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Tag Archives: climate change authority

And so the lies and madness continue . . .

At the Clean Energy Week Conference in July 2013, South Australian Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham made the following pledge:

“The Coalition remains committed to the 20 per cent Renewable Energy Target. It is a position we have re-stated on multiple occasions and following the last review conducted by the Climate Change Authority.

It has been interesting to note the claims being made about what the Coalition will or won’t do. All of it is simply conjecture. The Coalition supports the current system, including the 41,000 giga-watt hours target.

We know and appreciate that the industry wants certainty and I assure you that any review will be conducted in an open and transparent way, guided by experts, with all parties encouraged to make submissions. There are no hidden agendas in this process, just a determination to ensure the Renewable Energy Target is operating as effectively as it can.

There is no doubt that renewable energy will play an important and growing role in delivering the future energy needs of Australia.

Modelling demonstrates that the RET is the primary driver of change in electricity generation in the period to 2020. The investment decisions which have driven the investment in wind farms and solar were made irrespective of the Carbon Tax and started well before it. Those investment decisions will continue if the Carbon Tax is removed.

The RET will be a key driver of change under the Coalition, complementing our direct action initiatives.

We also know there is a role for research and development and so have given our support to the role of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

A significant part of our Direct Action Plan is support for solar power.

Despite the constant changes to policy settings over recent years around small scale schemes, one million roofs across Australia now have a solar system installed. It is an important milestone and an indication of the Australian community’s support for solar.

While Australia has now hit the one million mark, we still believe there is opportunity to cautiously support the market as it expands in a sustainable way. This includes providing a greater focus on solar hot water, which was hit hard by the Government last year suddenly scrapping its rebate scheme, and encouraging greater uptake among low income households.

The Coalition has a strong track record on the environment and in its support for renewable energy through the Renewable Energy Target. What we want to be able to deliver, if elected, is a policy that provides sustainability and a long-term future for the industry, without constant chopping and changing.

We want the clean energy industries to have a strong future and I close today by assuring you that we believe our policy settings can help you to achieve that strong future and we look forward to working with you to achieve that shared goal. I wish you all a very successful Clean Energy Week.”

In November 2013, Environment Minister Greg Hunt announced to the Clean Energy Council industry gathering that the Coalition was committed to its $500 million “one million solar roofs” program.

Mr Hunt described the flagship solar program – which provided $500 rebates for installing one million rooftop solar energy systems over the next 10 years – as a “shining beacon” of the Abbott government’s Direct Action climate policy.

He added a further $50 million each would be given to the solar towns and solar schools programs.

“Each of these three new programs is being prepared for implementation and will commence in the 2014-15 financial year,” he said.

As the budget drew closer, Mr Hunt continued to assure industry figures that the solar policies would proceed.

As has become the habit, all but $2 million of Hunt’s $600 million in promised policies was abandoned.

The 2014-15 budget allocated no money for solar roofs and nothing for solar schools. Just $2.1 million was given to the solar towns policy despite Mr Hunt promising $50 million in November.

“The budget speech delivered by the Treasurer Joe Hockey confirmed that the government would move to abolish the primary renewable energy agency, the $3.1 billion Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), cut the planned “one million solar roofs program, and cast doubt on the future of the Renewable Energy Target (RET).

ARENA will have the funds to support 181 projects, worth about $1 billion, that have already been contracted since its creation in 2012, but will get just $15 million over each of the next two years for new projects.”

Similarly the coalition promised to maintain Landcare funding but instead $484 million was cut from Landcare and the Caring for Our Country programs.

WWF-Australia National Manager Climate Change Kellie Caught said, “The government could reduce debt, invest in renewables and tackle climate change if it kept the carbon price and cut the $3 billion to $5 billion a year in fossil fuel subsides.”

“The big end of town’s diesel fuel subsidies cost every taxpayer around $300 a year,” Australian Conservation Foundation CEO Kelly O’Shanassy said. “While other motorists continue to pay 32c a litre now and more each year on fuel, companies like Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton pay no tax on the diesel they use. And because the fuel excise will increase every year, big corporations will get an increased subsidy every year.”

John Grimes, Chief Executive of the Australian Solar Council, said “Whilst the government defends billions of dollars of fuel subsidies for wealthy miners, it has abolished our world-leading solar research.”

In July, Treasurer Joe Hockey and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann wrote to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) directing it to change its investment mandate, banning new funding for wind projects.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said “It is our policy to abolish the CEFC, because we think that if the projects stack up economically, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be supported in the usual way. While the CEFC exists, what we believe it should be doing is investing in new and emerging technologies, certainly not existing wind farms.”

The Climate Council provides some evidence based research

Australia has some of the best renewable energy resources in the world, particularly in wind and solar (Geoscience Australia and ABARE 2010).

In fact, according to the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO 2013) Australia has more than enough renewable energy resources to power all our electricity needs. AEMO (2013) modeled scenarios for providing 100 percent of Australia’s electricity from renewable energy, and found potential renewable generation to be about 500 times greater than demand in the National Electricity Market (NEM).

