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Tag Archives: CSIRO

CPAC’s travelling show can pack up and go home. And stay there.

“I’ve been to the border,” Fox TV’s Judge Jeanine Pirro says. US citizens living there talk of “rape trees” upon which the clothes of rape victims are hung she says. They talk of children having their hearts cut out with machetes. The US, as Donald Trump regularly tweets, is under siege; its way of life threatened by an invasion of rapists from south of the border. Trump’s re-election campaign team repeats the siege message 2199 times in paid Facebook ads since January.

Welcome to the Conservative Political Action Conference or CPAC ‘s travelling show, a rabble of far right US fear-mongers, liars and conspiracy crackpots convinced by Trump’s canard that George Soros or The Democrats fund the migrant caravan. It’s a popular idea which provokes distrust and permits inhumanity.

Peter Dutton expresses similar ideas regarding our refugees on Manus and Nauru. He claims they are “economic refugees” who own “Armani jeans and handbags”.

Add the odd stray Brexiteer and sundry alt-right camp followers. Blend in two, confused members of the Morrison government, Craig Kelly and Amanda Stoker, bestowing a type of legitimacy -and presto -we have a three-day bag-fest of racist hatred, intolerance and ignorance vital to any healthy democracy. Or so our Federal government insists.

CPAC’s enriched US politics. It helped launch Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump, two useful idiots who could attract, repel or just distract the masses while lowering taxes and elevating naked greed; allowing finance, business, mining and gambling get everything they want. It’s a recipe for success that the Morrison government is following religiously.

The gory border story is a fiction told by Trump buddy Judge Jeanine. It’s all part of the enriching offerings to a conference which our Coalition government has sagely declared not to be white hate speech at all. Nope. Nope. Nope.

CPAC’s the voice of sweet reason itself, a symposium vital to any free speech-embracing democracy to add to its community conversation about why we should hate Mexican rapists, child-murderers and fear refugee-invasion. In local content, Craig Kelly MP says the CSIRO should go to jail for its science and calls for us to embrace nuclear power plants.

How good is the power of the nuclear energy industry?

Pirro’s in Sydney to help spread hate and fear at CPAC, a forum for the lunatic right, which began in 1974, with a speech from Ronald Reagan who entered national politics ten years earlier after a televised address promoting Barry Goldwater. Reagan’s talk did not help Goldwater win the election. Oddly, voters saw Barry as a dangerous, right-wing extremist.

True, Goldwater did want to nuke Hanoi. But this strategy was also advocated in 1965 by the US military’s Joint Chiefs during Lyndon Johnson’s presidency, Daniel Ellsberg reports, a plan, he believes, which was aimed at provoking a nuclear war with China. The Joint Chiefs envisaged a big show which would need 500,000 to a million troops.

Even more oddly, Johnson said no. He chose to do some socially useful projects. His Great Society and War on Poverty.

All was not lost, however. California’s business elite saw in Reagan a man with the charm to sell right-wing extremism. Reagan was duly recruited as Republican Party candidate for Governor of California. He won easily by promising tax cuts. His victory was helped by a smear campaign against his opponent, Pat Brown. Trump’s rise to power has many parallels.

Star of her own Fox reality TV show, Justice with Judge Jeanine, Pirro is more than an incendiary hate-speaker, she’s a total pyromaniac. Her role as a tireless Trump cheer-leader has helped her to rebuild her TV career after a setback in the 1990s when her ex-husband Al Pirro, a Trump power-broker, went to jail for conspiracy and tax evasion.

Trump’s a HUGE fan. Not only does their friendship go back decades, the pair enjoy what The Washington Post’s Sarah Ellison calls “transactional loyalty”, a concept well understood by Morrison and Liberal Party leadership strategists.

“She’s as sexy as hell,” Trump tells New York Magazine; Pirro’s show is a relentless defence of everything Trump, but this week, she’s in Sydney spreading a type of lie that inflames prejudice and helps incite violence. Invasion is a fixation in the online manifesto of Patrick Crusius, the 21 year old who is accused of killing 22 people in a Texas Wal-Mart.

Headline speakers, such as Pirro, peddle xenophobia, bigotry, misogyny, hatred and work themselves into a lather with their lurid anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic murder and rape fantasies in a ballroom set up with brown vinyl chairs at Sydney’s Rydge’s World Square Hotel, Friday to Sunday. But it’s not all rabid hate-speaking. Organisers thoughtfully include some local comic talent. Clown duo, Mark Latham and Ross Cameron, for example, do the warm-up.

Boosted as the largest gathering of conservatives in Australia, in fact it’s tiny; roughly one tenth of the size of all registered Tasmanian Organ Donors or 0.17% of the Melbourne Cricket Club’s waiting list.

But size doesn’t matter. Organisers have deep pockets; grand plans. CPAC’s powerful backers tell The Guardian’s Michael McGowan, they are committed to making the event a “multi-year, forever-type project” aimed at “galvanising” the right wing of Australian politics. Why not? Luigi Galvani even made dead frogs’ legs twitch by applying an electric current.

CPAC’s a show that ScoMo & Co sagely decide we all need to see. In fact, there are more than a few members of the government mad keen to attend – but don’t for a moment think MPs’ attendance is any endorsement, cautions failed Dutton coup numbers man, Matthias Cormann. No? Nor does it add any legitimacy to see George Christensen in the crowd, Jim Molan, former deputy PM National Party hack and mining shill John Anderson with Tony Abbott on stage.

Liberal Party MP when he’s not doing stand-up comedy, Craig Kelly’s a crack-up with his routine about how Tony Abbott won the Coalition’s election for it by attracting all the “crazies” to Warringah. “Took the bullets” for the others, he says, in what has to be least well-judged metaphor of the week. But wait. There’s more. Kelly says CSIRO ought to be in jail.

He accuses the science agency of a “bogus report” on energy costs because its 2018 report finds solar and wind generation technologies are the cheapest power stations to “build new”. CSIRO, of course, is correct. So, too is The Climate Council which reports Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s conclusion,

“Due to the continued fall in the cost of wind and solar, as well as the higher international price for black coal, it is now the same cost or cheaper to build a new wind or solar plant in Australia than to continue operating old coal power stations in New South Wales and Queensland.”

“If an ASX-listed company said that in an annual report, they would likely end up in jail because of how misleading it is,” Kelly claims modelling, himself, the sort of wilful disinformation he tries to rail against.

Meanwhile, Federal Energy Minister, the Watergate and Grass-gate survivor, Angus Gravy-train, Taylor is forming “a new taskforce” to pressure AGL to keep coal-fired Liddell power station open. It’s all part of ScoMo & Co’s big-stick approach.

Taylor says his taskforce, to be set up in partnership with the NSW Government, will consider “all options” – Liberal code for putting on blinkers; propping up coal. He does not rule out using taxpayer money to extend the life of the plant. AGL responds by pointing out that doing so would cost “a lot of money” and any such move “does not stack up.”

The IMF reports that the Australian tax-payer is already subsidising fossil-fuel industries to the tune of $29 billion a year.

In the CPAC spirit of personalised ridicule, Kelly has a presentation trophy to award to Labor Senator, Kristina Keneally.

“This is the CPAC Freedom Award, which goes to the individual who has done the most to promote the CPAC conference,” Kelly tells about 200 attendees. Thigh-slapping hilarity erupts on one side only.  Keneally sees it as part of a Two-minute Hate and straight from the pages of George Orwell’s dystopian vision of the future 1984.

“It’s uncanny how much CPAC is exactly what it claims to oppose,” Keneally tweets. “They are … spending all day yelling about their ‘enemies’. This is exactly how people under totalitarian regimes behave.” And key National Party figures.

Farmers’ friend and champion of the man on the land, John Anderson was chairman of coal seam gas frontrunner Eastern Star Gas, bought out by Santos in 2011. He’s one of a herd of former Nationals MP who model transactional loyalty, locally, despite some fuddy-duddy farmers seeing the defection from agriculture to mining as a betrayal.

Former Nationals MP, and pro-coal energy minister, Garry West ,chairs, for undisclosed sums, the Integra Vale, Ulan coal, Moorlaben coal, and the BHP Caroona Coal project, adjacent to Shenhua Watermark’s mine. It’s all part of the mining industry community consultation hoax. Former Nat, Larry Anthony, a former Shenhua Watermark lobbyist, was an advocate for a coal mine which was recently in the news for rigging the storage volume of underground aquifers.

