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Tag Archives: carbon price

Can’t afford a house? Well maybe you could settle for a power station!

As I’ve pointed out before, the business section of the paper is more reliable when it comes to getting information. I’m not suggesting that the opinions in the business section are any better, just that, when it comes to money, people are more upset when the media gets its facts wrong.

Anyway, as I doubt that any of you unemployed, left-wing tree-huggers would have found time to read “The Australian Financial Review” in between cycling from your lattes to the latest protest, I thought I better point out this article to you:

NSW government sells Vales Point power station for $1m

OK, if you don’t have the time to read it because you’re worried that your latte will get cold, the two important bits are these:

  1. The article begins by telling us how cheap the power station was. In spite of it being one of the largest coal fired power stations in NSW, I could have probably crowd-sourced enough money to put down a deposit, if I’d promised that we’d shut it down. “Two investors have bought one of NSW’s largest coal-fired power stations for the price of a nice suburban house.Brisbane-based energy consultant Trevor St Baker and coal baron Brian Flannery paid the princely sum of $1 million to the NSW government for the Vales Point Power Station.”
  2. The article also had the following little titbit of information: “Though cleaner than Victoria’s brown coal plants, in the absence of a carbon price black coal plants are being squeezed out of the National Electricity Market by brown coal and renewable energy because its marginal operating costs are higher.” (emphasis added”)

The fact that a large coal-fired power station only brings a million bucks when sold suggests that they’re aren’t a lot of people out there who think that this a great investment opportunity. However, I think the second point is the more interesting after Malcolm Turnbull’s comments about our coal being the “cleanest in the world” (What – we wash it and then we put it in the spin?). So, in this country the absence of a carbon price is squeezing “clean” black coal out of the market.

Well, it’s good that someone saved the company then and aims to keep the power station alive. There may be a future for black coal yet. As one of the buyers said they’ve got lots of experience in the industry and they’re confident they can turn the losses around, saving oodles of jobs. Well, for now anyway, because he also made this rather interesting little comment:

“We are aiming for at least seven years [of operation] if coal-fired power generation continues to be required in NSW,”

If? I thought coal was meant to be the major party of the energy mix for the next fifty years.

 

A question of balance

JamesCarleton-e1405549218653 ‘Where’s the balance?’ I raged as I listened to ABC Radio National this morning. In yet another example of a run-of-the-mill interview that you might hear on any news media platform or channel across this country, James Carleton was interviewing a business owner about the Carbon Tax. This interview may as well have been produced and gift-wrapped by the fishing industry’s PR firm, it so reeked of one-sided bias. But that’s the thing about balance that the mainstream media just don’t get. Or just don’t care about. Or both. Balance isn’t the ability to find someone who wants to speak in favour of the Carbon Tax (if these people have been interviewed in the mainstream media over the last few years, I must have missed it) and then to balance the argument, interview someone staunchly against the Carbon Tax, like Carleton’s guest this morning. That’s kindergarten simple thinking on what balance might be, and they can’t even get this right. No, an intelligent producer and interviewer would aim to find balance in the very questions they ask, so to provide an insight into the two sides of an argument within the one segment of news that they’ve given over to a particular topic for a limited amount of time.

So let’s look at how Carleton might learn from this sloppy, unbalanced interview. First of all, it’s important that the audience know who is being interviewed in order to properly frame their ‘well you would say that wouldn’t you’ opinion. Carleton introduced his interviewee Gary Heilmann as apparently a ‘small business’ owner, the managing director of De Brett Seafood at Mooloolaba on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Carleton explained that Heilmann’s business includes a tuna fishing boat, a fish processing plant and a fish and chip shop. Fine. But it’s often what is left out of such an introduction which is so lazy on the part of the interviewer and also most telling. Because a quick Google of Heilmann makes it very clear that he isn’t just some random small business owner who the ABC happened to come across to provide his views on the repeal of the Carbon Tax. Here he is quoted in the Sunshine Coast Daily, posted on Liberal Mal Brough’s website, bemoaning the Carbon Tax back in March 2013. Here he is on the ABC’s website in 2011, apparently representing his own business and other fishing operators in lobbying the government to provide $76 million in compensation because of the proposed introduction of a marine park. In this article on the same topic from 2011, the author writes that ‘Fishing operators such as Heilmann say drastic measures are needed because Australia’s waters are over-fished’ and makes the point that since many operators have gone out of business, licenses have been cut back to 115 and Heilmann has slashed his fleet from 10 boats to only 2. This time he’s talking about the Coles fish price-war (aren’t free markets fun?). Here he’s complaining about the Sunshine Coast Regional Council building a roundabout that makes it hard for his fishing trucks to get away from the port of Mooloolaba (how dare the council try to improve traffic conditions for people visiting the beach when Heilmann’s trying to move stock!). And finally, here is Heilmann defending against claims that fishers were raiding Gold Coast recreational fishing areas, in, you guessed it, his role as Managing Director of his company, and a member of a tuna fishing industry advisory committee. Wouldn’t this background as a fishing industry media spokesman have been helpful to the balance of Heilmann’s Carbon Tax interview?

