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Tag Archives: Carbon tax

Let’s not forget the poor miners . . .

I'm sure they'll also rejoice to see the end of the mining tax (Image: Sydney Morning Herald)

I’m sure they’ll also rejoice to see the end of the mining tax (Image: Sydney Morning Herald)

The high-fiving over the repeal of the carbon tax made me despair at the ignorance of our government – a battle lost but the war continues.

The Abbott government is preparing to axe the mining tax as its repeal bill passed the lower house for a second time on Thursday, with the government limiting debate to under two hours.

The coalition says the mining tax has failed to do its job, raising only $340 million since its introduction. Parliamentary secretary to the minister for finance Michael McCormack also said the tax undermined confidence in Australia as an investment destination and its reputation as resource supplier, which raises the obvious question asked by Chris Bowen, “If it doesn’t raise enough money, then how does it damage the mining industry?”

The total revenue in 2012 for BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Woodside Petroleum, Newcrest and Xstrata was A$167.23 billion. Add to that the revenues of the self-defined “small” miners. Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting alone made a $1.2 billion net profit in 2012. It is projected that in the next decade they will make at least another $600 billion

State governments will hand over $17.6 billion in mining subsidies over the next four years. The federal government will contribute $4.5 billion a year. That’s $36 billion over the next four years given to companies who are making superprofits from mining our limited resources. That would pay for a real NBN, or high speed rail, or all the programs that have been slashed by the Coalition and then some.

We are told we must encourage investment by mining companies because they underpin our economy. And yet the facts do not bear this out.

Take Glencore for example, our third largest mining company, who, according to an article in the SMH, paid no tax on the $15 billion profit they made over the last three years. To achieve this they employed aggressive tax avoidance measures, borrowing money at 9% and then relending it in interest free loans. Their profits largely go offshore to foreign shareholders.

”The truth is that Glencore Coal Investments Australia’s operations in Australia are, because of the Group’s business model, branch operations of the Swiss-domiciled parent entity, which uses the now dormant legal shell of an Australian body corporate in an attempt to hide the reality of its branch business in Australia.”

The company disputes this, saying it has paid approximately $3.4 billion in taxes and royalties in Australia over the last three years. Even if this is true, it’s a damn fine return for selling something you don’t own. I wonder how much it has received in subsidies during that time.

Mining companies are also unreliable employers. They quickly sack employees, often on the basis of what the resource market is doing, because profit is paramount.

In March the Australian reported:

“Glencore’s Ravensworth underground operation will be the first coal mine suspended by the Switzerland-based resources titan due to the sharp slide in prices for the fuel, although this follows hundreds of job cuts over the past year as the company looked to bolster the profitability of its sites.”

Followed by this in the Courier Mail last month:

“SWISS mining giant Glencore will shut its Newlands underground coal mine in central Queensland with the loss of 50 jobs next month, but eventually 196 jobs when production ceases next year.

Last year about 450 workers were axed from Newlands and Oaky Creek as the company restructured.”

Over the past two years, coal producers have slashed 12,000 jobs—more than 1,500 destroyed in the Hunter Valley and 8,000 in Queensland—with impunity.

Glencore’s Peter Freyberg claimed that the industry “isn’t as competitive as it should be,” and warned that “productivity, industrial relations and regulatory settings were factors impacting the industry’s competitiveness.”

The mining companies want the ability to hire and fire at will and “flexibility” to make instantaneous changes to work practices, such as shift rosters and the use of contract labour, to meet shifting production demands.

In February, the Abbott government quietly reopened a visa loophole that will allow employers to hire an unlimited number of foreign workers under a temporary working visa, in a move that unions say will bring back widespread rorting of the system.

Before the loophole was closed in 2013 by the Labor government, companies in the mining, construction and IT industries were knowingly hiring hundreds more foreign workers than they had applied for.

In one example, an employer was granted approval for 100 visas over three years, but in 18 months he had brought in 800 workers under the 457 visa.

In the Coalition’s bid to remove all ”red tape” from the 457 skilled migrant visa, employers will not be penalised or scrutinised if they hire more foreign staff than they applied for.

Before the cap was introduced in 2013, the number of 457 visas was quickly rising. In the financial year 2009/10 there were 67,980 visas granted. By 2012/13 there were 126,350 visas granted, statistics from the Department of Immigration show.

The Coalition has put together a panel to review 457 visas. In typical fashion, they have changed the rules before the panel has done its review though, considering the panel members, its recommendations will probably be in line with whatever the business sector wants. There are four members on the panel: John Azarias, from Deloitte Australia; Professor Peter McDonald, of the Australian National University; Katie Malyon, from Ernst & Young; and Jenny Lambert, from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

FIFO work arrangements, meant for special circumstances such as geographical isolation, are now increasingly becoming the order of the day.

Gone are the days when companies invested in social infrastructure such as housing, schools and hospitals to make mining towns liveable. These days more than 100,000 workers spend up to 5 weeks at a time away from their families. FIFO workers report high levels of stress and there is a high level of turnover; one out of three FIFO workers will not last more than a year on the job. And for those who do find themselves living in mining towns, the pressure on local transport, housing and hospitals is creating significant social problems.

Following their A$22 million scaremongering TV ad campaign, the revamped Mining Resources Rent Tax (MRRT) now only applies to 22.5 per cent of the mining magnates’ profits, after a questionable “extraction allowance”. And that 22.5 per cent only applies only on coal and iron ore and only on companies that make over $50m in profit.

The Greens asked the PBO to calculate how much could be raised from increasing the tax rate to 40 per cent, plugging loopholes and including all minerals that make super profits, such as gold.

The office said these measures would raise $26.2 billion in the years to 2016/17.

PEFO anticipated $4.4 billion in revenue would be collected from the watered down mining tax over the forward estimates. MYEFO cut that to $3.4 billion. The Coalition intend to give up this revenue at the expense of the following spending commitments:

  1. Abolishing the low income superannuation contribution, with an estimated saving of $3.8 billion. This policy required the Commonwealth Government pay up to $500 a year to the superannuation accounts of certain low income earners.

  2. Unwinding the instant asset write-off for small business with a $5,000 threshold, saving $2.3 billion. This policy allowed small businesses to write off depreciating assets costing less than $6,500, and the first $5,000 was offset against the mining tax.

  3. Slowing the superannuation guarantee increase so it remains fixed at 9.25 per cent until 2016–17 before increasing incrementally to reach 12 per cent by 2021–22. Estimated saving $1.6 billion.

  4. Discontinuing the company loss carry-back, a benefit for small businesses, saving $950 million.

  5. Dismantling the accelerated depreciation for motor vehicles, saving $450 million.

  6. Ending geothermal exploration treatment, saving $10 million.

  7. Scrapping the Income Support Bonus, which includes payments to the children of veterans and is a lump-sum supplementary payment made twice a year to people on certain income support payment. Estimated saving $1.1 billion.

  8. Abolishing the Schoolkids Bonus, a lump-sum payment to parents of school-aged children twice a year. It is the largest single savings measure in the repeal bill, estimated at over $5.2 billion, even though the Schoolkids Bonus was not from the mining tax, but an alternative payment which replaced the previous Education Tax refund.

Why we are encouraging people to come and dig up our finite resources with foreign workers to send the profits overseas, subsidising them to do so, eliminating environmental safeguards and workplace conditions, and then repealing a small tax on their superprofits, is absolutely beyond me. And as can be seen by the above list, it is largely middle and low income earners and small businesses who will pay for this largesse shown to the mining companies who rape our nation to fill their shareholders’ purses.

Life according to the Coalition.

The Weird World Of Tony Abbott’s Australia

Image from smh.com.au

Image from smh.com.au

While Googling Tony Abbott – now there’s something I wouldn’t have imagined myself doing twenty five years ago – I came across an interesting quote that I thought was refreshingly honest:

“It’s my job between now and polling day to remind the Australian people just what a hopeless, unreliable, untrustworthy, dishonest, deceptive Government this has been. It just doesn’t get democracy.”

Unfortunately, on closer examination, I discovered that the quote was from the Alan Jones program, and it was made in July, 2010. Unfortunate, because I thought this might be the beginning of a more honest approach by the government, where they actually admit that the Budget would be back in surplus if we simply went back to the tax rates of 2007. You know, back when John Howard was in charge, before Labor slashed our taxes.

Still, we are getting rid of that great big tax on everything, so that should help the Budget bottom line. I did hear a couple of Liberal politicians express the view that balancing the Budget would be a lot easier with the Carbon Tax gone. I wonder if they realise that the government doesn’t actually have to pay the Carbon Tax and that it receives the revenue. In fact, according to Liberal pamphlets, it receives an enormous amount of revenue from this source. But hey, let’s abolish this “King Kong” of taxes (to quote Mr Abbott again) and make pensioners pay to visit the doctor.