“The values used were implausibly high based on our research,” Ian Acworth, UNSW Emeritus Professor, says in May.

Asking the questions, always more engaging than a talk, Ando interviews his old pal Abbo – who makes a double debut as ex-MP, and ex-PM. Australia is now a nation that offers “death on demand” warns the former minister for women, a master of the hollow three word slogan.

In NSW, an abortion law reform bill which has yet to pass the upper house, had been sprung on voters. “No due consultation”, protests the former PM who sprang a postal vote on marriage equality on the entire nation rather than face a divided party room. Victoria’s recent, assisted dying law proves we’ve lost our moral anchor points. Christianity used to anchor our morality, asserts Abbott, whose former spiritual mentor and adviser was Cardinal George Pell.

Death on demand? Lost moral anchor? “It’s pretty rich”, writes Junkee’s Joseph Earp, “coming from a man who helped speed along an environmental apocalypse that will cost the lives of animals and humans alike.”

“Faith is a gift,” Abbott offers generously. “Some people have it, some people don’t.” Go bite an onion.

Recording or photographing Abbott’s riff is forbidden. He insists. Some of the small audience applaud. The left, he says, opaquely, is wallowing in identity. Wallowing. “Spiritually we’ve rarely been worse off than we are now,” he adds for good measure, perhaps, a typically public-spirited projection of his own long, dark, night of the soul.

Equally benighted but in Australia’s post-modern under-paid, casual, part-time workplace where wage theft is rife, Queensland senator, Amanda Stoker drones on about how industrial relations means labour hire and localised enterprise-bargaining, a vision of the future, surely, now that the government has its Ensuring Integrity bill through the lower house. The cross-bench will be sure to fall in line, especially if demon union thug John Setka’s name is mentioned.

But don’t get the wrong idea. So the government is cosying up to the lunar right in public? Don’t mean a thing. OK? But it does lend a dangerous legitimacy to the lunar right, as Jason Wright thoughtfully observes in The Guardian.

Raheem Kassam, a former Breitbart London editor who calls the Muslim holy book, the Quran, “fundamentally evil”, and Islam a fascistic and totalitarian ideology,” is a “career bigot” says Shadow Home Affairs Minister, Kristina Keneally. Last month, Keneally unsuccessfully asked that he be denied entry to the country.

Friday, in a speech largely devoted to attacking Kenneally and accusing her of putting his life in danger, Kassam says,

“She should be ashamed of herself … There’s nothing Christian about silencing your opposition,” he says, preferring an ad hominem attack on Senator Keneally and her Catholic beliefs, to any reasoned rebuttal. Kassam illustrates the fallacy of the Morrison government’s claim that CPAC even vaguely involves or promotes rational debate. Kenneally is closer to the mark when she describes the gathering as a “talk-fest of hate”. And anger.

Warming the chair for Sky’s David Speers, ABC Insiders’ Patricia Karvelas asks an evasive Simon Birmingham if “we are we seeing a more aggressive position taken by conservatives after the election of your government?”

Birmingham evades Karvelas’ question. He might well quibble with her misuse of the term. CPAC is conservative in name only.

Morrison’s government is cosying up in public to win votes from the radical right attending CPAC and those who share its prejudices, its racism and xenophobia. It is also being disingenuous about its motives and the effect of its attendance.

“Their attendance at this conference does not imply agreement or endorsement with the views of any of the other speakers attending in any way,” a dangerously deluded Cormann would have us believe. He fails to explain how or why not.

“The government will always stand against divisive, inflammatory commentary which seeks to incite hatred or which seeks to vilify people.”

“However the way to defeat bad ideas, bad arguments and unacceptable views is through debate, especially with those we disagree with. It is not by limiting our conversations only to those who at all times share all of our views.”

Cormann forgets Scott Morrison’s 2011 suggestion that the Coalition exploit anti-Muslim sentiment. Or when in 2015 Abbott allowed George Christensen to attend an anti-Muslim rally. Or Tony Abbott in 2015 insinuating Muslim leaders do not condemn terrorism: “I’ve often heard Western leaders describe Islam as a ‘religion of peace’. I wish more Muslim leaders would say that more often, and mean it.” Or when Abbott chose Syrian refugees on the basis of religion.

We could add many more examples. There’s Handy Andy Hastie’s “Islam must change.” But this just brings him into line with the budgie-smuggler who declared that Islam has a massive problem and who called for a “reformation”.

Penny Wong points out the difference between hate speech and “bad ideas.” The nonsense that any of the speakers attending is willing to enter into rational debate or is as farcical as expecting the Morrison government to heed the science on climate change or to expect Peter Dutton to retract his scare campaign on the dangers of refugees using Medevac legislation to flood our shores.  Or issue an apology for his Melbourne African gang fear-mongering.

Having Cormann lecture us on bad ideas is hilarious coming from a man who tried to make Peter Dutton PM. As for rational debate, this is the Finance Minister who claims that tax cuts for the rich stimulate the economy. Sorry Matthias, you Belgian sausage, all evidence is to the contrary – especially in Trump’s Dis-United States of America.

But it’s a top show. Sponsored mainly by US organisations and gun, oil and cigarette industries, CPAC has deep ties to the Koch brothers. Our IPA, LibertyWorks and Advance Australia are also right behind the far right.

Augmenting top acts from Trump’s America is not only “Mr Brexit” nifty Nigel Farage, former head of the United Kingdom Independence Party, introduced to the CPAC audience as “quite possibly” Britain’s next PM. Seriously?

“A snake”, hisses Nigel Farage attacking a straw man; a mythical Malcolm Turnbull who starts out all right but who engineers a serpentine leftist coup. The crowd cheers, thrilled by Nige’s Olympian detachment, halcyon objectivity and utter historical falsehood. Farage’s farrago of lies offers a ludicrous parody of the hapless captive of the right.

“Your Liberal party, your conservative movement was hijacked by the other side, taken over by Malcolm Turnbull, who pretended to be a conservative but actually turned out to be a snake.”

Wrong in fact and egregiously wrong in function, CPAC and its backers can stay at home in the USA in future. We don’t need to invite far right ideologues or neo-fascists or hate-speakers to Australia. We have enough of our own at home, already.

Nor do we need to kid ourselves that CPAC speakers are interested in debate. All we’ve seen and heard is personal abuse and an eagerness to win converts to conspiracies.

There is a world of difference between freedom of speech and being granted a licence to spread hate-speech. And the last thing our politicians need is to court the far-right or let themselves be used to legitimise your fear-mongering and your lies.

Forget the idea of a “multi-year, forever, project”. Once is way more than enough.

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The so-called Senator

Earlier this week, in response to a request by One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts, innovation and science minister Greg Hunt set up a meeting between the CSIRO and the Senator.

“My core aim is, as always, to get the empirical data that underlies their claim that carbon dioxide is affecting global climate, because they’ve never provided it before,” Roberts said.

One can only assume he means they haven’t provided it to him, because there is a wealth of data on their website.

Roberts described the meeting as very interesting and said he would treat the CSIRO with respect by going through the material it provided him, which included information on climate change and vegetation levels.

He issued the following the day after the meeting:

PRESS RELEASE

27/09/2016

Senator Roberts to meet CSIRO in Sydney

Senator Malcolm Roberts and his team of climate change realists have now met with the CSIRO in Sydney so as to be provided any evidence the CSIRO has to prove any link between so-called climate change and human action.

The Senator’s meeting coincided with the Climate Institute’s release of an opinion poll which showed only 60% of Australians believe humans are the cause of so-called climate change, leaving a sizeable swathe of Australians who don’t accept humans affect the earth’s temperature.

Senator Roberts said he wouldn’t be surprised if a large proportion of those who do not accept human action are Queenslanders who have endured significant economic hardship at the hands of climate change policies.

The meeting with the CSIRO was crucial, as climate change policy is grossly affecting the cost of living, jobs, energy prices, environmental policies, bureaucratic roadblocks and government spending.

“People all over Australia tell me that climate change polices are destroying agriculture, closing factories, driving up prices, making life more difficult and putting people out of jobs,”

“The only people profiting from these scams are the well-connected rich elites, who have never had concern for how people make ends meet,” he said.