So what questions might Carleton has asked so to at least challenge Heilmann’s pre-prepared-press-release-like rant about why the Carbon Tax is bad for his business and must-be repealed? What could Carleton have done to provide some balance, rather than offering nothing more than the perfect Dorothy-Dixer-like combination of questions which came off sounding like they had been written by Heilmann himself to keep his flow of ‘I’m anti-Carbon-Tax-and-my-opinion-is-important-because-I’m-a-business-owner’ script perfectly intact? How could Carleton have avoided the same-old-lame-overused-statement that was so perfectly rehearsed it sounded like Abbott himself had planted it in Heilmann’s head, when he said ‘governments… have simply managed to drive the cost up to the point where it’s just not worth being in business anymore because you can’t generate a return on the assets’. I know what you’re thinking. I know you’re thinking it’s not Carleton’s fault that Heilmann so perfectly slotted into the Abbott anti-Carbon-Tax narrative which brought us to this point tonight where the Carbon Tax is, devastatingly for the environment, about to be repealed. But it is Carleton’s fault and it’s every journalist’s fault who has given exactly this sort of interview all the airtime it ever wanted, without once asking a question that challenged the very basis of the argument about pricing carbon. What if he’d tried even one of these questions, just to throw an alternative argument into the mix and to provide some balance for the audience:

‘Being a fisherman, and clearly concerned about over-fishing, you must be concerned with the sustainability of not just your business, but also your family’s safety in the environment you live and work in. Do you worry that climate change will have a detrimental effect on the sustainability of your livelihood and the sustainability of the planet we live on?’

‘Do you think it’s appropriate for a government to put the concerns about business profit for a handful of business owners ahead of their concerns for the safety of our planet in an unstable climate?’

‘What policy would you prefer the government introduce to encourage large polluters to cut down on their carbon emissions instead of the Carbon Price, to change their business practices to ensure we limit the catastrophic effects of climate change? Or do you not believe climate change is real?’

‘Have you considered renewable solutions such as solar energy to cut down on your high electricity costs, in order to improve your margins and to make your business more sustainable as fossil fuels continue to deplete and grow in cost?’

‘If you can’t make a profit running your business in a sustainable way, is it time to think about doing something else and to stop blaming the government for every challenge your business faces? If you can’t run your business without producing unsustainable amounts of carbon emissions, isn’t it better for the community if you do try something different?’

If people like Heilmann don’t want to answer such questions, they can choose not to be interviewed on a national radio station. Someone else can be interviewed instead. How about me? I would be happy to answer balanced questions about a particular topic. But I would never be invited because I’m not a business owner or an industry spokesperson. I guess that’s the thing that’s most disappointing about Carleton’s interview in the first place. Journalists like Carleton never interview a nobody like me who has to actually live in the community where climate change is happening. The Carbon Price was not just some economic burden on large polluters. It was designed to try to save our planet. How about interviewing a member of the community on this topic, rather than a whinging-he-would-say-that-wouldn’t-he-self-interested-axe-the-tax-business-owner. Just for a change.

Random thoughts

When Malcolm Turnbull called for a vote on the Liberal leadership in 2009, Tony Abbott eventually won by one vote. One of Malcolm’s supporters was in hospital at the time and was not given a proxy vote, but more interestingly, one person just wrote “NO” on the ballot paper. Whilst I can understand not being pleased with the choice on offer, what I cannot understand is how a Member of Parliament can so abrogate their responsibility as to vote informally when they are possibly choosing the future Prime Minister of Australia.