Yes, I’m being emotive. After all, some of these pensioners would still be working once the pension age goes to seventy. As Mr Abbott said just last week:

“We think this is right and proper and we think older people should be economic contributors, not just social and cultural contributors.”

But back to the Carbon Tax. In reporting Clive Palmer’s decision to back its abolition, the Herald-Sun – in a straight news story, under the Headline “The Weird Al and Clive Show” – began with: “Climate change scaremonger Al Gore and big polluter Clive Palmer combined in a bizarre press conference as Mr Palmer revealed revealed he would back the Government’s bid to abolish the carbon tax – with conditions.” (Emphasis added.)

For some reason, we were treated to a list of Mr Palmer’s assets, as well as being told that Mr Gore used the phrase “climate crisis” three times in his “3min 30sec speech” (sic).

Mm, I’m waiting for the article that begins “Budget Crisis Scaremonger Joe Hockey” or when the phrase “Big Polluter” is applied to a member of one of Tony Abbott’s advisory groups.

The article went on to suggest that journalists were wondering whether Mr Gore had been paid to attend. However, it left me wondering, whether the writer of the article, Ellen Whinnett, was paid to put such a slant on it, or whether writing such tabloid rubbish is consistent with her principles.

Who are the real whingers?

Photo: www.publiclibrariesnews.com

Photo: www.publiclibrariesnews.com

Australia is a wonderful country and we are blessed to live here. We have challenges that need addressing but the heartening thing is that we also have the means and the time to do that.

What I do not understand is why our government is telling us we have a crisis and making people feel afraid.

They say we have a budget emergency and that the primary goal of this government is to reach a surplus. What difference will a surplus make to your life? It’s a number on a fiscal statement.

They say our debt is increasing faster than anyone else’s. There is some truth in this in percentage terms (the only time they use percentages you will note) but it is because we are starting from such a low debt. As I have said before, if I spend $10 this week and $20 next week, my expenditure has doubled.

To say our children will have to repay our debt, and to even give it a per capita figure, is a ludicrous spin deliberately designed to scare ordinary people. No-one will come knocking on your door with a bill from the government accompanied by a foreclosure notice. That’s not the way it works so why portray it that way?

We have been made to fear asylum seekers (though, sadly, it is they who should be fearful of us). Some think they will impose their laws on us, some think they will kick back having a fat old time on welfare, some think they will take our jobs, and some politicians are concerned about them clogging up our roads and hospital waiting rooms.

Neither of the major parties have any credibility or decency on this issue. They should be thoroughly ashamed for not condemning these cowardly, greedy, xenophobic, racist, selfish attitudes let alone pandering to them.

Tony Abbott also used fear in his campaign against the carbon tax. Towns will be wiped off the map, lamb roasts will cost $100, the cost of living will skyrocket, pensioners will not be able to afford to heat their homes. None of this eventuated, many low income earners were better off due to the compensation packages, polluters were contributing to the cost of their pollution and being encouraged to invest in more sustainable practice, demand dropped partly due to dirty industries closing down and partly due to more energy conscious behaviour, and investment in renewable energy was increasing.

The mining tax was a no no because it would halt investment in the country and we would go into recession. That didn’t seem to happen either.

We were told the NBN had no cost benefit analysis and would go over budget and over time and would be a huge waste of our money. It appears Malcolm’s is forging ahead without a CBA and unfortunately his inferior offering will be over budget and over time and slower than promised.

In the midst of this funding emergency we are able to find countless billions for roads that, contrary to promises in Opposition, need no CBA nor approval from Infrastructure Australia as a priority.

Tony’s slogans and campaign were designed to make his constituents fearful, and anyone who tries to disagree is silenced or called a whinger.

Well who are the real whingers?

The mining companies squealed like stuck pigs when asked to pay a small contribution to us for the right to make billions digging up our finite resources.

The polluters did not want to take any responsibility for the cost to society of their profit-making ventures. Even though the most trade-exposed industries were given assistance to help transition to cleaner practices, they chose instead to mount a climate change denial campaign, rather than help in any way with co-operative action.

Ask developers to comply with environmental safeguards and listen to the complaints about paperwork. No-one seems to remember the amount of paperwork that was thrust upon small businesses with the introduction of the GST.

The salary sacrificing and car lease companies had a huge dummy spit when the government had the temerity to ask that people justify their car business usage claims. We can’t ask people to tell the truth…this tax dodge is an entitlement I tell you!

When the richest 16,000 superannuants were asked to pay a small amount of tax on anything they earned above $100,000 pa it was class warfare! They had worked hard to avoid paying tax on that money and were entitled to reap the rewards of having good accountants. The superannuation companies backed their cries saying “it would be too hard to administer”. When I suggested to Joe Hockey’s adviser that it could be administered by the ATO through a simple tax return he said “that is not my area of expertise”.

Ask Gina to pay tax and she moves to Singapore. Ask her to pay a decent wage and she imports slave labour. Ask her to give you your inheritance and you may end up in court.

Any inquiry into media ownership laws will hear howls that echo around the world. “Stalin”, “censorship”, “freedom of speech”, “attack on democracy”…..Rupert has an absolute tantrum at the very idea that the media should be held in any way accountable in presenting the truth.

The introduction of gambling reform laws had the hotel and gambling industry donating millions to political campaigns rather than have their profits hurt by addressing this most destructive social problem.

Financial advisers from big banks, like those exposed in the Four Corners program the other night, point blank refused to accept transparency and regulation. Expecting them to disclose kickbacks or vested interests is apparently unreasonable.

Parliamentarians from both sides have been dragged kicking and screaming to repay claimed entitlements for personal pursuits.

This government is built on propaganda – slogans, ridiculous analogies, fear and lies. Call me a whinger if you like, but it seems to me the real whingers are the ones who can pay for lobby groups.

 

The Coalition Plan for a Better Australia

The first thing we need to do is get rid of the toxic carbon tax. It is destroying the joint. After all, emissions went up. Ok, I know that greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector are down about 7.6 per cent since the carbon tax was introduced, or the equivalent of about 14.8 million tonnes, and that demand has dropped as businesses and individuals adopt energy efficiency methods, but emissions from coalmine expansion and new gas plants have been soaring. And that’s what we want! More coal and more gas to make our country better.

And as for renewable energy, competition like that is bad for the country. It puts up prices. I know normally one would consider competition a good thing but not in this case. Have you seen those wind farms? They are U.G.L.Y they ain’t got no alibi they ugly uh huh they ugly. I know there was some talk of 1 million solar roofs before the election. That information was purely a discussion paper that was inadvertently leaked by a junior staffer who has since been counselled.

And that mining tax has to go because it is stopping investment. It may not have raised much money but it has scared off mining companies who will take our resources offshore to develop more cheaply – I’m not sure how, but they will. Don’t you worry about THAT, you people.

It’s a well-known fact that people don’t appreciate something unless they have to pay for it. I don’t mean you people who are fraudulently claiming business usage on your cars – we know you love your BMWs. I mean those lollygagging sick people. We will introduce a luxury tax on doctor’s visits and medications so sick people will truly appreciate the help the doctors and chemists are giving them.

It is also obvious that we can no longer accommodate all those people who are claiming they are old because of some vague family connection in the past. Far too many people have been using their age to claim entitlements that the rest of us don’t receive. To stamp out this reverse discrimination we have changed the definition of old to “too old to work”. Rather than seeking handouts, we will liberate those who were previously known as old to seek work usually given to other age brackets or to retrain for a new career. Training fees will be deducted from their estate.

Our greatest priority is to defend our borders against everyone and everything – asylum seekers, sharks, coral – who knows what deadly menace is around the corner and under a tree. To that end we are amassing squadrons of attack fighter jets, packs of submarines, armadas of orange life rafts, and a whole fleet of fishermen with mates and eskies. They will complement our Navy who patrol our Northern Shores searching for boats that have stopped and our Airforce who patrol the Southern Oceans searching for the Mary Celeste. This will be given an unlimited budget that will go up by whatever the generals ask for each year.

We are conscripting our youth into a homeland defence force known as the Green Army which can be deployed to any mine that may be a possible target for whoever is invading – maybe the crown of thorn starfish who already knows that Greg Hunt means business!

To help the unemployed get jobs, we will make everyone part-time, pay them less, and make them move away from family who could provide accommodation and friends who could help with transport or share the cost of living. Those who choose to commute, we will make them truly appreciate the cost of petrol by increasing the fuel excise so we can build more roads. This will not apply to anyone making over $1 billion a year.

To show that we are all making sacrifices, rich women will only be given $1,923 a week to have babies. Corporate Australia will pay for this through a 1.5% levy on some businesses in conjunction with a 1.5% decrease in company tax for all businesses. That should work….I think.