“Our meeting with the CSIRO will go a long way towards unravelling the contested science behind the advice government has relied on to start the de-industrialisation of our nation”.

Senator Roberts will report back to the Australian people on his CSIRO findings after he is advised by his expert panel.

Apparently it didn’t take long for the Senator to dismiss the decades of research by climate scientists that he was provided with because, in an interview with 2CC’s Tim Shaw this morning, he said:

We must question completely this climate scam, this climate fraud that is being perpetrated on us because human production of carbon dioxide, it’s not carbon, human production of carbon dioxide, a colourless invisible gas that is essential for all life on this planet, has had no impact on global climate whatsoever.  The empirical data proves that Tim, absolutely no proof at all that we are affecting the climate and what we are seeing now is that so-called renewable energies, or alternative energies, are actually an alternative to energy.

One can only imagine how excruciating that meeting must have been for the scientists who graciously gave up their valuable time to meet with Roberts and his “team of realists”.  How much time did they spend printing off reports for him that he could have accessed himself, only to have him reject them all before he could possibly have read them.

This is a man who had not been in paid employment for eight years before hitching onto Pauline Hanson’s coat tails.  He travelled to the US to attend the Heartland Institute’s climate skeptics conference in New York in 2008, co-sponsored by Australian free market think-tank the Institute of Public Affairs.  In keeping with his belief that central banks are involved in a plot to fabricate climate data and impose a “new world order”, he has declared a stockpile of gold and silver bullion on the register of MPs’ interests.

Roberts has also said that Section 18C “needs to be addressed because [it is] curbing free speech” adding that he was not responsible for other people’s feelings.

“You can call me short, you can call me fat, you can call me a Queenslander, you can call me a cane toad,” he said.  “Whatever you want to call me, the only person who decides whether I’m upset is me.”

Apparently I must have upset Mr Roberts by posting some factual evidence on his facebook page today because he has removed all my comments and blocked me, as did George Christensen.  These guys exist in an echo chamber where facts are not welcome, as shown by Robert’s disdain for the CSIRO’s attempt to educate him.

Well here’s some  ‘empirical evidence’ for you  – the so-called Senator only got 77 votes.  If he is going to ignore the advice of experts and all evidence provided then he should stop wasting their time and our money and he should be denounced for the charlatan he is.

Virus Alert

By Richard O’Brien

CSIRO scientists have announced they have discovered a new and virulent strain of the Hanson virus infecting Australian fauna. Following a major outbreak in 1996 the virus was eventually brought under control with the introduction of the Common Sense vaccine in 1998. Despite this, scientists have so far been unsuccessful in their attempts to completely eradicate the Hanson virus due to its ability to remain dormant for years while waiting for an opportunity to once again spread.

The virus is usually contracted when fauna comes into regular contact with horse or cattle dung. While most species of Australian fauna are susceptible to the virus – often resulting in prolonged periods of nausea and regular bouts of déjà vu – it is particularly prevalent in the subspecies Raciust Arseholus, better known as the common wanka.

The wanka can be found throughout most parts of Australia, often congregating in mobs around Andrew Bolt’s blog, talk-back radio shows and proposed locations for mosques. Possessing a generally obnoxious disposition, the wanka can become aggressively territorial towards many introduced species, despite being an introduced species itself. Wankas often adorn themselves in nationalistic paraphernalia to gain acceptance into the mob. Despite their jingoistic appearance, wankas spend most of their time carping on about how shit the country’s become, to anyone who’ll listen.

The introduction of the Federal Government’s Bigots Protection Act 2014 has led to a sharp increase in wanka numbers which, combined with recent outbreaks of Islamaphobia, have helped create ideal conditions for the Hanson virus to spread. This problem is further compounded by the fact that wankas are generally unresponsive to either the Common Sense or Rational Discussion vaccines.

A spokesperson for the CSIRO says scientists now believe they are close to a breakthrough in their quest to eradicate the virus.

“Despite its obdurate nature the Hanson virus is dependent on large doses of media exposure to survive”, the spokesperson said. “For the sake of maintaining Australia’s diverse fauna we are now asking all journalists in Australia to wash their hands thoroughly of all topics likely to be infected with the Hanson virus”.

 

The Great Hoax, Climate Change or the GST?

Personally, I think that maths is overvalued in schools. Now I’m not talking numeracy, I’m talking trigonometry, surds, quadratic equations and a whole range of things that most people won’t use past school. Fine for those who are going on to particular fields but a large number of students would be better off if they’d never had to struggle through them.

Of course, if you disagree with me, it’s not because you have a different perspective. It’s not because you think that maybe it’s a good idea to expose all people to maths because it’s good for them to be challenged. No, it’s because you’re gullible and a victim of the gigantic hoax that the maths teachers have invented. For a start, numbers aren’t even real. As for Pythagoras, not only did  he believe that beans were souls migrating from one life to the next, he and his followers believed that numbers had magical powers. So, if you want to disagree with me, don’t cite a maths teacher or anyone who believes in maths teaching, don’t trust academics, they’re all part of the conspiracy. The best people to trust are your friends and family.

Yep, I sound ridiculous. While there is an argument to be had about how maths should be taught and whether it needs to be compulsory past a certain level, the idea that it’s a “hoax” and that you can rely on information from your friends and family makes me sound well, at least a little unbalanced.

Yet, this seems to be what the CSIRO’s survey on climate change revealed. People who didn’t believe in climate change found their friends and family their most trusted source. While I can support a degree of sceptism about what experts tell us, it strikes me that there are certain areas where the average person won’t have the necessary skills to be able to make an informed decision. Nobody says that they took their X-ray home and after everyone they know had a look at it, they decided that the doctor’s interpretation was wrong. In the case of climate change, many are arguing that they don’t even need to see the X-ray.

OK, there are “experts” on both sides of the climate change debate and it’s interesting to see how the media presents them. It was fine when Cardinal Pell gave his opinion, but Pope Francis should stick to religion. Anyone with a science degree or a couple of years at university hanging around the cafe is presented as an expert on climate change without much sceptism by the media and there’s no attempt to evaluate their credentials. . We have the absurd scenario where we’re asked to believe that a group of scientists decided that they’d find it easier to get funding to investigate something invented, and that rather than make actuall discoveries, they’d rather just take this funding and spend their time making stuff up. However, thanks to some intrepid physicists and geologists – often funded by fossil fuel companies – this hoax is being exposed.

Now, I’m not saying that the prevailing wisdom on climate change couldn’t be wrong. I’m simply saying that when one suggests that scientists have dishonest motives, one should be prepared to have one’s own motives scrutinised. Why climate scientists are supposedly part of a “hoax” and not just simply wrong is what gets me. For years, the cause of ulcers was misunderstood, but we don’t suggest that was because of some conspiracy to stop people stressing or eating spicy foods.

But speaking of hoaxes, how do you like this GST?

Remember when it came in?

No, I’m not talking about how “never ever” simply meant not until after the next election – although I suppose if that’s the case, then the assurances by Howard and Costello that it could never go up because, well, all the states had to agree and could you ever see a time when all the governments would agree to receiving more revenue, lasted a lot longer than we could have expected. That was “never” and not “never ever”, so I’m surprised that it’s taken so long before someone put it on the table.

Mm, I guess it’s easy to see why people don’t trust the “experts” and would rather listen to Uncle Frank and the guy next door.

Now, ignoring the politics, I can see an argument for putting up the GST. While the converntional argument is that it’s regressive and hurts the poor more than the rich, this needn’t be the case.

In the first instance, the poor have a limited amount to spend and so any increase in the GST won’t hit them in total terms as much as someone who spends more. If someone only spends twenty five thousand in a year, then a five percent increase can’t cost them more than $1250, whereas someone spending $100,000 could be hit for $5000. If the current exemptions on fresh food, education and health are included then it’s even less than the $1250. If you raise pensions and allowances by enough, as well as increasing the tax free threshold, you can compensate those who the five percent increase will affect.

Secondly, while income tax can be minimised by various accounting tricks to minimise one’s income, the GST is more difficult to avoid. I may have used the Cayman Islands to avoid the tax on my business, but when I buy my Jaguar, I’ll be hit for an extra five percent.