*****

The carbon price was introduced to encourage polluters to clean up their act or pay the price. Why was this cost then passed on to consumers on their power bills? It seems to me that the polluters got off scot free and that their customers actually footed their carbon tax bill. They should have achieved the savings they needed by reducing their pollution rather than charging us. If the government really wanted to reduce the power bills for the average Australian, why not make domestic power bills GST free since businesses can already claim the GST back?

*****

If you look at the entire worldwide cosmetic industry, sales reach about $170 Billion dollars a year. It’s distributed pretty uniformly around the world with ~$40 billion in the Americas, ~$60 billion in Europe, ~$60 billion in Australia & Asia, and another $10 billion in Africa. The Western world spends a bit more per person but India and Asia are quickly catching up. What an absolutely ridiculous waste of money and resources on making people feel inadequate.

*****

Why do footballers hug and kiss and cry so much nowadays? Remember when a handshake just involved extending your right hand to your opponent rather than clasping them to your bosom in a heartfelt embrace? Have you noticed how many athletes have emotional problems? Or gambling or substance abuse problems? Paying sports people millions of dollars to play a game has led to huge pressure on individuals, organised violence to win, cheating, match fixing, doping, infiltration by organised crime. Does a soccer player contribute more to the world than a nurse or a teacher?

*****

Finland has the best education system in the world but they do things quite differently to us. Perhaps we could learn a few things from them (though they did ban Donald Duck comics because he doesn’t wear pants).

  • School starts at 7 years
  • No homework for young children
  • No exams until you turn 13
  • All classes are mixed ability
  • Max 16 students in science class
  • Lots of break time every day
  • Teacher training to masters level
  • Teacher training is paid for by government

*****

Approximately 3.5 million people in the U.S. are homeless, many of them veterans. At the same time, there are 18.5 million vacant homes in the country. The situation is similar in Europe where more than 11 million homes lie empty while 4.1 million people are homeless. In Australia, at the 2006 census around 10 per cent of housing stock was recorded as vacant yet there are over 105,000 people who are homeless.

*****

The United States, Liberia and Burma are the only countries not to adopt the metric system.

*****

Time for a coffee

The truth about the ‘carbon tax’

Image by abc.net.au

Image by abc.net.au

Firstly, let’s remember that from June 2007 to December 2012, before the introduction of carbon pricing, average electricity prices rose by 70 per cent, so the big hike we all endured had nothing to do with action on climate change. A 2012 report by the Productivity Commission found network services, or poles and wires, to be the single most costly component of electricity supply accounting for around 45 per cent of total electricity prices from 2007-2012.

Next, let’s get the terminology straight. We have a fixed price emissions trading scheme which was slated to move to a floating price in 2015 under Gillard, moved forward to 2014 under Rudd. This means that our current system has two months to run, after which time we were going to align with the EU market which is estimated to move to about $9 per tonne this year, a significant reduction from our current carbon price.

Abbott said “the average power bill will be $200 a year lower and the average gas bill will be $70 a year lower.” He went on to say the average family would be $550 a year better off with the rest of the saving supposed to come from a general reduction in prices of goods and services passed on by other businesses, many of whom claim they had not increased prices because of carbon pricing and would therefore be unable to reduce prices.

The Queensland Competition Authority’s report estimates that, if the carbon tax is repealed, the average electricity user can expect their bill to increase by 5.4 per cent, or about $76. This is less than if the carbon price remained, but prices will increase not decrease nevertheless.

Gas prices in the eastern market – Queensland, NSW, Victoria, South Australia, ACT and Tasmania – are projected to rise sharply in the coming years as exports and demand for domestic consumption increase.

Energy Australia said it is important for the government and community “to be aware there is no guarantee that final energy prices will move proportionately with the average carbon price reduction in wholesale energy market”.

AGL Energy says that it usually needs a lead time of months to make price changes, and that “non-carbon” factors will drive prices after July 1 this year.

A joint submission by power and gas companies cast doubt on Tony Abbott’s promised price cuts of 9 per cent for electricity and 7 per cent for gas from the abolition of the carbon tax warning “it is difficult to specify exactly how much electricity prices will fall once the carbon price is repealed”.