Any shortfall between government revenue and the subsidies and tax breaks that we give to mining companies, banks, private health insurers, and Gina, will be made up equally by all those who earn over $80,000 who don’t have an accountant. Those of you who do have an accountant may continue negative gearing because you are the rock upon which this nation is built.

This is our vision, this is our mission…..

Vive les riches!

I refuse to live in fear!

The tactic of a bully is to keep their victims living in fear of what could happen so they are grateful when they don’t get beaten or abused. They make their victim believe they are powerless by cutting them off from their support and telling them only the bully can look after them. This is exactly what our own government is doing. It is their tactic of choice in so many areas.

In the past, Australia was a country who willingly offered safe haven to refugees. We recognised their need for a home which complemented our need for population growth. As time passed, the contribution made to our society by those we embraced became obvious and we are the richer for it in so many ways. We are a wealthy multicultural society who used to lend a hand. Those days are gone.

We must spend whatever it takes, and alienate whoever we must, and inflict terrible physical and mental harm, to save the nation from the invading hordes of asylum seekers who will threaten our way of life. They will impose Sharia law, take your jobs, clog up your roads and hospitals, and are just waiting for a chance to kill you. Yes I am sure that’s why they are fleeing their homelands, leaving family and friends, risking their lives on unseaworthy vessels – just so they can come and turn Australia into what they are escaping from.

I do not fear refugees and we can easily accommodate 30,000 a year if not more. We should be welcoming them, assuring them they are safe now, and assisting them to become productive members of our society.

Climate change is real. It is not a conspiracy by bankers for world domination. It is not collusion by scientists to get funding. It is not a fake perpetrated by the IPCC. I refuse to believe the conspiracy theories though I am terrified by the consequences of our inaction. The government has inculcated fear about carbon pricing into the community – Whyalla will be wiped off the map, lamb roasts will cost $100, the cost of living will skyrocket – none of which happened. They tell us that wind farms are bad for our health and when that didn’t run, they revert to they are ugly?

We were told that the mining tax would hinder investment in Australia with investment and jobs going offshore. This scare campaign was also a lie. We have the resources and a stable economy, the investors are banging on our door. The high Aussie dollar caused by the success of the mining industry is what is hurting jobs and sending industries offshore, but Hockey hastened to reassure the miners that they will not have any of their subsidies cut or tax increased. In ‘fear’ of the miners choosing to rape another country instead, we have gotten rid of our environmental protections and given virtually open slather for the short term cash grab of developing our finite resources.

Our country is not broke. Using great big numbers about possible debt in ten years’ time and inflated deficit figures is purely designed to scare us. Why do that? Don’t you want business and consumer confidence? This scare campaign is purely political to exaggerate the problem, blame it on Labor, and use it as an excuse to implement their corporate agenda and social engineering.

People struggling on the old age and disability pensions are terrified about the recommendations from the Commission of Audit. We can reassure the miners but we cannot reassure the pensioners. They have to wait in fear so when they only have to pay $6 instead of the recommended $15 as a co-payment to the doctor they will feel grateful.

We are told that our health system is unsustainable yet the government didn’t ask the people in the industry how it could be improved. We straight away go to the scare campaign of we can’t afford this so you must pay. The experts have said there are many ways that expenditure could be better spent and areas of waste that could be eliminated but starting with preventative health is patently counter-productive.

The same applies to the old age pension. We have now scared everyone by saying they will have to work to 70 yet once again the experts disagree with the fear campaign being spread. Hockey said the number of people aged 65-84 would quadruple by 2050. The ABS says otherwise. They do three predictions – high, low, and medium – their high range estimate is 2.5 times growth in that age bracket. Hockey predicted that only 37 per cent of the population would be of working age in 2050, yet the best available estimates from the ABS show it is in fact between 61 and 63 per cent.

The scare campaign about unions is the government’s way of cutting us off from our support. What collective voice do the people have other than the unions? Who offers protection for our workplace rights other than unions? Who can represent individuals other than unions? Reducing the minimum wage or the availability of Newstart is not the best way to tackle unemployment. There are so many better ways like investing in new industries such as renewable energy, and investing in education and supporting research to develop the industries of the future – something we have been amazingly good at in the past.

George Brandis even wants to change the law to protect bigots and bullies. Apparently they have every right to offend and humiliate people. What sort of crazy backward thinking is this, done in the name of freedom? Next, will we be defending the rights of countries to commit human rights abuses? Oh, wait……

We must stand up to this government who consciously, willingly lies to its own citizens to keep them in unnecessary fear. We must point out their crazy priorities where we waste hundreds of billions on fossil fuel subsidies, tax rebates for superannuation and private health insurance, fighter jets, paid parental leave, grants to polluters, Operation Sovereign Borders, lifetime gold passes and entitlements for politicians, political advertising and campaigning and the like, while insisting that our most vulnerable must live in poverty and fear. We must expose their lies about debt, deficit, and the affordability of our health and welfare system.

You are the one who should be afraid Tony – be vewwy afwaid – because I refuse to live in fear and will do everything in my power to make sure the Australian people know the truth so we can protect ourselves from the bully by ending this relationship at the first opportunity.

Bullying-stands-for

A job application to Clive Palmer

Clive Palmer (image by news.com.au)

Clive Palmer (image by news.com.au)

Dear Mr Clive Palmer,

May I call you Mr? It’s not Sir Clive yet is it? I’m sure it will be in the offing should you aspire to a knighthood – it’s Tony’s best reward for pre-eminent people like you.

May I congratulate and commiserate with you on your entry into the sordid world of politics. I have watched your campaign and realised that you are a man who wants to get things done, a trait I admire. You have also said things that echoed with me like being a representative for the little people, the people without a voice. Some other things, not so much, but it would be a bad move for me to begin an application with criticism.

Your Senators now carry a grave responsibility – just ask Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott about that. With the balance of power they need to be familiar with every bill and every amendment. It’s a huge workload. I saw that Tony Abbott refused your request for extra personnel to help with the legislative workload, which is what prompted me to apply to help out. I will work for free for a period and if Tony changes his mind about that, and you find my work valuable, then a small stipend would be most helpful.

Obviously the carbon tax is a big issue that will require your attention in the immediate future. I have taken the opportunity to provide a brief summary for the Senators’ perusal with attached links should they require further reading. I am also happy to answer any questions should you or any of your iron force have one.

CARBON TAX

1. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim called for a price on carbon, requiring companies to disclose their climate risk exposure, and greater investment in green bonds in the fight against climate change.

2. The planet is “perilously close” to a climate change tipping point, and requires urgent cooperation between countries, cities and business, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde has said. Addressing an audience in London, Lagarde said reducing subsidies for fossil fuels and pricing carbon pollution should be priorities for governments around the world.

“Overcoming climate change is obviously a gigantic project with a multitude of moving parts. I would just like to mention one component of it—making sure that people pay for the damage they cause. We are subsidizing the very behaviour that is destroying our planet, and on an enormous scale. Both direct subsidies and the loss of tax revenue from fossil fuels ate up almost $2 trillion in 2011—this is about the same as the total GDP of countries like Italy or Russia.”

3. John Kerry has described the UN’s latest report on the science of climate change as “chilling” and warns of a “potential catastrophe” without urgent action. The US Secretary of State made the remarks at the annual Munich Security Conference held at the weekend, citing terrorism, radical sectarianism, food security, water availability, and climate change as the “great tests of our time.”

Kerry also highlighted the potential financial benefits of moving to a low carbon economy, pointing to the $6 trillion energy market that will gain an extra five billion users by 2050. “It is the mother of all markets, and only a few visionaries are doing what is necessary to reach out and touch it and grab it and command its future,” he said.

Kerry warned of an “absence of collective leadership” from politicians where the environment is concerned. “We have enormous challenges. None of them are unsolvable. “That’s the agony of this moment for all of us. There are answers to all of these things, but there seems to be an absence of will, an absence of collective leadership,” he said.

4. Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN climate secretariat, said that it was amoral for people to look at climate change from a politically partisan perspective, because of its impact on future generations.

Figueres said that examples of recent extreme weather around the world were a sign climate change was here now. “If you take them individually you can say maybe it’s a fluke. The problem is it’s not a fluke and you can’t take them individually. What it’s doing is giving us a pattern of abnormality that’s becoming the norm. These very strange extreme weather events are going to continue in their frequency and their severity … It’s not that climate change is going to be here in the future, we are experiencing climate change.”

5. The independent Climate Change Authority, which advises on climate change action around the world, called for Australia to lift its emissions reductions goal from 5 per cent to 19 per cent to take into account international moves, Australia’s fair share and the urgency of the climate change threat.

Professor Garnaut believes the ultimate cost to the budget of the Abbott government’s climate policy could be much greater than $4 billion a year, given many countries are committing to more ambitious emissions reduction targets.

