above and beyond this they must set an ethical standard, for the people to emulate. For the second, the legal system and associated regulation are the basic means to such protection, along with the institutions of the military, for defense against foreign threats, and the police.”

Whilst we were quick to accede to America’s request to criticise China about a restricted flight zone, we condoned the human rights abuses in Sri Lanka and West Papua, and hesitated about action in Syria.

Social and income inequity is widening, exacerbated by this government’s preference for removing benefits from the poor whilst increasing them for the rich.

The vilification of Julia Gillard, the poor behaviour in question time in Parliament, and the rorting of MP’s entitlements, have hardly been ethical standards that the people should emulate.

The courts have been used to play politics as in the case of Peter Slipper, and to block equality laws like gay marriage, environmental laws have been changed, our military are being used to hunt down asylum seekers and our police are busily interrogating anyone caught riding a motor bike.

“Government economic responsibility is also linked to protection from the negative consequences of free markets. The government must defend us against unscrupulous merchants and employers, and the extreme class structure that results from their exploitation.

Governments argue that people need to be assisted with the economic competition that now dominates the world. But the real intent of this position is to justify helping corporate interests . . . siding against local workers, consumers and the environment.”

The lack of transparency, consultation, and discussion of possible consequences of our free trade agreements is of great concern. Allowing foreign corporations to dictate to us is a very dangerous path to follow. Instead of protecting us, the government are allowing big business to set the agenda in every area, and facilitating their every request with no thought to legal and social ramifications. There are a few aberrations to this general course. The failure to support Holden will cost many jobs and billions to the economy, and the failure to sell Graincorp has sent a message that we are closed for business.

“Another general role, related to the need for efficiency, is the organization of large-scale projects. It is for this benefit that we accept government involvement in the construction of society’s infrastructure, including roads, posts and telecommunications, and water, sewage and energy utilities. Further, giving government charge over these utilities guarantees that they remain in public hands, and solely dedicated to the common good. If such services are privatized, the owners have a selfish motivation, which could negatively affect the quality of the services.

That such assets should have public ownership is expressed in the idea of the “commons.” They should be owned by and shared between the members of the current population, and preserved for future generations.”

This government’s refusal to accept the necessity of a world class national broadband network (NBN) is baffling. The productivity benefits are huge, and the employment in the construction is significant. The refusal to fund public transport infrastructure is also very short-sighted.

We have already sold many of our valuable assets and the list being suggested for future privatisation seems to grow daily – schools, hospitals, Medibank Private, Australia Post, the ABC, HECS debts. Private businesses must make a profit and are not obliged to continue to provide unprofitable services. This can have dire repercussions for regional Australia, and for the variety of services that can be offered.

“Indeed, while we of course still need a means of defense, including against both external and internal (criminal) aggressors, it seems clear that our greatest need for protection is from other institutions and from the abuses of government itself, particularly its collusion with these other institutions. (Many of the needs that we now have for government are actually to solve the problems that it creates.)”

Who will protect us from this government?

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