The submission argues the carbon price impacts vary by region, by supplier, by retailer and in many cases by individual contract. The carbon tax applies to the cost of electricity generation where fossil fuels are burned, which represents about 30 per cent of the electricity price. Network charges for transmission represent a “significant portion” of retail prices and these could rise on July 1, except in Victoria, and this will have an impact on electricity prices that may reduce any cuts associated with carbon tax repeal. In Western Australia and the Northern Territory the electricity price is determined directly by the government, so regulatory changes will take time to implement.

So when Abbott, Hockey and Corman tell us we will be $550 a year better off they are talking crap, plain and simple. They use a price that won’t apply after July 1 and ignore industry advice that prices will not go down. Even if we didn’t move to a floating price until 2015, any supposed savings would only be for one year.

Instead of collecting about $13 billion in revenue from polluters over the next four years we will be paying over $3 billion of taxpayers’ money to polluters. As Mr Abbott has chosen to keep the compensation package, this means over $16 billion difference to government coffers, or about $450 per household per year. Add to that the fact that every single expert has said Direct Action will not achieve our targets without a far greater expense if at all, and we will patently be much worse off financially and environmentally.

Frank Jotzo, Director of the Centre for Climate Economics and Policy at the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy, believes we should keep the fixed price on carbon.

“If it wasn’t for the poisonous politics of the “carbon tax”, the best option would be to stick with the gradually increasing fixed price, and keep it for longer. The effect on cost of living from the $23 carbon price has been minor, and most households are better off financially because of income tax cuts and welfare increases.

Impacts on industrial competitiveness have been negligible. Keeping the fixed price would cause no further impacts. The carbon price immediately reduced emissions from the power system, because it made some of the dirtiest electricity plants too expensive to operate. Lowering the price could undo many of the gains, bringing old clunkers online once again.”

The fact that companies are still announcing closures, even with the promised repeal of the carbon tax, shows how small a factor it plays.

Global investment in renewable energy dropped 11% in 2013, according to EY’s latest quarterly Renewable energy country attractiveness index (RECAI), with policy uncertainty in particular reducing investor appetite across many markets.

China closed the gap on the US at the top of the index, installing a record-breaking 12GW of solar capacity in 2013 and ramping up its consolidation effort to accelerate market recovery.

Germany remains in third place, but lost ground following the announcement of subsidy cuts and watered-down renewables targets by the new coalition government. Rapid solar market growth and a burgeoning offshore sector helped Japan to replace the UK in fourth place.

Ambitious targets and a series of large-scale project announcements have seen India jump to seventh place. Competitive bidding trendsetters Brazil and South Africa have also risen in the index thanks to a plethora of new projects awarded in 2013 auctions.

Australia has dropped from sixth to eighth spot in the rankings, off the back of the expected repeal of the carbon tax and review of the Renewable Energy Target (RET) creating an uncertain investment environment, particularly in regard to large scale renewable energy, EY said.

Australia’s largest renewable energy company, Hydro Tasmania, has posted a record $238 million operating profit. The state-owned power generator says it made $70 million from the carbon tax, exporting record amount of clean power to mainland Australia. The company was able to pay a $116 million dividend to the State Government. This will be jeopardised if carbon pricing is removed.

Nathan Fabian, head of the Investor Group on Climate Change, told the Senate Committee looking into Direct Action:

“My members are looking at the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States, France and some South American countries as having more stable investment environments for low-carbon opportunities. Direct action is not an investment grade policy.”

Tim Buckley, from the US-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, told the same hearing that Australia was missing out on hundreds of billions of dollars being invested every year in renewables, in energy efficiency and in development of these new technologies, and the hundreds of thousands of jobs being created in China, Germany and in America.

When the economists agree with the scientists it is surely time to start thinking well this is the way to go, or should we decide what’s best on the basis of talk-back radio hosts and polls printed in the Telegraph.

So to sum up, removing the carbon price will not lower your bills, nor will it save businesses. Direct Action will not lower emissions. Uncertainty about the renewable energy target is costing us investment in a growing industry of the future and the jobs that go with it. And we are now seen internationally as lightweights, easy prey to corporate greed and unwilling to share the global burden of action on climate change.

Oh and just a heads up on a potential new rort – You may now become a “Service Provider” with the government’s Green Army romp. You can submit a tender for as many projects as you like and you will be paid $192,500 per project, $22,500 for administration, and provided with a workforce that you pay between $10.14 and $16.45 per hour with no superannuation. How many employers will decide it’s far cheaper to be a “Service Provider”?