6. Senate Committee: Direct Action

Recommendation 1

2.63 The committee recommends that the Australian Government immediately adopt the emissions reduction targets outlined by the Climate Change Authority in its final report released on 27 February 2014. Namely that Australia’s 2020 minimum emissions reduction target be set at 15% below 2000 levels and that Australia’s carryover from the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol be used to raise the 2020 emissions reduction target by 4%, giving a total 2020 target of 19%.

Recommendation 5

3.143 The committee recommends that the transition of the fixed carbon price to a fully flexible price under an emissions trading scheme with the price determined by the market occur on 1 July 2014.

Recommendation 10

5.129 The committee recommends that the Emissions Reduction Fund not be substituted for the carbon pricing mechanism.

7. Growing numbers of investors and now being attracted by three key benefits of wind farms:

•Social Responsibility: Investing in clean renewable energy is socially responsible

•Lower Risk: Now that thousands of wind farms exist globally, construction and operational risks are very low.

•Longevity: Long term demand for renewable energy will increase driven by declining fossil fuel sources and carbon reduction policies.

8. National solar provider Energy Matters has released consumer insights that rank cities for solar viability and also reveal the true investment potential of solar power in comparison to shares, property, gold, global fixed interest or even fine art.

The figures will startle many; with it outperforming all other investment options using current ASX figures and other key organisations that rate investment opportunities.

The consumer insights also revealed Townsville in Queensland was Australia’s top address for solar, giving its residents a healthy return of investment of 21.8% per year. Other mainland capital cities included Brisbane (annual return of investment of 20.2%), Adelaide (19.1%), Sydney (18.9%), Perth 17.8%) and Melbourne (13.2%).

9. The solar PV industry employed about 13,600 as of late 2013, and the number will sink this year to about 12,300 across about 4300 businesses as state-based subsidies are wound back, according to a report for the REC Agents Association, a body representing firms that create and trade in renewable energy certificates.

The solar workforce, though, would dive immediately by 2000 if the government were to end support for the industry by scrapping the RET, with the total number of jobs lost or foregone swelling to 6750 by 2018, analysis of the research by industry group SolarBusinessServices found.

10. China is spending billions to control air pollution, banning imports of low-grade coal, launching carbon-trading markets, exploring shale gas, getting more efficient, and building the crap out of renewables. And remember, it has its own coal mines. They just couldn’t keep up with the boom. Now that things are leveling off, domestic Chinese coal will get cheaper, they’ll buy more of it at home, and there will be less market for imports.

Since China was the main driver, its rapid deceleration will serve as a drag on the whole seaborne coal market. Goldman Sachs analysts “expect average annual growth (in demand) to decline to 1% in 2013-17 from 7% in 2007-12.”

No less an investor than the mighty Warren Buffett has proclaimed that the decline of coal in the U.S. will be gradual but inevitable. Given flat demand for electricity, cheap natural gas, burgeoning renewables, rising efficiency, and future carbon regulations, new coal-fired power plants are a bad bet, which is why they aren’t getting built.

11. Economists are convinced that carbon pricing will yield the greatest environmental bang-for-buck at the lowest economic cost.

Recommendations:

  1. Get rid of your investments in coal and invest in renewable energy

  2. Move to a floating price ETS on July 1 either this year or next (preferably next)

  3. Increase our emission reduction target to 19% and confirm our renewable energy target of 20% by 2020

  4. Under no circumstances allow Tony Abbott to waste taxpayer money on that silly Emissions Reduction Fund bribery to polluters

  5. Give me a job

I hope this has been of use to you and your Senators in getting up to speed on the issue. I look forward to hearing from you in the near future to discuss terms of employment.

Yours faithfully

Kaye Lee

Dame-in-waiting

PS I looked into your idea about reducing natural greenhouse gas emissions but have been unable to think of a way to stop respiration, evaporation, organic rotting, volcanoes or farting, but I will keep working on it. By the by, cutting down trees is not a good start.

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”?

What’s there to crow about?

Image by imgur.com

Image by imgur.com

Tony Abbott is gleefully crowing about “100+ days without a boat”. What Mr Abbott seems oblivious to is that he has closed yet another door on people fleeing persecution and human rights abuses in places like Myanmar and Sri Lanka. The Taliban just fired rockets at the Electoral Office in Afghanistan so the upcoming election doesn’t look like it will make everything tickety poo over there either. Things don’t seem to be getting any better in Syria though the government haven’t done any mass gassings lately, not in the open anyway.

And it isn’t as if we have increased our humanitarian intake or processed any of the people already being illegally held in detention. This has cost us a fortune, subjected our navy to allegations of abuse, seen us internationally condemned, caused enormous mental and physical harm to vulnerable people, and Australian guards are now implicated in the death of a man who was under their protection. Yet this is supposed to be a success?

Tony’s team are also pushing very hard for the repeal of the carbon tax but it is becoming harder and harder to drown out the chorus of condemnation for such an act from world leaders, the UN, climate change bodies, scientists, economists and the citizens of the world. He accused the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, of “talking through her hat”, and said he doesn’t want to “clutter up” the G20 agenda with talk about climate change. Can you imagine how that was received?

Blatantly sacking scientists and advisory bodies to appoint climate change deniers to every position might allow you to fool people in Australia in the very short term. It will not change the science. This headless chicken (Prince Charles) flat earth (Barak Obama) denial is wasting precious time and shows us globally as unwilling to do our bit – something Australians have always been respected for in the past.

The Senate inquiry into the Direct Action Plan has released its findings and they are damning. If this process is to have any credibility, the Coalition must drop this idea and agree to move to an ETS with higher targets for emission reduction and renewable energy. It is what every expert recommends, especially the economists.

Greg Hunt must be the only Minister for the Environment who would be bragging about approving billions of dollars of new coal mining and port expansion which will unquestionably lead to the degradation of one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. He has also advocated the removal of marine park legislation to allow for commercial fishing, removal of world heritage listing to allow for logging, and the building of dams in our ecologically sensitive pristine North. With an Environment Minister like that, who needs natural disasters?

And then there is the mining tax. On the 7:30 report, Abbott claimed that the mining and carbon taxes were partly to blame for BHP Billiton’s decision to delay the expansion of its huge Olympic Dam mine despite the fact that Marius Kloppers said it had nothing to do with the mining tax which doesn’t even apply to the copper, uranium or gold extracted from the site.

Mining profits worldwide have slumped by half since 2011 as the mining boom comes off its highs according to a report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers which says that higher costs, more writedowns and fluctuating commodity prices have hit the fortunes of the top 40 mining companies including BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.

PwC Australia’s head of energy and mining, Jock O’Callaghan, says the possible repeal of the mining tax in Australia is unlikely to have much impact on Australia’s appeal to investors. Not surprisingly, the government has failed to take note of this advice.

Mr O’Callaghan says he expects more mines to close, including in Australia. “Certainly if we see a further downturn in commodity prices that is going to put more pressure on marginal mines,” he said. “There is no denying that and again that is not just an Australian phenomena.”

As Ross Gittins explains,

“For the income earned by an industry to generate jobs in Australia, it has to be spent in Australia. And our mining industry is about 80 per cent foreign-owned. For our economy and our workers to benefit adequately from the exploitation of our natural endowment by mainly foreign companies, our government has to ensure it gets a fair whack of the economic rents those foreigners generate.

Because Labor so foolishly allowed the big three foreign miners to redesign the tax, they chose to get all their deductions up-front. Once those deductions are used up, the tax will become a big earner. Long before then, however, Tony Abbott will have rewarded the Liberal Party’s foreign donors by abolishing the tax.

This will be an act of major fiscal vandalism, of little or no benefit to the economy and at great cost to job creation.”

Mining currently employs about 2.4% of our workforce but this is set to drop as they move into the less labour-intensive production phase. As we saw during the GFC, they are not altruistic benefactors and have little loyalty to their employees. According to Richard Denniss

“When commodity prices fell during the global financial crisis the first thing the mining industry did was sack thousands of their workers. Indeed, according to Treasury, if all industries had been as quick to punt their employees as the mining industry the unemployment rate would have hit 19 per cent rather than its peak of 5.9 per cent.”

Penny Wong described Abbott’s rhetoric regarding the mining tax as “one of the most dishonest, self-interested fear campaigns that we have seen in Australian politics” and I can only agree.

After saying there was no difference between Liberal and Labor on education, we have seen billions cut with a backing away from the bulk of the Gonski funding, the abolition of trades training centres, and cuts to the before and after school care program despite childcare being identified as far more important in improving productivity and workforce participation than paid parental leave.