And finally, the extra revenue should enable the states to continue to provide services from which should benefit those who don’t have private health insurance or go to Xavier where they learn to be grateful that they don’t go to some “povo” school in Pakenham. (Hey, I know it was just one individual and private schools don’t really encourage that sort of class warfare thing. They just constantly tell you what a great education you’re getting and how their school is the best in the world. Why a student would think that government schools are “povo” is a mystery to them …).

So, I can see that a rise in the GST could be a good thing all round  – even if it is the Liberal Party proposing it.

But then, I’m also gullible enough to fall for the climate change hoax.

 

Vote for Tony

By opposing same sex marriage, Tony Abbott has reinforced the notion that homosexuality is “queer” – that members of the LGBTI community are a threat to our society.

By indefinitely incarcerating asylum seekers in offshore detention camps he has reinforced the idea that refugees are not victims but criminals who pose another threat to our society.

By labelling us as lifters or leaners he has reinforced the perception that those on welfare are bludgers, scamming the system because they are too lazy to get a well-paying job.

By calling women who receive maternity leave from their employer “double-dippers” who are committing fraud, he has failed to appreciate the disadvantage women face in the workplace and denied them their workplace entitlements.

By saying he wants Sydney house prices to go up – if people are buying them they must be affordable – he shows an unbelievable ignorance of the housing affordability crisis.

By his perpetual dog-whistling about imminent terror threats from an apocalyptic death cult, as well as brief flirtations with banning cultural dress, he has alienated the Muslim community and made them the target of suspicion and abuse.

By ignoring all scientific evidence about climate change and the dangers of burning more coal, he has destroyed the renewable energy industry and damaged the global effort to avoid catastrophic weather events.

By proposing the deregulation of university fees, despite receiving the benefits of a free education and several of his ministers campaigning against fees when student politicians, he is potentially saddling our children with a huge debt before they even begin their working lives thus precluding large numbers from even considering a tertiary education.

By dismantling FttP NBN, he has made Australia an information backwater, ranked 44th and falling for internet speed. While the rest of the world moves to fibre, we are paying a fortune for Telstra’s copper network.

By stripping people of their citizenship, he is breaking up Australian families and leaving people homeless.

By demonising unions he has robbed workers of their collective voice in preparation for the resurrection of workchoices and the demise of penalty rates.

By slashing over $500 million from Indigenous funding, combined with intemperate comments about uninhabited Australia and lifestyle choices, he has shown a blatant disregard for our First People, their culture, the crisis of Aboriginal incarceration, and our failure in closing the gap.

By defunding NGOs, charities and community groups, he has caused the closure of refuges, crime prevention and mentoring programs, and domestic violence support groups.

By introducing metadata retention and criminal charges for disclosure, he has sanctioned spying on all citizens and overridden the public’s right to know what is done in our name.

By refusing to release government advice and modelling, he is robbing us of the chance to make informed decisions.

By slashing funding to the States he is making it basically inevitable that the GST will go up, greatly increasing the cost of living.

By freezing the indexation on Medicare payments, he will force doctors to make up the lost revenue – a co-payment by stealth. He has also almost entirely dismantled Australia’s national preventive health system.

By slashing funding to the CSIRO and other research bodies, he has caused many promising programs to be abandoned and we are losing our brightest researchers to other more enlightened countries who understand the value of their work.

By being unwilling to undertake economic reform, he has overseen a deterioration in all economic parameters with no upturn in sight.

By insisting on captain’s picks, usually advising his colleagues via the Murdoch press, he has alienated his Cabinet, his party room, the Parliament and the people.

By abrogating our global responsibilities towards asylum seekers and credible action on climate change, combined with gaffes too numerous to mention, he has trashed our international reputation.

But hey, he gave up billions in revenue from the carbon and mining taxes and stopped talking about the boats. And IS haven’t invaded us yet. Surely that’s enough reason to want him as our leader?

Nice try Barnaby

August 28 2013:  The Coalition has today promised $100 million in funding for the 15 Rural Research and Development Corporations specifically targeted at increasing the profitability of Australian agriculture.

To date, it has failed to actually deliver one additional cent of new money for R&D projects.  The hastily contrived $20 billion slush fund for pharmaceutical companies is dependent on the GP co-payment and is a long way from providing any significant money to R&D should it ever come to fruition which is doubtful.

On Thursday, Barnaby Joyce’s announcement that the Queensland grains industry will receive $14.3 million over five years is another sign of desperation by the Abbott Government to shore up votes in Queensland.

The reality is that the Abbott Government has slashed funding

  • $80 million from Cooperative Research Centres
  • $115 million from the CSIRO – the biggest job losses to the organisation in history
  • $11 million from the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation
  • $7 million of R&D Commonwealth matching dollars cut from Rural Research and Development Corporations announced in the May Budget.

Under Labor’s analysis, there is a total of $836.2 million in direct cuts to research, led by cuts to the CSIRO and the Research Training Scheme, and the abolition of Commercialisation Australia.

It says other savings will also hit research, including the 20 per cent cut to undergraduate places in universities and a more than half-billion-dollar cut to the student start-up loan scholarships scheme.

Add to that $6 billion in combined cuts to higher education and preventative health programs.

The impact of lower funding is likely to slow or stop vital research on infectious diseases such as the deadly Ebola virus.  Other efforts that will be affected are the fights against bowel or colorectal cancer, which could stop completely. These had been under way at the CSIRO.

The CSIRO generated $37.5 million in licence fees and royalties last financial year and $278.5 million in 2011-12, when royalties from a wireless technology were significantly higher.

Inventions developed at CSIRO range from cotton seeds to contact lenses, with much of the income returned to the organisation’s research budget.

Much of the royalties flowing in stem from research projects that began decades ago. Among them is wireless technology, which has produced $420 million in the past five years, and pest-resistant cotton seed varieties used in 95 per cent of Australia’s cotton crops. Multinational partners include Bayer and Monsanto as well as local partner Cotton Seed Distributors. Royalties from the cotton seed varieties, developed to be disease and pest-resistant, range between $10 million and $20 million a year.

”A lot of the commercial outcomes we are getting now are based on investment we were able to make in the science using federal government taxpayer money in the past,” Ms Bingley said. ”If we don’t have access to that, then it makes it that much harder to innovate because it’s difficult to get industry to pay for things so early on in development.”

She pointed to start-up companies that have emerged as a result of CSIRO inventions, including GeoSLAM, a company commercialising an advanced 3D laser-scanning device called Zebedee.

Chief executive of BioMelbourne Network, a Victorian industry association for the biotech sector, Michelle Gallaher said much of Australia’s success in the field was founded on CSIRO research. She said the organisation grew not only technology but also talent.

It was also helping at least 50 Australian biotech companies to develop and commercialise their research. ”Any kind of cuts to CSIRO will translate to a lack of opportunity down the track,” she said.

Last August, Education Minister Christopher Pyne said university research cuts could not be ruled out if Parliament continued to block budget measures.

When having his photo taken at a cancer research facility so he could claim his $560 allowance after attending a private function the previous evening, Tony Abbott said

“We want to get our higher education changes through because they will be good for universities, they will be good for research, they will be good for Australia, but what we are doing is we are modestly reducing government funding but at the same time we are liberating – we are liberating – our universities to achieve what they can because if there is one institution that ought to be capable of looking after its own affairs it is a university, which is, by definition, a bastion of our best and brightest.

But I want to stress here at the Peter Mac – this is a government which is dedicated to science, which is devoted to research, and wants to massively increase Australia’s research effort.”

It seems a convenient devotion to only be discussed during campaigns and ignored during budgets, unless the sick, the unemployed, and our kids are willing to fund it of course.

In Abu Dhabi, at a series of sessions at the World Future Energy Conference on the future of global renewable energy investment and clean energy markets, there was a lot of debate among some of the world’s leading bankers and clean energy developers about which countries offered the best opportunities.

“Australia is dead,” said Edgare Kerkwijk, the head of Singapore-based Asia Green Capital, to the general agreement of all.

Just how dead the market is has been highlighted by the fact that no new projects have gotten financial commitment since the election of the Abbott government in late 2013. In 2014, investment in large scale renewables plunged 88 per cent, taking Australia from 11th ranking to 39th.

A new report from Green Energy Markets, looking at the last quarter of 2014, notes that only one large scale project got new finance approval in 2014 – the 70MW Moree solar farm, and that was mostly due to the financing awarded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

We were asked to judge the Coalition by their actions rather than their words.