Is anybody listening about carbon pricing?

I know Tony doesn’t like advice but I feel duty bound to keep trying.

Yet another study has shown the economic benefits of carbon pricing.

This article first appeared in Climate Progress on 4 March 2014

According to a new study out of California, taxing carbon emissions at a whopping $200 per ton would create more jobs in the state than business-as-usual.

The report was commissioned by Citizens Climate Lobby and carried out by Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI). The latter used a model of the California economy they’ve developed and combined it with the Carbon Tax Analysis Model — an open-source, Microsoft Excel-based model of carbon emissions and tax revenues at the state level, built off data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The resulting simulation looked at three different tax levels: $50 per ton of carbon emissions, $100 per ton, and $200 per ton. All three started at $10 per ton in 2015, then rose $10 annually until they hit their maximum level: $50 in 2019, $100 in 2024, and $200 in 2034.

Lots of previous analyses have tried to model the economic cost of the damage climate change will impose, and $200 per ton of emissions is consistent with several of them. But it’s also way higher than anything lawmakers here or elsewhere have considered. The Canadian province of British Columbia, for example, has a carbon tax of $27.88 per ton. When the Obama Administration estimated the price of carbon, the mid-range of their numbers was around $40 per ton.

Yet not only did the $200 per ton tax create more jobs than the “do nothing” baseline in REMI’s simulation, it created more jobs than the lower taxes did. Anywhere from 236,775 to 286,475 more jobs by 2035, to be specific.

How would this happen? Shouldn’t higher taxes hurt job growth?

Well, one reason a carbon tax is friendly to the economy is that it imposes a price on greenhouse gas emissions but doesn’t specify how the cuts are to be made. As the video below shows (see original article), that turns every business into a laboratory, each one looking for the most effective and least-costly ways to cut emissions that work for them:

But the other reason is what lawmakers do with the revenue. In all its scenarios, the California study set aside the first $4 billion in revenue each year for investment in renewables. Beyond that, it modeled two options:

  • The “across-the-board” model (ATB), which uses the revenue to cut California’s sales, income and corporate taxes by a proportional amount.
  • The “fee-and-dividend” model (FAD), which returns the revenue in equal amounts per person to every household in the state.

When NPR looked into a carbon tax, economists at MIT told them that plowing the money back into the economy like that essentially eliminated any economic drag from the tax. British Columbia went with the ATB option, and their carbon tax shows no signs of harming the province’s economy.

What’s especially interesting about the California study is it breaks down the different results from the ATB and FAD options. Cutting taxes created more jobs than giving out checks: 286,475 more jobs versus 236,775 more. Both increased real disposable income for the average California household by $16,000 by 2035. But cutting taxes resulted in almost $250 billion in additional cumulative GDP by 2035, while handing out checks only added around $60 billion by 2035.

So does a bigger economy mean cutting taxes is the better option? Not necessarily. Imagine an economy with enough productivity that everyone can make enough to support their family working just 20 hours a week. They’d then have more time to spend on friends, family, hobbies, travel, leisure, etc. Or they could sacrifice all that to keep working 40 or more hours or more and make way more income, which would then show up in the GDP data. So a society in which everyone just kept working more would have a larger economy as we measure it. But it’s not obvious it would be a better society in everyday human terms. This is just one of the problems with treating GDP as a proxy for a society’s overall well-being. (Also, while both versions of the carbon tax reduced income inequality, returning the money via checks reduced inequality more.)

The FAD option is strikingly similar to what’s called a universal basic income (UBI) — a policy where everyone in the state or country gets a check for the same amount every year, no strings or conditions attached. Alyssa Battistoni recently argued in Jacobin that a UBI itself would help make society more environmentally friendly, by moving it toward less carbon-intensive work and consumption.

REMI’s study also didn’t account for the health benefits of cutting carbon emissions. Those cuts inevitably reduce other pollutants from fossil fuels life sulfur dioxides and particulate matter, which are linked to asthma and other cardiovascular problems. Reducing those makes for healthier citizens and fewer expenditures on medical care, which also rebounds to the benefit of job creation and growth. So the economic benefits of a carbon tax could conceivably be even higher than what REMI modeled.