We have also seen the Coalition attempt to repeal Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act in a bizarre attempt to “protect the rights of bigots”. Countless journalists have said they have not felt constrained in any way by this section of the act and do not see the need for its repeal. This is purely and simply a pander to Andrew Bolt and Rupert Murdoch. Promoting hatred under the name of free speech is a truly cynical exercise which has left many Australians feeling very uneasy about what is happening to our country.

According to the Coalition, our debt and deficit are a real problem and spending must be reined in. While listening to a relentless barrage softening us up for the cuts that are to come, we watch Tony Abbott spend money hand over fist on his Paid Parental Leave scheme, orange life rafts, unmanned drones, planes both for the Air Force and himself, grants to polluters, gambling on the foreign exchange market, tax concessions for the wealthy, subsidies to profitable mining companies, marriage guidance counselling vouchers, and gifts to pollie pedal sponsors.

We are also going to sell everything we own and spend billions to build roads. Public transport and high speed rail will receive no funding. I am sure the fact that cars rely on fossil fuels hasn’t entered into the decision making.

With the rollout of the NBN in limbo, Malcolm Turnbull has admitted that he cannot keep his pre-election promises. His inferior offering will take much longer and cost much more than he led us to believe and will be outdated before it is even completed.

Abbott’s rush to sign free trade agreements which include ISDS clauses with all and sundry (No. 87 on the IPA’s wish list), has put our nation at sovereign risk where we will risk being sued if we introduce laws to protect our health and environment. It will almost certainly lead to a huge increase in the cost of medicine as pharmaceutical companies block the release of generic medicines, and a host of other repercussions that we can only anticipate with dread.

We have the Social Services Minister, Kevin Andrews, winding back gambling reforms and disbanding the oversight of charitable bodies. We have the Environment Minister disbanding climate change advisory bodies and removing environmental protection laws. We have the Health Minister disbanding bodies like the Australian National Preventative Health Agency, the Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing, the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia, and attacking Medicare with offices closed on Saturdays and co-payments likely. We have the Assistant Health Minister blocking a healthy eating website and the Assistant Education Minister asking childcare workers to give back their pay rise. In fact, I cannot think of one act or one piece of proposed legislation that has been in the best interest of the people of Australia.

With cuts to foreign aid, indigenous affairs, charities, and asylum seeker advocacy groups, it is increasingly obvious that the vulnerable can expect no protection or assistance from this government. They have made their agenda patently clear. Buy a ticket on the Good Ship Rinehart and lift with the rising tide, or be left to drown as the wealthy stand on the shoulders of the poor to board the corporate gravy train.

 

Repealing the carbon tax won’t help Qantas

The whole of question time today was devoted to the government saying “If you want to help Qantas then repeal the carbon tax.”

Has everybody forgotten what happened to Qantas before we had a carbon tax?

This is from May 2011.

“Qantas will have to raise international airfares to Europe from January next year after the European Union penalised the airline because Australia does not have a price on greenhouse gas emissions.

Under changes to the EU’s emissions trading scheme, Qantas would be forced to pay a tax on 15 per cent of its carbon emissions from its nearest port of call, the national carrier told a meeting of business leaders in Canberra this week.

This means flights to ports as far away as Singapore and Bangkok would be taxed under a “border tax” adjustment contained in the EU scheme.

Qantas confirmed it would be hit by the impost, The Weekend Australian reported on Saturday.

The airline is still calculating the likely impact on ticket prices and a spokeswoman said the carrier would face a second carbon hit on flights into Britain when Britain’s “green tax” took effect.

Qantas would be faced with the tax because its headquarters is in Australia, which does not have a price on carbon.

The charge would be levied on the airline’s last port of departure, which in Qantas’s case would be Bangkok or Singapore.”

And this from July 2011.

“To illustrate the risks facing us if we do not act, let’s consider the case of Qantas, who now faces an initial carbon tax penalty of 15% on its carbon emissions for any flights it makes into or out of Europe. This penalty will increase over time, and is payed directly into the coffers of the European Union. The reason for its imposition is specifically because Australian does not have carbon price in place.

Over the next few years, the European Union will expand its penalty regime to impose general sanctions on countries that do not meet its standards on carbon reduction mechanisms.”

No wonder Alan Joyce isn’t mentioning the carbon tax.

An article in the SMH from May 2011 said

“In the end climate change and carbon pricing is a debate we will have, in spite of Rupert Murdoch’s trained orcs and trolls scaring the bejesus out of people like Dick Smith.

Smith yesterday admitted he hadn’t joined Cate Blanchett in her pro-carbon tax ad, because he was scared of being vilified by the Murdoch press. Not just the Piers Boltbrechtson hive mind, but the journalists, and headline writers, the photographers and moderators and serried ranks of deniers and abusers who have gone to war with science and the future on Rupert’s whim.

I must admit, I think less of Smith for that, and a lot more of Blanchett. After all, her career and livelihood arguably depends more on maintaining a happy, unconflicted public image than his. And she would have known, as he did, what was coming when she shot that advert.

But she probably knew much worse was coming anyway, if Abbott and Murdoch’s goon squad get their way and this debate becomes less about science than it is about thuggery and wilful ignorance.”

When Globe International reported this week that

“Nations have passed almost 500 laws to tackle climate change, with emerging economies led by Mexico and China making the most progress last year. A total of 62 out of the 66 countries examined have passed or are working on “significant” climate or energy-related laws.”

you don’t really want to be the only country repealing action on climate change.

If we really want to help Qantas we will keep carbon pricing so they, and all other exporters, won’t be penalised by countries who are introducing emission reduction legislation.

Why do they never consider cutting GST to alleviate cost pressure?

An act of betrayal

Image by themotorreport.com.au

Image by themotorreport.com.au

Before the introduction of carbon pricing Tony Abbott claimed that the price of petrol would go up by 6.5c per litre. It actually went down by 3.3 per cent in the first year.

He claimed that the cost of living would skyrocket. Inflation for 2012-13 was 2.3 per cent which is at the lower end of the RBA’s target range. It was estimated that about 0.7 per cent of that rise was due to carbon pricing. To put that into perspective, the GST and related changes caused an increase to the CPI of almost 2.5%! Record low interest rates have also led to substantial savings on mortgage payments.

He claimed that power bills would increase by $300 a year. This was a reasonable estimate. To compensate for that the tax free threshold was increased from $6000 to $18,200 which meant that the majority of people earning less than $80,000 saved at least $300 on taxation. Pensioners and self-funded retirees, as well as family payment recipients and other allowance recipients had their payments increased.

The level of compensation saw the vast majority of people fully compensated for the price increases, and millions of households, particularly pensioners and low income households, actually ended up better off. Plus, if you can reduce your dependence on carbon-intensive products you could end up even better off still.

Tony also continues to claim that the carbon tax is responsible for the closure of businesses. Not one of the many manufacturing or mining ventures that have closed have mentioned the carbon tax as a reason. With the imminent repeal of the carbon tax in July, rather than a decrease, we are seeing a rapid increase in industry closure all of whom seem to agree that the greatest pressure has come from the high Aussie dollar.

The carbon price only applied to about 500 businesses and there were six different streams of assistance that industry could apply for, with special consideration given to those who were “trade-exposed” by having to compete with companies that did not have carbon pricing. Tony was embarrassed on more than one photo shoot to be told about grants and industry assistance that have been given to the very businesses he was saying had suffered.

In fact, before carbon pricing, Qantas had to pay an initial carbon tax penalty of 15% on its carbon emissions for any flights it made into or out of Europe. This penalty would increase over time, and is payed directly into the coffers of the European Union. The reason for its imposition was specifically because Australian did not have a carbon price in place.

Over the next few years, the European Union will expand its penalty regime to impose general sanctions on countries that do not meet its standards on carbon reduction mechanisms.

There are further economic reasons behind acting to implement a price on carbon, aside from the risk of foreign sanctions. The fact is that renewable energy technology will be the next huge growth industry. The Chinese have been quick to recognise this and have the highest level of investment in this sector, accounting for almost 25% of worldwide investment in renewables in 2010 for a total of $50 billion USD. If we do not incentivise investment in the sector, we will simply be left behind.

Fossil fuel subsidies cost almost $200 per taxpayer per year while mining companies continue to enjoy record profits. As they move from construction to production phase, profits will increase but jobs will be lost in this less labour-intensive phase. It is unjustifiable madness to repeal the mining tax just when it could make us some revenue. The cost of repealing that tax on superprofits is the loss of the schoolkids bonus, delay of superannuation guarantee increase, scrapping of the low income co-contribution to superannuation, and scrapping of the instant asset write-off for small business amongst other things. In other words, the workers will take a cut so the profits of mining companies can skyrocket.

I know energy bills are high but let’s be clear about when that happened and why. In the 7 years prior to the introduction of carbon pricing, the average bill for a customer in regional NSW had risen by 154 per cent to $2520. This was due to the ‘gold-plating’ of Australia’s power grid. Power companies had been basing spending decisions on their own forecasts of future consumption of electricity, but power demand has been decreasing.