Nice try Barnaby, but your election sweetener to the grains industry pales into insignificance in light of your short-sighted approach to research, development, innovation and investment.

You want a country that has no debt….and no future.

Words are cheap, but Direct Action sure isn’t.

In an interview on Lateline in October last year, Greg Hunt said that the carbon price “doesn’t work”, “doesn’t do the job” and is “a just hopeless means of achieving the outcome.”

In defending his move to disband the Climate Change Commission, the Climate Change Authority, the Energy Security Fund, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and ARENA, Hunt said

“At the governmental level, the primary scientific agency is the Bureau of Meteorology. 1,700 staff. I spoke with the director of the Bureau this evening and invited them to provide a scientific briefing, reaffirmed a complete commitment to their independence, to their original research and to the extraordinary capacity that they give to Australia to look at meteorological questions and broader global questions.

The Bureau is the originating scientific agency for meteorological matters in Australia for matters relating to climate and matters relating to climate science. The CSIRO also backs those up. So, they are strong, deep, independent scientific agencies whose independence isn’t just guaranteed under us, but is welcomed.”

He then proceeded to cut $10 million from the BoM, with an anticipated loss of 80 jobs next year, and he cut CSIRO’s funding by $111 million over four years, which will result in 500 job cuts at the nation’s peak scientific organisation.

Hunt went on to say

“we have bipartisan support for the science. We have bipartisan support for the targets. The disagreement is about the carbon tax and the mechanism because emissions go up, not down under the carbon tax and because it does enormous damage to our cost of living and our economy by being an electricity tax. In short, it doesn’t work, but it does do damage.”

Figures released last week revealed that the annual growth of cost of living for all households slowed over the past three months (employee and age pensioner households increased by just 1.9%), largely due to the end of the carbon price in June.

But as Greg Jericho points out, any broadening of the GST base to include food, or an interest rate rise, or fuel indexation, will quickly wipe out any gains made by removing the carbon tax which was only slated to run for another year with a fixed price.

While the cost of living increase may have slowed, two new studies show that brown coal and black coal generation has jumped sharply in the four months since the carbon price was dumped by the Abbott government. The share of coal has gone up from 69.6% of sent out electricity in June to 76.4% in October.

And emissions have also jumped sharply, with one study from the Melbourne Energy Institute saying “emissions intensity’ has already jumped an “unprecedented” 10 per cent, and another saying that Australia’s aggregate emissions could rise more than 10 per cent over the year, after falling nearly that much while the carbon price was in place.

Danny Price, from Frontier Economics who helped the Government develop its direct action plan, was also interviewed on Lateline in November last year.

He insisted that penalties for industries that increase their emissions is a crucial part of the plan.

“The direction action policy has always had a penalty included in it. It’s been a consistent feature of direct action from the very first document, that’s been put out on direct action.

The Government, of course, hasn’t yet put anything out about how the penalties will work or the baselines will work which will be a challenge for the Government and they’re the two, you know, most difficult issues for the Government to deal with. But I guess we’ll get to see what the form of the penalty is going to be.”

But not for a while. Nick Xenophon insisted on a safeguards mechanism that will be negotiated in the next 12 months that will determine how tight emissions limits will be and the penalties for exceeding them.  Strangely, the emissions reduction fund auctions will apparently begin before the baselines are determined.

“I can announce this today, that the first auctions under the Emissions Reduction Fund, after having spoken to the Clean Energy Regulator on Friday, will be held in the first quarter of next year,” Mr Hunt said on Sunday.

When asked how much Direct Action would cost to achieve the 5% reduction target by 2020, Mr Price, who is the government’s expert on this, said

“Well, I don’t know yet because it will depend very much on where the Government sets the baselines, the nature of the penalties that are applied, but in the order of between $7 billion to $10 billion but probably on the lower end of that range.

The now Government, but then Opposition, had said initially that they had funds available for up to $10.5 billion till 2020. My understanding is that there are funds beyond the forward estimates. And that would be the extra $4.5 billion plus the 2.55 would be very consistent with what I’ve just said I think the costs are likely to be.”

The budget text states that the government will provide an “initial” $2.55 billion to establish the Emissions Reduction Fund, which is consistent with what the Coalition had promised prior to the election over the first four years of the scheme.

Yet the table which accompanies this text listing the hard dollars provides a contradictory and highly confusing story. It outlines a total funding allocation over the next four years of just under $1.15 billion.

A spokesperson for Greg Hunt said that the Clean Energy Regulator is free to at least commit to abatement purchasing contracts up to $2.55 billion over the next four years. However, they expect that because the regulator will only pay for abatement once it is delivered, the expenditure of the $2.55 billion will be spaced out over a period beyond the forward estimates period to 2017-18.

Market analysts Reputex suggest the $2.5 billion fund may get Australia about a third of the way to our low 5% target, but not much more.

Price stressed that Direct Action requires investors who, in turn, need certainty about legislation and regulation.

“this has to be a policy orientated towards investors and I just can’t see that investors are going to invest in a scheme [carbon pricing] where the Government can and will change the price to suit the politics and it could render their investments completely stranded, redundant.”

I wonder how he feels about the Coalition’s backflip on the Renewable Energy Target leading to the decimation of the renewable energy industry and the loss of billions of dollars investment that would have contributed towards meeting our emission reduction target whilst creating new jobs.

Greg Hunt told Emma Alberici

“I’m the Environment Minister and my job is to make sure that we do two things: that we understand the challenge and we respond to the challenge. And then the third thing which goes beyond that is to make sure that our actions are sensible and prudent and real.”

Hunt said on Monday that cleaning up existing power stations was the “the best thing” thing the government could do to reduce emissions, and pointed to the CSIRO’s direct injection carbon engine (DICE) technology as a way to reduce emissions from brown coal.

But, as pointed out in Crikey, rather than being a “major CSIRO research project”, there is a small team of two to four well-intentioned scientists and engineers working out of the CSIRO’s energy labs in Newcastle, running a 4-litre, single-cylinder diesel engine on coal, on a shoestring budget, struggling to find industry partners. The technology is drastically underfunded, unavailable at scale, and has a colourful history of unsuccessful research sponsored for very many years by miner Travers Duncan who has been part of the ICAC investigation into White Coal and Eddie Obeid.  Any significant commercial roll-out is decades away.

Hunt should also know that the recent apparent breakthrough in capture and storage of coal emissions – the Canadian Boundary Dam Project – was hideously expensive. They spent $US1.24 billion to retrofit an existing power station to produce 110 megawatts of power to the grid. Assuming 80 per cent utilisation that’s more than $US14 million per effective megawatt, and you’ve got fuel costs on top of that.

By comparison a wind farm assuming 40 per cent utilisation (what newly constructed wind farms in Australia can achieve) comes in at $US5 million or so per effective megawatt with no fuel cost. Also, it can be built in one year instead of four or five, with that saving in construction time adding up to lot of avoided bank loan interest which weighs on the clean coal project.

In the budget the government cut $459.3m over three years from its carbon capture and storage flagship program, leaving $191.7m to continue existing projects for the next seven years, so one wonders just how serious they are about it.

If the government sticks to its suggested (but not confirmed) budget of $4.95 billion up to 2020, they can only afford to spend an average of $11.75 per tonne of CO2. At that price they may achieve a few million tonnes of abatement, but leading carbon market analysts and brokers including Bloomberg New Energy Finance, SKM-MMA and RepuTex suggest that the government has Buckley’s chance of reaching its target of 421 million tonnes with the allocated budget.

At the start of his prime ministership Tony Abbott said, “We hope to be judged by what we have done rather than by what we have said we would do.”

Rest assured Tony, the whole world is judging these actions.

carbon tax repeal

 

 

 

 

 

Risk assessment

Life is a series of choices and decisions.  Within the constraints of time and finite resources, decision makers must learn to prioritise – to decide what is most important.

If you listen to anyone outside Australia, the greatest challenges facing us at the moment are climate change caused by anthropogenic global warming, income inequity leading to poverty, the Ebola crisis, pollution, peak resources, health and education in developing nations, the growing tide of refugees, providing enough food and clean water, sanitation, overpopulation, unemployment, species extinction, human rights abuses, affordable housing….and a fair way down the list would be a group of some tens of thousands of disaffected testosterone-filled teenagers that someone has been crazy enough to give guns and rockets to.