Finally, there’s the carbon emissions themselves. According to REMI’s model, the $200 per ton tax would cut California’s emissions between 25 and 30 percent from 1990’s levels by 2035.

Back in 2010, the the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering recommended the United States as a whole try to cut its emissions 50 to 80 percent cut below 1990 levels by 2050 — a goal the White House may eventually propose.

As Lord Deben recently said, it is indeed astonishing

“that a country should have become so selfish about this issue that it’s prepared to spoil the efforts of others and to foil what very much less rich countries are doing…

All that pollution which Australia is pushing into the atmosphere is of course changing my climate. It’s a real insult to the sovereignty of other countries…

It’s wholly contrary to the science, it’s wholly contradictory to the interests of Australia and I hope that many people in Australia will see when the rest of the world is going in the right direction what nonsense it is for them to be going backwards.”

hard-to-listen

What do we do now?

tony

So it’s over; the Coalition has triumphed in the contest of ideas and will (eventually, one hopes) form a government.

Tony Abbott has been described as the most effective opposition leader in a generation. This may or may not be accurate, but it cannot be argued that he has achieved his goals with a combination of balls-to-the-wall confrontation and maintaining a small target on his weakest points. The question now becomes what kind of a Prime Minister he will make, and what his collection of Howard-era ministers will do now they’ve reached power in the 21st century.

The first thing we need to understand is that what the Coalition government will do, now it’s in power, is not what they said they would do while they were in opposition.

To some in the electorate, this may come as a surprise. They may actually think the Coalition fully intends to do the things they talked about during the campaign. But things promised during the campaign were not real; they were props, to support Tony Abbott’s approach to the job of opposition. They continued on from the years preceding the election, from the very moment of Abbott’s elevation to the position of Leader of the Opposition.

“The job of an opposition is to oppose”, and that’s what the Coalition did – regardless of whether they agreed with the policies on offer or not.

Prior to Tony Abbott, worthy policies had a chance of bipartisan support. Abbott himself in years gone by argued for the imposition of a carbon tax; Malcolm Turnbull was ready to sign on to support Labor’s policy in this area.

It was on this very matter that Abbott was able to replace Turnbull as the leader, and he never looked back. Even in those areas where there is “bipartisan support”, it is conditional; according to Tony Abbott, the Coalition wouldn’t be doing its job if it didn’t find aspects to criticise in even the best policy.

The Coalition’s stated intention since 2010 has been to oppose the government on any and all fronts. Opposing requires you to have an alternative solution to point to. It doesn’t have to be fully fleshed, or even achievable; nobody will look at it too closely whilst it’s just an alternative. But you can’t oppose a successful or important piece of policy or legislation without pointing people to an alternative; it shows that the thing you’re opposing is not inevitable.

So the Coalition threw its weight behind a bunch of pointless, useless or impractical ideas – not as real policies, but as props for its position of opposition. NBN-lite, Direct Action, the easy bits of Gonski; these helped it to point to Labor’s NBN, the carbon price, and the full package of Gonski and say “we don’t agree with these, and we don’t need them.” Despite the fact that experts universally panned the alternatives on offer, showed that they were impractical and expensive and simply couldn’t do what the Coalition was claiming, the opposition stuck to its guns knowing that the electorate didn’t care about details and didn’t care about feasibility. Pandering to a voter’s fears is eighty percent of the job, but the other twenty percent is to quiet that little part of their subconscious that says “what do we do instead”?

But now the time of opposition is over, and Tony Abbott and the Coalition have made a rod for their own back. They’ve sworn not to do deals. They’ve sworn to stick to their guns and get their promises delivered. They’ve sworn to be a no-nonsense government that says what it means and does what it says. And now it’s achieved government saying all of these impractical and counterproductive things that it is going to be required to do.

There are always get-out-of-jail clauses; every incoming Coalition government goes down the same path. The “budget position is so much worse than we knew that we can’t do the things we promised” route. Will the Australian people stand for it this time? For the first time, there was a PEFO, as thorough a retelling of the budget standing as possible, to ensure there are no surprises for an incoming government. Despite this, the amazing invisible Joe Hockey has been reported as saying that the Coalition would need an independent, external audit of the finances before they knew the true budget standing, so it seems obvious that they’re going to try this well-travelled road again.