Escalating use of renewable energy and energy efficiency are contributing to reducing wholesale power prices across Australia. Mr Abbott seems convinced that the Renewable Energy Target and the carbon trading scheme were almost entirely to blame for the doubling of power prices since 2007, even though the Australian Energy Market Commission and every state government utility regulator has provided information that shows this is not accurate. Distribution network charges, supported by transmission networks, are by far the biggest cause of price rises, even though peak demand growth has tailed off well below the projections used to justify this huge expenditure.

There has been a deliberate campaign of misinformation about carbon pricing and the renewable energy target and the assault looks set to continue with the appointment of self-confessed climate change deniers, opponents to renewable energy, and fossil fuel industry lobbyists, as government advisers.

Pinning our economy to an industry that the rest of the world is moving away from is economic short-sightedness to say the least. Expanding coal mining as the price plummets and China and the US sign agreement to move towards clean energy and sustainable practice is bad planning. The short term boom has made our dollar so high that we are seeing the death of manufacturing nationwide.

If Tony Abbott really wanted to lower your energy bill he could do it very easily by making power bills GST free. If he really cared about action on climate change he would keep carbon pricing and invest in renewable energy. If he truly cared about falling revenue in this country he would tax the superprofits that the mining companies make. If he really cared about jobs he would be investing in the industries of the future and the education and skills training of our youth and retraining of the many people whose jobs have been sacrified to fossil fuel greed.

Mr Hunt, two months ago you said:

“Our Direct Action plan encompasses support for solar power through our One Million Roofs, Solar Towns and Solar Schools programmes”.

These initiatives are in addition to support for renewable energy through the Renewable Energy Target and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, which is funding projects and research across the spectrum of renewable energy sources, including bioenergy, hydropower, geothermal, ocean energy and wind.

The Government will provide $500 million for the One Million Solar Roofs programme and a further $50 million each for the Solar Towns and Solar Schools programmes.

The Solar Roofs programme will provide $500 rebates for installing one million rooftop solar energy systems over the next ten years.

This rebate will be in addition to the support already provided through the RET. Eligible systems will include small-scale photovoltaic systems, solar water heaters and heat pumps.”

Do you stand by what you said and your support for the RET? I am paying you to fulfil the role of Environment Minister which is a job with a huge responsibility attached. If you make the wrong decisions the consequences could be far worse than any war that mankind has seen and the longer you delay, the more likely that the damage will be irreversible.

Tony Abbott described carbon pricing as “an act of betrayal”. What do you call paying vested interests to convince us to maximise their profits by throwing ourselves, our children and our planet off a cliff?

No Country Ever Axed Its Way To Prosperity!

Photo: Meme-pictures

Photo: Meme-pictures

“No nation has ever taxed itself into prosperity.”― Rush Limbaugh

“No country has ever taxed or subsidised its way to prosperity” Tony Abbott.

So, I’m very lucky to have with me, one of the Liberal economic advisers, Mr Fik Tishus, to work us through the Coalition plan to get the country back back on its feet. Thanks Mr Tishus, can I get you to outline what you feel are the priorities for this country.

Thanks, Rossleigh, can I call you Rossleigh?

Ross, thanks, but back to the question what are the priorities for this country?

Rossleigh’s a very unusual name where does it come from?

My parents called me that – no idea why. The priorities?

Yes, we have them all worked out.

And they are?

In a sealed envelope in my desk.

Could you, perhaps, tell us one.

Fixing the economy.

What are you proposing to do to fix the economy?

Oh, we intend to make the economy STRONG, and to reduce the DEBT.

Yes, ok, and how are you proposing to do this?

By getting rid of waste and unnecessary taxes.

Such as?

Well, we have a mandate to get rid of that great big tax on everything the Carbon Tax and the Mining Tax.

Right. So how does this help you bring the Budget back into surplus?

Well, it’s a big tax and if we reduce it then we don’t have to pay as much.

But as a government, you receive tax, you don’t pay it.

Is that true?

Yes, you don’t pay tax as the government.

No, I meant is it true that we’re the government? I hadn’t noticed. Sorry, I don’t get out much.

So how does it help you balance the Budget?

It’s actually getting rid of waste that helps us balance the Budget.

Can you give me an example of waste?

Well, there’s a booklet put out by the Party which lists Labor’s waste. It was called Labor’s Big Book of Waste. Clever title, eh?

I looked at that book, and I could only identify about $4 billion dollars worth of so-called waste when I added it up. And much of it wasn’t ongoing. That’s hardly going to put the Budget back into surplus?

No, but when we get rid of all these public servants who are doing nothing, we’ll have saved billions?

But who’ll do the work they now do?

Private industry. They’ll do it more efficiently. They’ll even make a profit at it.

But doesn’t that mean we’ll be paying more?

No, that’s the thing about private industry we don’t have to pay their wages.

Yes, but don’t we have to pay the companies for the work they do?

Of course, and they’ll be making profits, because Australia is now open for business.

How does this help the Budget?

Because the economy will be booming again. Thanks to the fact that we no longer have all that red tape.

So, let me get this straight: You think that by reducing your revenue base, putting people out of work and the government just doing as little as possible, then the structural problems in the Budget – such as the ageing population – will just disappear?

Did you never think to ask your parents about your name?

NO!

It’s amazing the questions people don’t ask.

It is.

I mean you haven’t even asked me what the response to growing deficits in the Budget is called.

I know.

It’s named after me. It’s called the Fik Tishus solution.

I think I sort of knew that already.

Well, I better go. If we’re in government, I’ll have to go and stop the Ministers from doing anything. Small government that’s the answer.

What’s the question?

I don’t understand.

That’s what worries me.

THE CLIMATE OF DENIAL: Why real climate action will NEVER come from big business or government.

By Letitia McQuade

If a quick study of our industrial age can teach us anything, it is that big business and governments are either not willing, or not able to “fix it”, whatever “it” happens to be. Climate change is no exception.

For the vast majority of us, (who are not making billions of the back of fossil fuel, or other mass polluting industries), the solutions to climate change appear simple enough. We just need to change course, invest differently, get behind renewables, preserve and plant forests etc…

BUT, and this a big but… Most of those in power have a HUGE amount invested in the fossil fuel economy, and surprise surprise……they don’t actually want things to change.

While big business continues to profit from devouring fossil fuels with a rapacious zeal, and governments remain little more than advocates for the corporations that fund their campaigns, should we really be all that surprised that climate summit after climate summit nothing terribly significant is achieved?

It is a curious facet of human nature that when ever circumstances permit almost all of us are driven to acquire wealth well beyond our personal needs, and to that end those of us who find ourselves in power, (be it economic or political), are generally happy to exploit those of us that are not. This usually continues along merrily until those at the bottom of the heap no longer feel that quietly starving is viable strategy and some form of revolution ensues.

Bear in mind revolutionary change is never a top down process, much like a volcanic eruption the pressure builds from beneath until it becomes an unstoppable force. While those at the top may sense the rumblings they almost never choose to tackle the situation head on. (The relatively harmonious dismantling of South Africa’s apartheid being the only example that readily springs to my mind). Instead, like Louis the XVI, the Rominovs, the Saar of Iran and countless others toppled by revolution they turn a deaf ear to their inevitable demise, and it’s usually not until their lives are quite literally on the line that they realize the gravity of what is actually going on.

The corporate/political oligarchy seem happy enough to fiddle while Rome burns, knowing they can afford a class can afford a 1st class ticket out of New Orleans, or Tachloban (or wherever the next disaster falls) well ahead of the storm, and what ever consequences ultimately come, they will most likely occur after their lifetime.

But those of us who don’t have a multiple choice of other homes to occupy (or the private jets to take us there), are all too aware that the weight of any future disasters will fall squarely on our (or our children’s) shoulders. And as such I think it’s time we face the fact…THEY ARE NOT GOING TO FIX IT.

Given that we all know, in heart of hearts, that those in power are highly unlikely to act in any meaningful way, it kind of begs the question: Why are we sitting around like Marx’s lumpen proletariat, or the tragic character’s in Beckets “waiting for Godot” doing nothing, waiting in vain them “to do something about climate change”?… and further more, how exactly is that working out for us? If you believe the science then the only possible answer is not too well!

So where exactly does that leave us?

For a start let’s just sweep aside the all the so called “arguments” of the denialist movement; whom, with a staggeringly willful ignorance manage to push aside 99.9% of the science in order to advocate for the status quo. In spite of the fact the mainstream media, (no doubt due to the vested interests of their owners), continues to give these deluded souls ill deserved airtime to espouse their crackpot anti science, if you talk to any sane, educated person they will readily acknowledge that the proof is in and the facts are irrefutable. Climate change is real, we are responsible and it poses a real, tangible threat to us and future generations!