When faced with these global problems, the response of the Abbott government brings into question their ability to assess risk and respond appropriately.

On climate change, our Prime Minister tells us that “coal is good for humanity” while our Treasurer denies the fact that we are the world’s largest per capita emitter and that does not even take into account our exports.  (When you hear the phrase “I deny the premise of your question” that is Coalition for “I can’t hear you, here comes the Party line”)

As reported in the Guardian:

“Australia’s coal is one of the globe’s fourteen carbon bombs. Our coal export industry is the largest in the world, and results in 760m tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. The urgent goal of Tony Abbott’s government, and his environment minister Greg Hunt is to ship as much climate-devastating coal as possible, as quickly as possible.

Every day, this Liberal-National government, led by Tony Abbott, provides new examples of its nastiness, its short-sightedness, and its willingness to destroy livelihoods, communities and the environment to enrich coal barons.”

A new report by The Australia Institute “The Mouse that Roared: Coal in the Queensland Economy” demonstrates that the coal industry’s risks and damage completely outweigh its benefits.

Felicity Wishart the AMCS Great Barrier Reef Campaign Director said that the Queensland Government was prepared to risk the Great Barrier Reef, its international reputation and its $6 billion tourism industry for a coal industry that employs less people than Reef tourism, exports most of its profits and provides just 4% in royalties.

“The Australia Institute report reveals that there are under 25,000 jobs in coal mining in Queensland and 80% of the profits go overseas. This compares with 69,000 jobs in the tourism industry, and almost all the profits stay in Australia.”

When the world’s leaders met to discuss climate change, our leader couldn’t make it due to a prior engagement with Rupert to get his lines about why the war is good straight. Our deputy leader couldn’t make it because he is too busy planning thousands of kilometres of bitumen heat islands to carry millions of fossil fuel burning imported cars.  Our environment minister didn’t even seem to be considered or mentioned which is hardly surprising when he points to his plan for the Great Barrier Reef as a success.  Ignoring ocean acidification, warming, and salinity while approving the dumping of dredged silt and the expansion of coal ports is considered a success?  Oh that’s right, you removed a few starfish by injecting each one by hand.  Instead we sent Julie Bishop because she is good at stonewalling and death stares.

As representatives from the Philippines and Kiribati make heartfelt pleas about the damage being done to their nations, we have reneged on our promised contribution to the Green Fund to help developing nations deal with the havoc we cause. As marathon runners in Beijing choke on the pollution, we tell them that burning more coal will make them richer.

Everyone from the Pope to the head of the IMF has pointed to poverty and income inequity being a growing scourge, yet every action taken by this government will have the effect of increasing poverty and widening the gap. Internationally we have slashed Foreign Aid and domestically we have hit the poor with the budget from hell.

Joe Hockey and Mathias Cormann say, because the poor get more government handouts, they have more to give back when looking for spending cuts. Raising revenue will not be considered.  The poor, the sick, the elderly, the disabled, the students, the unemployed, single parents, low income families – these are the people to provide Mr Hockey with a surplus to brag about.  In the meantime, one in seven Australians live in poverty with that number predicted to rise.

Austerity and trickle-down economics are failed experiments which this government seems intent on pursuing despite the mountain of evidence and advice warning against such measures. As the majority of people get less disposable income, demand will dry up, production will fall, unemployment will rise, and the downward spiral will continue.

While we seem to have endless money to bomb countries, the money to help build infrastructure and provide humanitarian aid has dried up.

Our response to the Ebola crisis is hugely inadequate. The excuse about evacuation of affected health workers just will not wash.  We already have in place agreements with the US about medical evacuation of military personnel to Germany should they become critically ill.  Australian doctors and nurses are highly-trained and if they feel that they have adequate protective regimes in place then It is unlikely that we would be talking about a large number of people needing evacuation.  Considering the urgency of addressing this emergency, I cannot believe that the US or the UK or Germany would deny health workers the same service they offer to our military personnel.

Our Immigration Minister smugly claims success for his quasi-military war on refugees. He tells us this has been the humanitarian thing to do because he cares so much about asylum seekers that he can’t have them risking their lives at sea.  Unfortunately, he also cut our humanitarian intake by 7000 and has failed to successfully resettle anyone.  He would rather spend billions on OSB and offshore gulags and bribes to corrupt officials of other countries to absolve us of any responsibility at all rather than a cent on helping refugees.  All he has done is bottle refugees up in other countries while we sit back and refuse to help.

In response to growing unemployment, this government has removed restrictions on 457 visas encouraging employers to hire people who will work for less than award wages, no workplace entitlements and no job security. They have removed industry assistance from manufacturing to help them during a time when the high Aussie dollar hit the industry hard while giving billions of dollars in subsidies to the mining industry which caused the problem in the first place.

When Toyota, Ford and Holden leave the country for good in 2017, around 50,000 people who work in the automotive supply chain, mostly in Victoria and South Australia, will face the risk of unemployment.

Despite Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane telling us that ”Australians are smart, innovative and creative. We have the ability to remake our industry sector and the time in which to do it.”, according to European Union data from 2011, only 2.3 per cent of materials shipped out of Australia are high-tech – far less than the US, where the figure is closer to 20 per cent.

The OECD found in 2012 that Australia’s investment in high-tech industries was lower overall than other advanced economies yet the latest budget has slashed funding for research and development and decimated bodies like the CSIRO.

Remy Davison, the Jean Monnet Chair in politics and economics at Monash University, says despite the talk little has been done to create a realistic transformation scheme for industry.

”We talk about investing in smart industries and moving into high-tech industries, but nobody actually does it – not state governments, not federal governments, and to be fair the private sector doesn’t really invest in it either.”

When it comes to the war against ISIL, this is where the Abbott government steps up with seemingly unlimited resources to provide military assistance and to conduct over-the-top raids and surveillance at home, but where is the discussion about what led to the rise of this group? Where are the questions about how we are failing members of our own society so badly that they can be lured into this conflict?  Where is the strategy to help young people here to feel like they belong and encouragement to help them become productive members of our society?  Where is the support for our Muslim community?

Risk assessment is part of life and a crucial factor for all businesses. How much more so for a government when the consequences of their decisions are so far-reaching?  We have a government who came to power with a specific agenda to which they are determined to stick.  They are deaf to the advice of experts other than their hand chosen sycophants and choose to ignore the risks.  On all counts, in the most pressing problems facing the world, Australia has been found wanting.

Before casting your vote at the next election, Australians should consider the risk of allowing the Abbott government to continue down the path of nationalism and corporate greed at the expense of our duty as global citizens and our responsibility to protect the vulnerable.

The Government’s War on the Environment

Joe Hockey’s first budget dealt not only a threatening blow to millions of struggling families, but the fragile face of the Australian landscape was similarly threatened, writes Kate O’Callaghan.

On Tuesday, the Abbott government delivered their much anticipated budget, putting an end to the age of ‘reckless spending’ and ‘entitlement’ and saving Australia from its path to economic destruction.

There were some winners. The mining industry was generally happy with budget, finally rid of that pesky stamp duty and useless environmental regulations. They even got to keep their much needed tax breaks and fuel subsidies, because paying tax can really eat into their billions of dollars of profits which is no good. White Australia lovers also won big, with hundreds of millions of tax dollars committed to defending our borders, keeping those menacing asylum seekers from clogging up the highways of Western Sydney.

However, the budget delivered little good news for the young, poor, homeless, unemployed, disabled, indigenous, sick, refugees . . . pretty much everyone else.

Nor was it kind to the environment sector. This was expected, with the budget reflecting the Abbott government’s relentless attack on science and the environment, raising legitimate concerns for the health of our most precious ecosystems.

Green groups have been united in criticising the deep cuts to funding and staff, and the removal of green tape, serving only to enable big business to pollute and destroy. As Greens Leader Christine Milne says, “There is no plan for renewable energy jobs, just a tunnel vision for motorways and stranded fossil fuel assets that will be worthless to our economy within decades.”

Budget Losers

Amongst the environmental agencies abolished were the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the National Water Commission. ARENA was created in July 2012 to support and boost clean energy production. Legislation will now be introduced to dissolve it as an independent agency.