And if the “not enough money” issue isn’t going to serve – for instance, in repealing taxes that you’ve sworn black and blue are losing money, or replacing a nation-building effort with something cheaper and nastier – then you can delay. Thus, the NBN will undergo “three separate reviews and a forensic audit” before the Coalition will even know what to do with it. Who wants to bet that these won’t take up most of the Coalition’s first term of government and be ready with propositions by the time the next election comes around? (Labor took a very similar approach to a series of policy areas in 2007, so it’s certainly not without precedent).

But eventually a government has to be judged on what it did, not what it said it would do. Sometimes, the promises that a government has made to get elected can come back to bite them. Thus Labor’s rounds of tax cuts, promised at the 2007 election in answer to the Coalition’s same promises, had to be delivered in subsequent years as the budget situation worsened and they became progressively more unaffordable. Those tax cuts may even have contributed to Labor’s more recent budget woes and its need to find new sources of revenue. Kevin Rudd, in those days, was desperate to keep all of his promises, just as Tony Abbott is now. Julia Gillard found out the hard way the results of being publically excoriated over reneging on a promise (even though Gillard’s was a matter of semantics rather than intent). So will Tony Abbott back off his promises on NBN, on direct action, on PPL, on returning to budget surplus?

Those with memories of past conservative governments fear what this one might do when the promising is over and the sharp teeth of conservative policy are revealed. In any number of areas, in the last days of the election campaign, Tony Abbott and his senior staff were careful to put caveats on their promises. Undertakings which had previously been unequivocal – promises in blood, you might say – became subject to conditions. If the Direct Action plan on climate change fails to reach agreed emissions targets, the Coalition will renege rather than spend more money. The boats will be turned around – presuming it is safe to do so, which it never will be. (And incidentally, we won’t hear about it one way or another, because boats arriving is a politically damaging sight.) The NBN will be killed, with the exception of contracts already signed, because you can’t break contracts.

The big test for the Coalition is still to come. Will it stick to its guns? Will it attempt to implement damaging and ineffective policies that it doesn’t believe in itself? Will it revert on policy to ideas that are more useful, that might actually work, at the expense of going back on their word? And if so, what tricks will they pull to prove that what they said before the election was not a lie, but simply a position that had to be changed as circumstances changed?

And will the Australian people remember how well that particular approach worked for Julia Gillard?

Spinach or shit?

Spinach vs Shit A friend recently sent me a classic Tweet:

‘Voting for Tony Abbott because you don’t like Julia Gillard is like eating shit because you hate spinach’.

Fine, some people don’t like Gillard (spinach). They don’t like her voice. They don’t like her hair. They don’t like her glasses. They don’t like her boyfriend. They don’t like her marriage status. They don’t like her lack of religion. They don’t like her gender. They don’t like her. Fine. Some people are unhappy with some of Labor’s policies. I get it. It’s absolutely understandable that you don’t like everything the Labor party does. Neither do I. I like most of it. And I like some of it very much. But not all of it. Big deal. The odd thing is, every time these shit-eaters are asked why they are eating shit, they just go on and on about hating spinach. It’s quite irrational.

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Let me say first up, I quite like spinach, especially with feta, so this is an easy choice for me. But there do seem to be quite a few people in Australia who are absolutely hell bent on rejecting the healthy spinach option, and haven’t even considered the side effects of eating shit instead. Let’s have a closer look at the alternatives in a few important areas of political policy.

Climate policy

There has been a lot of fascination over the last few years in Gillard’s determination to bring in an ETS, and her supposed lie of bringing in a Carbon Price instead. Never mind that Gillard quite clearly is doing what she promised, and bringing in an ETS, with the Carbon Price used in the interim to compromise with the Greens to form a minority government. Either way, if you’re a shit-eater who hates the Carbon Price, have you ever had a look at the shit alternative?