 

On the face of it this may seem a rather bleak prospect, and many rational Australians are in total despair at the governments active dismantling of our national climate action initiatives. But rather than fall into a pit of despair (like the Greek Goddess Cassandra, who was cursed with seeing the future, but was unable to alter events, or convince others of the validity of her predictions), I would suggest it’s time for us to stop wringing our hands and turn our focus on what WE, as individuals can actually do.

We need to be sewing the seeds of a bottom up revolution. (And no I am not suggesting storming the Bastille, or any other kind of armed rebellion. I am talking more of a 100th Monkey kind of revolution*). If we seriously want to address the issues of climate change and environmental degradation then we need to involve our selves in a revolutionary change of our personal habits, attitudes, expectations of ourselves and others, until we reach a tipping point where people just feel too out of step and too ashamed to behave in wasteful ignorance.

The list of things we can do to reduce our personal environmental footprint is exhaustive. For example I have a tradesman doing work on my house at present. I asked him to take a cup down to the cafe on the corner, rather than add to the pile of cafe cups steadily building up in my bin. While he chose not to take a china cup, he washed out one of his used take away cups and has now had it refilled no less than 15 times. Sure it’s a drop in the ocean, but what is the ocean if not a sea of drops?

For those of you that need a bit of help, here is a short list of changes you can make that WILL help turn the tide… (Remember it is your kids and grand kids that will thank you).

*Eat less meat (even a couple of days meat free is a great start).

*Buy a smaller car and use it less.

*Turn off lights, boycott your down lights (unless they are LED, and change those that are not),

*Use energy efficient lighting ALWAYS.

*Turn appliances off at the wall, don’t leave things on standby.

*Refuse bottled water, drink tap water (buy a filter), don’t drink Soda.

*Eat less take away, and when you do take your rinsed out containers back for a refill.

*Walk to the shop.

*Buy locally made/grown (food co ops and farmers markets are great for this).

*Use reusable bags (make it a habit to refuse plastic shopping bags).

*Read the news on line, don’t buy the print copy.

*Plant trees.

*Use air conditioners sparingly.

*GO SOLAR, (and for any Australian who has a split system air conditioner that says they can’t afford Solar, KNOW that you are lying to yourself… the cost of basic solar is less than the cost of your air conditioner installed. Fact is you just made a selfish choice based on your comfort and convenience; now smile at your kids!!… If you are getting a split system, get the solar to run it FIRST!).

*Buy unpackaged and unprocessed food and actually cook it. You tube is awash with recipes!

*Use phosphate free washing powder and cleaning products (look for the NP logo). Baking soda, white vinegar, borax and lemon juice can also do wonders.

*Next time consciously get a smaller car.

*Don’t sit idling your car while waiting for people, (start it up after they have all arrived).

Add an environmental NGO to your charity list… Personally I like “We Forrest” as a tree planting, environment remediating NGO. $20 can plant enough trees to offset your toilet paper use for a life time… (oh and don’t over use the toilet paper).

While I get that no one can do all of these things all of the time, every little change helps. The more of us that reduce, reuse, and recycle the smaller the problem gets. After all, all revolutions, (both personal and political) start with small acts of change on the part of individuals.

We all know what to do… so why don’t we do it, I am at a loss to understand! Is it because we don’t see it as our responsibility or are we all just too busy waiting for them to fix it?

So, good people I say it’s time for change on a personal level. In the immortal words of John Lennon we all need to “think globally, act locally”. Every one of us has the power to reduce our environmental footprint. What’s more we can do it ourselves, we don’t have to sit about waiting for the likes of Tony Abbott to do it for us!

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Australia To Be A Republic by 2015 thanks to Royal Visit

Photo: Saverscene

Photo: Saverscene

“AUSTRALIANS may get a glimpse of future king Prince George after confirmation that Prince William and Catherine will visit Australia next year.

Prince George will be eight months old when in Australia – a month younger than Prince William was when he headed Down Under with Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1983.”

Now, I’d always hoped that we’d become a republic. It seems to me rather anachronistic that the fact the person who gives the final tick to our laws needs to be appointed by some person in a faraway land whose main contribution to Australia was sending a few loads of predominantly criminal boat people.

But I’d always expected that one day, Australia itself would make the decision. Now, I’m starting to wonder if it’s not more likely that we won’t, in fact, be thrown out of the Commonwealth by the Royal Family!

After all, Prince Charles is a greenie from wayback. He certainly can’t approve of our current “let’s develop clean coal, and while we’re at it, let’s get rid of those dirty windfarms” policies. But, of course, the Royals have just silently sat back and let Parliament have its own way, ever since someone said, “There’s no need to lose your head over this Charles”! (That, of course, was Charles 1, who didn’t listen and who did end up losing his head.)

You see, Prince William and Kate will be visiting next year and I fear that it may go something like this:

“Ah..Welcome to the future monarch of England and his feisty young bride. Although I don’t know if I should be calling her that. They have been married quite a while now. But… ah, in spite of the rigours of childbirth and raising a baby, I must say that Kate still has plenty of sex appeal, and as she clearly likes men who are slightly thinning on top, I’d just like to say, William, if you’re busy at any time, I’d be happy to show her round. I also welcome, young Prince George. The youngest future monarch to ever visit Australia, which occured under my government.

“I, too, know something about what it’s like to go through pregnancy, as I was Opposition Leader for nearly four years, so I have some idea of the relief when you had the wonderful outcome of a baby boy. Something that I only thought I’d experienced but which was cruelly taken aware from me, by an ABC sound recordist, who like all the ABC misrepresented the situation. I suppose that I shouldn’t compare an election campaign to childbirth, because one is painful to everyone, whereas childbirth is only bad for the mother, and it is, after all, something that she is singularly equipped for.

“Unfortunately, Prince George is a bit young for my daughters, who aren’t bad looking. In fact, Kate, you’re lucky William didn’t meet one of them first. We may have had the first Australian Queen.

“So, please enjoy your visit to Australia, and while I never comment on security matters, let me assure you that neither the Australian Government, nor Mr Murdoch, will be hacking your phones. We’ll ensure that the paparazzi are kept away, and let me assure you that we have much better drivers than they have in Paris, so you have no worries there. Once again, you can treat this country like it’s your own, and we’re all at your service. Anything you want, just ask. Particularly you, Kate.”

No, you’re right. Our PM would never be that insensitive. He’d never refer to that time where he thought the ABC sound recordist was his son.

 

Assaults on democracy

Parliament House - the centre of our democracy (image by holam.com.au)

Parliament House – old and new – the centre of our democracy (image by holman.com.au)

There are at least two fundamental requirements for a functioning democracy. In various ways, in recent years, we have seen political parties in Australia attempting to subvert and limit these requirements. This is an assault on democracy itself. It may not be deliberate – political parties, like business entities, will work within the constraints of the law to achieve their ends, and loopholes and aggressive tactics are a part of the game. But dress it up how you may, attempting to coerce the workings of parliament and the electoral choices of a population is anti-democratic even if done within the limitations of the laws of that democracy.

In the business sphere, there is an overarching structure to act as a check and balance. The courts, and above them the legislature, ensure that eventually businesses that exploit loopholes to the detriment of the community can be brought back into line. Through the testing of legislation in the courts, through the drafting of new laws and regulations, there are means to help ensure that the system is fluid and no entities can subvert the intention of the regulations to which all businesses are subject.

Politics has no such overarching structure. The limits on politics are the various parties themselves – where one party oversteps the bounds, the only bodies that can pull them up on it are other political parties. Some of the time this works. And sometimes it does not.

Given untrammelled power – for instance, control of both houses of Parliament – a government can adjust the goalposts in such a way as to benefit their own interests and continued dominance. When the cycle turns, as eventually it must, an incoming government is then able to either take advantage of the changes the previous government has wrought, or to reverse the changes and implement their own.

The Australian constitution holds various aspects of our democracy sacrosanct and to change these requires a referendum. The basic mechanics of elections and parties and the existence of two houses are not in danger. There are plenty of other ways that a political party can act to extend its own hegemony, and any number of ways that the intent of a democracy can be subverted by the details.

Basic requirements for a healthy democracy include the following.

1. A free press

Or more accurately, even and impartial coverage and analysis of the issues. Fundamentally, Australian democracy is about vision. In a hundred policy areas each government has to balance the requirements of the community and the best interests of the country. In order to effectively judge the promised approach of a candidate government to each of these areas, in order to accurately evaluate the needs of Australia’s present and future, clear and informative reporting is needed.