The National Water Commission will be closed in December 2014, with future cuts to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority flagged. Chief executive of the Australian Water Association Jonathan McKeown says, “in a nation where water scarcity needs to be well managed, (the cuts) will reduce Australia’s ability to maximize the productive use of water.”

Many more agencies have had their funding slashed including carbon capture and storage programs, Landcare and the CSIRO. The government’s $500 million plan for ‘One Million Solar Roofs’ was dumped.

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Image courtesy of katesenviroblog.com.au

The government cut funding to its own, and already watered-down, ‘Direct Action’ plan from $3 billion pre-budget to $1.1 billion. They have instead assigned over $2.5 billion to their Emissions Reduction Fund, helping businesses to reduce their emissions which Greg Hunt says, “reaffirms the Government’s strong commitment to reducing Australia’s emissions by five per cent below 2000 by 2020.”

Any action on climate change is going to be rolled out even more slowly than expected. Luckily, the world doesn’t need urgent action to avoid climate disaster. Oh, wait . . .  And with the abolition of the carbon tax, the cost of emissions reduction is being shifted from big polluters to the taxpayer. Nice one.

The Great Barrier Reef will receive the $40 million promised in the election. It will be invested in a new reef trust which will guide the management of the reef. Together with the Queensland Government and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the reef trust will implement the government’s Reef 2050 plan.

With the Queensland Government being advised by the coal industry and the GBRMPA granting approval for industry to dump dredge spoil in reef waters, I am 100% content that our reef is in good hands. In fact, the water will probably be in better nick than it was before mass industrialisation.

A small grant fund, a tiny but crucial $1.3 million program which supports over 150 enviro groups, was axed. There was no warning about the cuts, which have left some small conservation groups facing closure. “In effect, the cut undermines the effectiveness of grassroots, community-based conservation groups to engage with people where they live and to work with local councils and state governments.” These groups are being silenced.

Most overwhelming is the 16,000 public service jobs expected to be axed following this budget.  The devastating losses flagged for environmental staff have left many wondering how the government expects it will effectively enforce environmental regulations. With less resources to monitor industry, ensure compliance, report infringements and to punish offenders, it will be extremely difficult to keep the self-serving resources industry in check.

Numerous large scale mining projects have been approved by the government in the last six months. It’s imperative that these dirty industries are rigorously scrutinised given their history of negligence and ecological damage.

A Repeat of the Gladstone Disaster?

Without adequate staffing and resources, experts are concerned that we are leaving Australia open to another Gladstone type ecological disaster.

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Image courtesy of katesenviroblog.com.au

The Gladstone community has demanded answers ever since an outbreak of dead and diseased fish, dugongs and turtles occurred following industrial dredging in the harbour. Greg Hunt commissioned an independent review into Gladstone, which was released last Friday. It exposed extensive negligence, and contained a series of recommendations to ensure that the disaster is never repeated in Australia.

Of particular interest in light of the budget, is the finding that there was insufficient allocation of government resources to adequately monitor the strict environmental conditions applied to the dredging project:

  • Finding 30:Insufficient resourcing for Department of the Environment monitoring compromised the Australian Government’s ability to adequately ensure compliance with its conditions of approval.”

The report continues to recommend:

  • Recommendation 14: “Resource levels within the department of the environmental should be sufficient to ensure adequate monitoring capacity, including for active participation in post-approval technical committees.”

Given these findings, why has the government slashed so many crucial environment jobs?  As Chief Research Scientist at JCU John Brodie asks, “On paper at least, numerous, stringent conditions have been set for environmental management at Abbot Point by our governments and GBRMPA . . . But will the Australian or Queensland governments have the skilled staff to adequately oversee all those conditions?”

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Image courtesy of katesenviroblog.com.au

We all knew it would be a tough budget, but the cuts have been extreme. The government continues its war on the environment, but with every crooked decision they make or dodgy deal they sign, more and more Australians are galvanised into action.

This article was first published on “Kate’s Enviro Blog” and reproduced with permission.

Why the bloody hell are you doing this?

tourismTo 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.

Heaven help us before Hell becomes the inevitable destination

In May 2007, the Prime Ministerial Task Group on Emissions Trading presented John Howard with a report that had “been informed by the views of a wide range of stakeholders”.  They considered 216 submissions from interested parties and held discussions with 180 groups and individuals both in Australia and overseas.  Dr Peter Shergold, Chair of the Task Force, said the broad-ranging expertise of government, industry, and environmental organisations had been of significant benefit to their deliberations.

In an introductory letter to Howard, Dr Shergold said:

“We hope that this report can contribute to the development of policy which will further strengthen Australia’s considerable record of achievement in addressing climate change at the domestic and international levels.  Our conclusions have been framed to position Australia to take a lead in reducing greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining economic growth and safeguarding our competitive advantage.”

The report was extensive and came to the following conclusion:

“The members of the Task Group have come to a shared conclusion: the adoption of a longer-term emissions constraint and the introduction of an Australian emissions trading scheme offers the least-cost way of reducing the output of greenhouse gases domestically and would make a substantive contribution to a comprehensive solution internationally.

The Task Group believes the key to success is to begin at once, but to proceed with care on the basis of considered and informed decisions.”

One aspect of the Coalition’s Direct Action Plan is an Emission Reduction Fund where polluters are subsidised for specific reduction projects.  This possibility was examined in the report with the following observations:

  • Project-specific approaches can involve high administrative overheads for both government and project proponents.
  • Financing subsidies and specific project-based interventions also impose costs on society from their use of taxation. If these approaches were to be used extensively to achieve large-scale abatement, the economy would suffer losses in economic and administrative efficiency. In contrast, market-based approaches to emissions abatement involve the explicit pricing of emissions, allowing the market to determine the cheapest source of emissions reduction.
  • Market-based approaches have the potential to deliver least-cost abatement by providing incentives for firms to reduce emissions where this is cheapest, while allowing the continuation of emissions where they are most costly to reduce.
  • Market-based approaches also provide a strong ongoing incentive for investment in technology research, development and deployment, and in business efforts to improve energy efficiency.
  • An emissions price provides incentives for the discovery and deployment of least-cost abatement opportunities. The damage caused by a unit of emissions is the same no matter where it comes from, so a uniform carbon price across the economy can harness abatement opportunities where they are cheapest.
  • Emissions pricing provides ongoing incentives to all firms and individuals to abate. Market participants have an incentive to abate whenever a unit of abatement is cheaper than the emissions price, which leads to the efficient exploitation of all abatement opportunities.
  • The process of ‘creative destruction’, with opportunities for the emergence of new industries as new technologies and production techniques supplant existing methods, is one of the key ways in which market-based approaches bring broader benefits to society.

One of the task force’s key messages was

A desirable model for reducing emissions at least cost incorporates emissions trading with a price cap in the initial phase of a scheme – this combines the best features of a carbon tax with emissions trading.”

In other words, John Howard’s own advisers preferred the system we currently have in place.  Many reports and submissions were given to the government confirming this.

“Harness the power of the market – the greatest benefit of emissions trading is the ability of the market to find the lowest cost solution. It follows from this that scheme[s] should have a minimum of rules that limit the type or level of abatement. The underlying principle should be to treat all opportunities equally based on their mitigation impact.”

Australian Plantation Products and Paper Industry Council submission to the Task Group

“Where the use of environmental goods and services is not valued properly, users of the resources have little incentive to recognise the costs of the environmental degradation they impose …. Instead, the focus inappropriately shifts only to the financial growth foregone from addressing [and preventing] the environmental damage.”

Australian Government Intergenerational Report (2007, p. 71)

In July 2008 the Wilkins Review, done by the Department of Finance and Deregulation, looked at failures of direct action style schemes which had been implemented in Australia, such as the failed Greenhouse Gas Abatement Scheme, and warned “project based abatement is difficult to achieve through a grants program – further demonstrating why the ETS is a superior approach to achieving large scale abatement.”

In the seven years since the report was published the overwhelming majority of scientific research has confirmed that climate is changing and AGW is playing a significant role in that change.  In fact, the only debate seems to be on the time frame and severity of the catastrophe and even that is rapidly vanishing.  Consensus is, and has been for a long time, that immediate action must be taken on a global scale.