Ever heard of Abbott’s Direct Action Policy? In this fantastic post on the Political Sword, Ad astra asks some very good questions about this shit policy. It’s probably not your fault that you know little about Direct Action, considering how pathetic the mainstream media’s scrutiny of this policy has been. But if you can’t be bothered seeking it out, and haven’t even thought about the alternative once the Carbon Price is ‘axed’, it’s important that you know you are not being offered zero action against climate change. What you are being offered by Abbott is a shit, no details policy that will cost tax-payers $1,300 per household, per year. Considering the bleating about larger electricity bills, you’d think $1,300 per household would raise some eyebrows. And even worse, no one has been able to confirm that this policy will even reduce emissions, when the Carbon Price is already effectively doing this. So Direct Action is expensive and possibly won’t work. It’s funding coal instead of research and development into sustainable energies. It’s bullshit. And Abbott hasn’t even explained how he will fund it. If you’re going to hate the Carbon Price, the least you can do is justify this hatred with a love for Direct Action instead. And if you can’t muster love, at least be informed. Rather than ranting about ‘Gillard lying’ as if this is some sort of critique of the Carbon Price, when deep down it’s clear you don’t believe in climate change and therefore can’t understand why action needs to be taken, at least give it five seconds thought. Have a think about how it will taste to eat shit.

The NBN

Surely you can see how desperately embarrassed Malcolm Turnbull is of his party’s shit alternative to the Labor government’s National Broadband Network. If Turnbull can’t get excited about a crap alternative to a superior network, why on earth should you be excited about it? Labor’s NBN is going to cost $37.4 billion and will offer super-fast broadband to homes and businesses Australia wide. Turnbull and Abbott’s shit NBN will cost $29.5 billion, and will only supply not as fast broadband, to businesses in metro areas, and households who can afford up to $5,000 to connect. Murdoch is happy with this policy. It keeps his Foxtel TV subscriptions monopolizing the market for many years to come. It’s no wonder the Liberal’s launched their policy at Fox Studios, just to show Rupey how much they care. So you shit-eaters, when Telstra’s copper gives out and you’re left without any broadband, let alone the not so fast version that you paid through the nose to connect to, and when giant fridge units turn up on your pavement, will you at least do us spinach eaters the courtesy of admitting you’ve been eating shit?

Gonski Education Funding Reform

So you’re not happy about the Gonski school funding model? You don’t want extra money from the Federal Government for schools to provide a more equitable standard of education for all Australians, regardless of family wealth? Fine. So what do you think of the alternative? Christopher Pyne, the so called Shadow Education Minister, who wouldn’t recognise a good education if it was gifted to him, claims that:

“too much money has been wasted on reducing class sizes and that instead there should be more focus on the quality of teaching.”

Pyne also thinks the 5 – 15% of teachers, who he describes as ‘not up to scratch’ should be sacked. Apparently he thinks sacking teachers helps education quality. I guess the spinach eaters in this case would have to be those who value the benefits of a good education for all, whereas the shit-eaters just want to see the government cut, slash and burn spending with the selfish hope they’ll be left with a few extra dollars in their pocket each week through a tax break, and if that means larger classes, less teachers and lower quality education system, so be it. Sorry to tell you, those eating shit, that a short term tax decrease at the expense of quality education will just end up costing us all. Please think about this before picking up your spoon.

King of the Scandal

If you relied on the mainstream media for all your news, you might think the Labor party is the party of scandal and smear. You might think the most newsworthy political event in the last twelve months was a nasty misogynist blogger urging an incompetent, biased, idea-free press into beating up a story about the Prime Minister, surrounding unproven wrongdoing by her boyfriend 20 years ago. You might therefore have missed that Abbott was sued this week over his own little slush-fund affair, which he used to destroy the career of his right-wing rival, Pauline Hanson. It’s amazing how the mainstream media and their shit-eating cheer-squad change their tune about truth, public-interest and political scandal when it comes to Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party.

You might also think ex-Liberal Peter Slipper was the most corrupt in James Ashby’s sexual harassment case. Again, the mainstream media would have you believe this to be the case. The mainstream media don’t want you to know that the real rat is Ashby. And Abbott’s pre-selected friend Mal Brough. So while you’re complaining about the problems with spinach, think how silly you’ll look, when you realise just how badly you’ve been duped. Duped by the mainstream media. Duped by the rich vested interests of Gina Rinehart and Rupert Murdoch who have every reason to promote the eating of shit over spinach for their own self-interest.

So you hate Julia Gillard? Can you at least understand why I’m not just asking you to stop eating shit? I’m also asking you to stop forcing others into a shit-eating situation which is not of their own making. Don’t elect Abbott as Prime Minister. I don’t care if you don’t like spinach. Disliking spinach does not justify a vote for Abbott. Grow up and think of the alternative.

UPDATE: Original spinach or shit Tweet was by Geezlouise (@Turlow1)

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