In Australia, the media environment is skewed. Various reports have pointed to the obvious bias in the large majority of Australia’s news media. Against this bias, only the minority Fairfax and the public broadcaster ABC attempt a more balanced view. Readers of this blog will understand that “more balanced”, to the conservatives, reads as “rabid pinko”. A detailed analysis of the relative bias of the ABC vs News Ltd is outside of the scope of this article. What is not, is that the Coalition is currently openly discussing curtailing the ABC’s power to operate in the news arena.

“He said there was a compelling case to consider breaking the ABC into two entities with the traditional television and radio operations protected to ensure services in the bush and regional Australia, while the online news service could be disposed of.” http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/turnbull-defends-abc-but-colleagues-want-to-preach-it-a-lesson-20131203-2yotw.html#ixzz2mS3lekiz

Of course, the Abbott government has form in the area of suppressing balanced information from the populace. In just a short three months in office, they have disbanded information bodies, restricted the information flow out of government, suppressed information on the grounds of “operational matters” despite said information being available to those not unfortunate enough to live in Australia, and continued the active dissemination of misinformation, half-truths and blatant untruths.

2. Robust representation in the Parliament

In a representative democracy, not every member of Parliament is going to belong to or be sympathetic to the government. Those members and senators elected to represent the opposition and independent parties – even those who do not represent a party at all – are not there to warm chairs. They are not elected to become a part of the government machine and uncritically support any intentions of the government of the day. Instead, they are there to be a dissenting voice, and hopefully through negotiation in the interests of the people they represent, to improve proposed legislation through amendments. The operation of the Parliament and Senate in this regard is a deliberate structure to ensure that all new law is viewed through the lens of more than one stakeholder; to ensure that legislation that benefits one group does not act unfairly to the detriment of others.

Both Labor and the Coalition in recent years – and as recently as the current sitting of Parliament – have taken, and are taking, actions to subvert this function. Such actions include scheduling complicated legislation for debate and passage in unfeasibly short timeframes. For examples of this – on both sides – you need look no further than the carbon “tax”. Labor provided a package of legislation running to over 1000 pages to the Parliament with eight days to read, understand, debate and vote on it. In response, the Coalition has given the repeal of the carbon tax – eleven bills, to be discussed together – just three and a half days of debate. It would be bad enough if it were just the “tax” being debated, but tied up in the repeal are dozens of climate bodies, administrative bodies, funding arrangements, and associated clean energy infrastructure.

Arguably, however, the Coalition has been worse in their abuse of the processes of Parliament. During the previous term of government, they brought few amendments to the house, preferring instead to grandstand, disrupt proceedings with continual calls to suspend standing orders, and in most cases in Question Time to ask not one question relating to their own portfolios. This was not effective representation of their constituents. But the worst was yet to come.

In the current term, in addition to electing a clearly partisan speaker to the chair of the House – Bronwyn Bishop, who remains in the party room and is an integral part of the Coalition’s governing body – they have also taken actions that in one fell swoop ensure the failure of any amendments to legislation and disempower any independent voices. The attempt to vote on all proposed amendments as a block ensures that a flaw in one amendment, or contradictory amendments, or an extreme position on behalf of one proposal will knock out all the amendments at once. As Penny Wong stated in parliament, this is procedurally impossible. She might have added, deliberately so – it is a flagrant breach of the intention of amendments. (I am unable to find references online to this abuse of process. If you can provide a link, please leave it in the comments.)

Understandably, governments want to implement their policies. But subverting debate using procedural methods is as much an assault on democracy as is continual sabotage of proceedings using points of order and interjections.

Does anybody even listen to Parliament any more?

The majority of the Australian people remain minimally aware of the vagaries of Parliament and how it operates, far less the way that it is intended to represent the interests of non-governmental political parties. Tony Abbott and some sections of the news media deliberately play to this disaffection as they talk about a “mandate” for the government to implement its policies and report scant, if any, details of the proceedings of legislation through the parliament. Regardless, the details remain critically important. These are our representatives, this is our government, and any attempt to usurp the proper processes of democracy is an assault on everyone’s rights – whether you support the government of the day or not. Accordingly, those who are politically aware and interested need to draw attention to these abuses wherever they may be found. Only by showing that people are watching, and that we care about the concept of democracy as much as about its outcomes, can we avoid permanent and catastrophic debasement of government in Australia.

Message Control

I think we all agree that Labor shot itself in the foot by using the media to broadcast their internal squabbles. Conceding that, far greater forces were at play.

The other seemingly obvious cause was Labor’s failure to get their message across. Their achievements in government were significant, their policies were vastly superior (in most cases), and their ministers, if not overly charismatic, were at least competent and knowledgeable in their portfolios.

We all watched with increasing concern as they allowed the Coalition, ably abetted by the Murdoch press, to dictate the message. Carbon pricing became a “lie” and a “toxic tax”. Rather than answering this campaign with the obvious advantages of carbon pricing in dealing with climate change, they went into defence mode and we now find the carbon tax being blamed for everything to do with the economy, investment, manufacturing, jobs and cost of living.

It doesn’t seem to matter that the economy has a AAA credit rating, that we have had record investment, and that the average household is $14 000 a year better off now than they were in 2007. It doesn’t seem to matter that, until very recently, the mainstream business community was behind carbon pricing. It doesn’t seem to matter what reasons businesses give for closing, we are told it’s the carbon tax. And even after the repeal of the carbon tax is underway, and we still see businesses closing, it’s still the fault of the carbon tax.

In an astonishing transformation, we saw Tony Abbott move from an attack dog to Prime Minister, from misogynist to Minister for Women, from telling Aborigines they should pick up rubbish to crowning himself Minister for Indigenous Affairs.

The Opposition had a strategy to keep the focus on the Government, to present a small target, to keep it simple and to exploit fear and populism. In other words, they controlled the message. They began the campaign with the infamous headless chook ad but when it was panned as childish and inappropriate they quickly morphed into the ‘adults’ carrying out a positive campaign warning us that Labor would get nasty. Actually, looking back, the ‘negative’ ads from Labor were quite prophetic.

So the Coalition won, promising us transparency and accountability – no surprises. They assumed they would be able to control the message in government as they had so successfully in opposition. Tony began by shutting the Indonesian press out of his first press conference on their soil. It did not go over well. His tough guy rhetoric for the domestic market has not been well received on the international stage.

His obsession with axing the tax might have done well for Tony here where he, along with people like Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones, have convinced many people that climate change is crap. In the rest of the world his actions are being condemned and his rhetoric is being drowned out by the latest IPCC report and the growing commitment of other world leaders to take action on climate change.

In a further attempt to control the message, all interviews with Ministers have to be approved by the Prime Minister’s Office 24 hours prior to the interview. Scott Morrison is perfecting hiding the boats and Joe Hockey won’t tell us why the debt ceiling needs to be increased. Julie Bishop refuses to disclose details about any of her meetings with foreign leaders and the briefings from departments to the incoming government will not be released.

Newly appointed head of NBNco, former Telstra boss Ziggy Switkowski, has certainly changed his message from 2003 when Telstra told the Senate Committee that the copper network was at “5 minutes to midnight” to now, when he told them it is “robust”. He has also been instructed not to talk to the media.

Experienced public servants have been sacked in their droves and an ‘Independent’ review panels have been set up to look at … well … just about everything. The trouble is that these review panels are composed of ex-Liberals and businessmen who have already expressed very strong views about what they are supposed to be reviewing, and as they have only been given a few months to prepare their advice, they will not be consulting with other concerned bodies. I would suggest these panels have been selected because they already know the message they are supposed to give.

We have BHP advising on climate change, the BCA which represents banks and mining companies doing the Commission of Audit, the former head of the Commonwealth Bank reviewing the finance sector, and one of the fiercest critics of Labor’s NBN, columnist for The Australian Henry Ergas, on the three man panel to do a cost-benefit analysis of the NBN.

And now we having Tony Abbott’s speeches being airbrushed from history – or is it is lies being airbrushed from history? – and his ‘excuse’ for the back flip on school funding highlights what could best be described as a classic case of ‘gaslighting’ (as pointed out by one of The AIMN’s readers):

“We are going to keep the promise that we actually made, not the promise that some people thought that we made, or the promise that some people might have liked us to make”.

From Wikipedia: “Gaslighting is a form of mental abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making a victim doubt his or her own memory, perception and sanity”. With the amount of message control we are being fed that certainly appears to be a technique of the Abbott Government.

Eric Hoffer once said “Propaganda does not deceive people; it merely helps them to deceive themselves”. With the growing reach of the fifth estate, it is becoming harder to control the message and there is little excuse for self-deception. However, we should remember that:

“If people in the media cannot decide whether they are in the business of reporting news or manufacturing propaganda, it is all the more important that the public understand that difference, and choose their news sources accordingly.”

Thomas Sowell.

We need to put message control into the control of the right people.

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