However despite having world-class renewable energy resources, particularly in wind and solar, Australia has a low share of renewable electricity generation – seventh lowest among 28 member countries of the International Energy Agency (Australian Energy Regulator 2012). According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, uncertainty over the RE T in Australia has resulted in a 70% slump in investment in renewable energy over the past year (The Guardian 2014).

As well as providing low or no emissions energy, renewables attract investment and create jobs, particularly in regional Australia. Twenty one thousand people are already employed in the renewable energy industry in Australia (Clean Energy Council 2014a) and modelling by the Climate Institute (2011) estimated that nearly 32,000 renewable energy jobs (including over 6,800 new permanent jobs) could be created in Australia by 2030 with strong and consistent climate policies.

Farmers and landowners in regional areas who lease their land for wind turbines also benefit through annual lease payments which provide a reliable, alternative source of income and help to “drought-proof” farms (Chapman 2013). Around $16.4 million is paid annually in lease payments for hosting wind turbines (Epuron 2014; Clean Energy Council 2014a).

Solar and wind provide clean energy and consequently also have additional benefits of reducing the pollution from other energy sources. Coal, the dominant fuel for electricity in Australia produces pollutants that damage human health through mining, transportation, combustion and the disposal of waste (Epstein et al 2011). In Australia, it is estimated that the adverse impacts from pollutants produced from coal-fired electricity generation costs A$ 2.6 billion annually (ATSE 2009).

Instead of taking heed of this mountain of evidence, the Coalition, urged on by cross bench Senators, prefers to listen to Sarah Laurie who heads the anti-wind-farm Waubra Foundation.

She claims that wind turbines can make people’s lips vibrate “as from a distance of 10km away” and that turbines can “perceptibly rock stationary cars even further than a kilometre away from the nearest wind turbine.”

Last December, Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal refused her standing as an expert witness in a case, arguing that she had no training in research, but was seeking to provide expert interpretation of research. They also noted that as an unregistered doctor, she was not allowed to diagnose health problems, but that this was precisely what much of her proposed evidence involved her doing. The judgment states that Laurie has agreed to stop calling herself Dr Laurie.

That did not stop our government accepting her “expert testimony” to the Senate Committee on Wind Turbines who quote her extensively in their findings.

2.8 Dr Sarah Laurie told the committee:

The human cost of the failure to protect people from excessive noise pollution, especially at night, is terrible. I have personally helped to prevent a number of suicides of people who were utterly desperate because of the consequences of excessive noise pollution and who reached out for help…[3]

From my experience there is a subset of people who are terribly impacted very early on. Those people are the ones who tend to present with acute vestibular disorder type of symptoms—dizziness and motion sickness, which can be accompanied by extreme anxiety. Those people often just cannot last very long, and they move if they can.[4]

However when Professor Simon Chapman AO, Professor of Public Health at the University of Sydney, gave his evidence the committee were damning.

2.21 The committee highlights the fact that Professor Chapman is not a qualified, registered nor experienced medical practitioner, psychiatrist, psychologist, acoustician, audiologist, physicist or engineer. Accordingly:

  • he has not medically assessed a single person suffering adverse health impacts from wind turbines;
  • his research work has been mainly—and perhaps solely—from an academic perspective without field studies;
  • his views have been heavily criticised by several independent medical and acoustic experts in the international community; and
  • many of his assertions do not withstand fact check analyses.


2.22 Professor Chapman has made several claims which are contrary to the evidence gathered by this committee. First, he argues that the majority of Australia’s wind turbines have never received a single complaint.[19] There are various problems with this statement:

i.wind turbines located significant distances from residents will not generate complaints;

ii.many residents suffering adverse health effects were not aware of any nexus between their health and the impact of wind turbines in order to make a complaint;

iii. just because residents do not lodge a formal complaint does not mean they are not suffering adverse health effects; obtained by Professor Chapman from wind farm operators of the numbers of complaints lodged cannot be relied upon; and

v.the use of non-disclosure clauses and ‘good neighbour agreements’ legally restricts people from making adverse public statements or complaints.

And so the madness continues . . .

Why the bloody hell are you doing this?

To those who find the title offensive, I apologise. I got my inspiration from the former chief executive of Tourism Australia, Scott Morrison, who asked the rest of the world: ‘Where the bloody hell are you?’

According to a government paper released in July 2013, Tourism’s Contribution to the Australian Economy, the tourism industry employs 908,434 persons or 7.9% of total Australian employment (Direct – 531,900 persons, Indirect – 376,534 persons). Mining, by comparison, employs 2.4% of the workforce with this figure set to drop.

In 2011-12, tourism’s contribution to Australia’s GDP was $87.3 billion or 5.9% of total GDP (Direct GDP – $41.0 billion, Indirect GDP – $46.2 billion). In the same year, mining contributed 9.6% of GDP.