Another major strategy of the Coalition’s DAP is soil carbon sequestration.  Their policy document states that

“The single largest opportunity for CO2 emissions reduction in Australia is through bio-sequestration in general and, in particular, the replenishment of our soil carbons.  It is also the lowest cost CO2 emissions reduction available in Australia on a large scale.”

However the CSIRO, in a submission to the Senate inquiry into DAP said that

“Soil carbon in agricultural zones is likely to provide low levels of greenhouse gas abatement.  Saturation of carbon sinks (the maturation of forests and the restoration of soil carbon levels) means that per annum abatement from the land sector will decline in the decades after project establishment.”

Perhaps this explains Tony’s desire to log our old growth forests?

Economist Professor Ross Garnaut told the inquiry that abolishing carbon pricing could cost the federal budget at least $4 billion a year within five years, if the Abbott government wants to reduce emissions in line with Australia’s international commitments.

In his submission Professor Garnaut said direct action was vague and failed public interest analysis tests and that the government’s Green Paper on the Emissions Reduction Fund aimed at replacing the Rudd-Gillard climate policies ”is a shooting of the breeze”, merely raising a few questions that it failed to answer.

”It is an unusual document, lacking any semblance of the framework of public interest analysis that is characteristic of Australian policy-related papers of modern times”

The government’s continued appointment of climate change sceptics to advisory roles shows its intention to ignore all scientific, economic and industry advice to pursue its big business agenda.  They are prepared to sacrifice our future for the very short term advantage that exploiting our resources may give us.  They seem determined to set the train to destruction into motion and disable the brakes.

Heaven help us before Hell becomes the inevitable destination.

Climate change: we don’t need no stinkin’ advice!

The United Nations Climate Change Conference will be held in Paris, France in 2015.  The conference objective is to achieve a binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world.

One of the world’s foremost climate scientists, James Hansen,  has suggested that

“If leading nations agree in 2015 to have internal rising fees on carbon with border duties on products from nations without a carbon fee, a foundation would be established for phaseover to carbon free energies and stable climate.”

Head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, told a conference in February

“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.”

In recent weeks UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State John Kerry and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim have all called on countries and business to take the threats posed by global warming more seriously. Jim made what many believe was an historic call for investors to consider ditching holdings in fossil fuel companies.

The IPCC released a paper on 30 January, 2014 stating

“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.

Total radiative forcing is positive, and has led to an uptake of energy by the climate system. The largest contribution to total radiative forcing is caused by the increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 since 1750.

Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and understanding of the climate system.

Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system.  Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.”

On 4 March 2014, a new report released by the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO concludes the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is rising, and left unchecked further emissions will cause more warming this century.

“The report found that since the 1970s there had also been an increase in extreme fire weather, but predicted worse was to come.  More extreme fire-weather days are slated for southern and eastern Australia, areas devastated by bushfires this spring and summer, with longer fire seasons in these regions to drag on.  In bad news for farmers, a likely increase in drought frequency and severity is predicted as average rainfall in southern Australia decreases.  Cyclones are expected to be fewer, but fiercer, while more extremely hot days and fewer cool days remain a reality on the horizon.  The BoM and CSIRO said the record-breaking heatwaves like the kind that swept Australia the past two summers were “very unlikely to have been caused by natural variability alone”.  Cutting global emissions would be crucial to preventing the worst global warming has in store, but that alone wouldn’t be enough, the science agencies warn.  Adaptation is required because some warming and associated changes are unavoidable.”

The latest Global Legislators Organisation (Globe) study shows 64 out of 66 countries had put in place or were establishing significant climate or energy legislation in 2013, with almost 500 laws to tackle climate change being passed in countries which account for nine-tenths of global emissions.

“The organisation’s president, Lord Deben, who is also the chairman of the UK’s Committee on Climate Change which advises the government on the issue, said: “It is by implementing national legislation and regulations that the political conditions for a global agreement in 2015 will be created.

“We must see more countries develop their own national climate change laws so that when governments sit down in 2015 they will do so in very different political conditions to when they did in Copenhagen.”

I could go on quoting scientists, economists, experts, world leaders…the evidence is overwhelming, scientific consensus has been reached, and the warning has been issued along with a plan of attack.  We can ask no more from our scientists.  They have done their job.  We now have to fight those increasingly rare fossils who would ignore the warning for short term gain for a very few individuals.

Rather than listening to experts and the rest of the world, Tony Abbott, to quote Lord Deben, relied on the “very dubious” work of a small minority of climate analysts, and his was “the last example of a government coming to power on the basis that really all this [climate change] is nonsense”.

In 2009 on Four Corners , Abbott described scientists from the IPCC as

”the people who will tell you as if it’s as obvious as night following day that we have a huge problem and that unless we dramatically change the way we live, life as we know it will be under massive threat. As I said, there’s an evangelical fervour about those people which you don’t normally associate with scientists.

I think that in response to the IPCC alarmist – ah, in inverted commas – view, there’ve been quite a lot of other reputable scientific voices. Now not everyone agrees with Ian Plimer’s position, but he is a highly credible scientist and he has written what seems like a very well-argued book refuting most of the claims of the climate catastrophists.”

When Tony Jones asked Tony Abbott in a Lateline interview in November 2009 if he had read the IPCC report on global warming he replied “No, I don’t claim to have immersed myself deeply in all of these documents. I’m a politician. I have to rely on briefings – I have to rely on what I pick up through the secondary sources. “

When asked if he’d read Plimer’s book he said “I’ve quoted a couple of passages, and I confess I’m probably more familiar with the book through people who’ve written about it than I am through having read it myself.”

You will hear Ian Plimer quoted by Tony Abbott, Andrew Bolt, Alan Jones, Gina Rinehart, and pretty much everyone that thinks climate change is crap.  As with all supposedly “reputable scientific voices” in the denial camp, following the money always leads to the same place.

Prof Plimer is a geologist who currently serves on the board of stock exchange-listed miners Ivanhoe Australia and Silver City Mines, and has held previous board roles at CBH Mining and a number of other Australian mining companies.  The companies he is involved with mine minerals including gold, zinc, copper and uranium, in Australia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

According to disclosures made to the Australians Securities and Investments Commission, Professor Plimer was appointed by Gina Rinehart to the boards of Roy Hill Holdings and Queensland Coal Investments on January 25 2012  which plans to export 55 million tonnes of iron ore a year through Port Hedland when it is up and running at full capacity.

He is also listed as a member of Mrs Rinehart’s Australians for Northern Development and Economic Vision (ANDEV) lobby group, which has taken strong positions on corporate taxation and climate change initiatives.

Aside from Mr Plimer, we have had Cardinal Pell give a submission on climate change to the Senate, and then give the 2011 annual Global Warming Policy Foundation speech in London that was described by climate researchers as  “dreadful”, “utter rubbish” and “flawed”.

“Church leaders in particular should be allergic to nonsense….. I am certainly sceptical about extravagant claims of impending man-made climatic catastrophes. Uncertainties on climate change abound … my task as a Christian leader is to engage with reality, to contribute to debate on important issues, to open people’s minds, and to point out when the emperor is wearing few or no clothes.”

Cardinal Pell’s ‘evidence’ all comes from The Hancock Free Enterprise Lecture, University of Notre Dame, Fremantle, June 2011 delivered by none other than Lord Monckton and sponsored and attended by Gina Rinehart.  Monckton is a fruitcake that is always good for a laugh, but hardly someone who should be advising on anything other than propaganda machines.

And then of course, we have Maurice Newman, Tony’s business adviser, who as head of the ABC in 2010, decided that denialists needed more airtime and so Monckton flooded the MSM, especially the ABC, all of whom basically ignored James Hansen who was touring at the same time.

In January this year, Mr Newman, in a column published in The Australian newspaper wrote that the

“climate change establishment (whatever that is) is intent only on exploiting the masses and extracting more money. The United Nations has applied mass psychology through a compliant media (he really did write that) to fool the world into thinking  the activities of industrialised countries have changed the climate. The scientific delusion, the religion behind the climate crusade, is crumbling,”

Who needs a Climate Change Authority or Department of the Environment when you have Plimer, Pell, Newman and Monckton?  We also have Greg Hunt’s Direct Action Plan to look forward to if they ever decide to introduce it.

So shut up all you tree-hugging socialists….

We don’t need no stinkin’ advice!

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