In the long term, total tourism GDP rose at an average annual rate of 4.6 per cent between 1997–98 and 2011–12 and it is continuing to grow with short-term visitor arrivals to Australia forecast to grow to 7.0 million in 2014–15. Inbound expenditure is forecast to grow on average 3.5 per cent per annum and reach $39 billion by 2022–23.

In summary, tourism is a big employer and a growing industry which makes a substantial contribution to our economy. Unlike mining, the majority of the profits from this industry remain in Australia. Unlike manufacturing, it doesn’t move operations offshore to save money (unless you count Qantas). Whole communities are built around tourism which does not all of a sudden decide to close like factories or mines do.

So how is the Abbott government protecting this most important industry?

According to Wikipedia:

“Popular Australian destinations include the coastal cities of Sydney and Melbourne, as well as other high profile destinations including regional Queensland, the Gold Coast and the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest reef. Uluru and the Australian outback are other popular locations, as is Tasmanian wilderness. The unique Australian wildlife is also another significant point of interest in the country’s tourism.”

We are covering regional Queensland with mines. We are dumping dredge on the reef which will now become a highway for huge tankers. We are getting rid of World Heritage listing so we can log the Tasmanian forests. We are getting rid of marine parks so we can kill more marine life. And in the most foolhardy step of all, we are refusing to take action on climate change which will put all these national treasures at risk and make large parts of the country virtually uninhabitable.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt has said the closure of the Climate Change Authority was part of a push to reduce bureaucracy, and climate change advice could come from the federal environment department, CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology.

He then promptly cut hundreds of jobs at the CSIRO in November:

“The Federal Government says as many as 600 jobs will be cut at Australia’s pre-eminent science and research organisation.”

and hundreds more in March.

Hundreds more job cuts are looming at the CSIRO as the peak science body pushes through its biggest restructure in decades. The job cuts are on top of the ban on renewing the jobs of CSIRO’s temps and contractors, revealed by Fairfax last year, which has caused the group’s head count to fall from 6500 to fewer than 6100.”

The same thing happened at the Department of the Environment.

“About 480 public servants will lose their jobs at Environment, on top of 190 bureaucrats who have already gone, and hundreds of programs and activities will either be modified or axed in a sweeping restructure as the department tries to cope with dwindling funds and efficiency dividend cuts.”

The Bureau of Meteorology had its budget slashed by $13 million last year and now runs commercial ads on its website. Robert Crawford, a communications professor at University of Technology Sydney, said:

”There could be a temptation to reduce funding, but you wouldn’t want them to become dependent on outside revenue because advertisers can always walk away.”

Bernie Fraser, Climate Change Authority chairman, said public servants did good work, but did not have the freedom and opportunity to deliver well-considered, independent advice in the manner of the authority, Reserve Bank or Productivity Commission.

”On a subject as complex as climate change, I would have thought every government – whatever its complexion – would want to get good independent advice. I find it a bit frustrating this opportunity … seems to be foreclosing a bit with the present government. I think that’s a disappointment.”

Tony Abbott continues to show his utter disregard for the environment and climate science. When addressing a timber industry dinner, despite Heritage Listing and dire warnings about deforestation, he said:

We have quite enough national parks. We have quite enough locked up forests already. In fact, in an important respect, we have too much locked up forest. Getting that 74,000 hectares out of World Heritage Listing, … will be an important sign to you, to Tasmanians, to the world, that we support the timber industry.”

Despite the cuts we see elsewhere, Abbott found the money to set up a new Forestry Advisory Council to support the timber industry.

Now we hear that Parks Australia, which administers the six Commonwealth National Parks, including Kakadu, Uluru, Christmas Island, and Canberra’s National Botanic Gardens, as well as 58 marine reserves, will face funding cuts which will cause it to consider raising money by raising visitors’ fees, allowing more commercial tourist infrastructure – like hotels – to be built or even selling naming rights.

Also, the Hobart-based Australian Antarctic Division has had $100 million cut from its funding and will have to seek commercial sponsorship from private corporations for future research.

This government is hellbent on a short term grab for cash. Investors advise that there is a very small window for making a profit from coal – it is most definitely not an investment for the future. So what do we do? Approve massive new coal mines and port expansion on the reef. Renewable energy is a growing industry so what do we do? Wind back subsidies and review the renewable energy target and send investors scurrying. Selling profitable assets to build roads is a hugely retrograde step. Not only do we forego future revenue and leave the cupboard bare, the employment generated during construction is not ongoing, and does nothing to address the problem of pollution caused by an increasing number of cars clogging our cities. Obviously urban rail, public transport, bike lanes, high speed rail, and a second airport for Sydney are more pressing priorities.

We live in a beautiful country. Even if you are not willing to fight for it for purely aesthetic reasons, sacrificing everything for mining makes no economic sense. We are sacrificing tourism and manufacturing, our health and our home, all for a dying industry. This government might get to a surplus a couple of years earlier – so what? The cost of irreversible damage is far too high.


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