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Tag Archives: G20

Trump’s love for Kim almost upstages G20 farce

“I never expected to meet you at this place” Kim can’t believe his luck. “He wrote me beautiful letters and we fell in love, Trump tells a Patrick Morrissey rally in West Virginia last September. Love must be in the air, Sunday, as The Donald waddles slowly toward an approaching Kim Jong-un. Trump extends one small, fleshy hand in greeting.

The filming of the men’s cautious approach evokes a western duel. Is it High Noon or just high farce? The romance of a lover’s tryst is subverted for an eternity, it seems, by Trump’s ample rump filling the lens of a hapless cameraman tagging along too close behind. So much historic action to capture. So little time. So many fearful Koreans.

The leaders meet. Shake. It’s a fine bromance, even if Trump had to beg just to get a handshake. Even if the best outcome he’s ever going to get is an agreement from Kim to start talking. Nuclear. Not politics. Love is blind to concentration camps. So Kim has people killed for speaking their minds? Trump argues that the US hHas people killed too.

Kim’s regime has one of the worst human rights records in the world. Crimes “entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation,” concludes a 2014 United Nations report that examined North Korea.

Retired judge, jurist and academic, Australia’s Michael Kirby is one of the report’s three commissioners.

Trump squeezes Kim’s arm through Kim’s pin-striped Mao suit. Spins Kim around; frog marches him over the 38th parallel, (an ad hoc split of Korea’s 1500 years’ unity, by US decree in 1945). Now he turns, profile to camera, to pump Kim’s mitt. It’s a dangerous liaison – orchestrated – Trump would have us believe, by a single, humble, self-effacing tweet.

“After some very important meetings, including my meeting with President Xi of China, I will be leaving Japan for South Korea (with President Moon). While there, if Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!” Clearly, Kim finds “His Very Importance” Donald Trump’s humility irresistible.

Epic bromance or bravura braggadocio? Trump’s stunts exceed peak attention-seeking, whatever you may think of the “mentally deranged US dotard”, as Kim once bagged The Donald. His G20 pickings may be slim, but, hey, look over here!

Of course from Kim’s point of view, US recognition is everything. The nuclear weapons threat is working a treat. And the mutual back-patting helps Trump with his myth that he has heroically tamed North Korea’s pocket rocket-monster.

If only Arab and Israeli leaders could apply the same hands-on, speed-date approach to diplomacy. Mid-East peace in our time, a show that even wunderkind Kushner is having trouble with, could all be fixed with a man to man handshake.

“Big Moment. Big Moment”, this week’s episode of the pussy-grabber-in-Chief’s reality TV presidency show, rates its Texan cotton socks off. And Trump’s G20 shtick almost upstages Mohammad bin Salman or MBS who stands smack dab in the middle of the G20 selfie in Saudi Arabia’s G20 photo-op coup, a credit to his product placement smarts.

MBS is a really great guy, great, says Trump. “It’s an honour to be with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, a friend of mine, a man who has really done things in the last five years in terms of opening up Saudi Arabia,” Trump sucks up publicly to MBS. “And I think especially what you’ve done for women. I’m seeing what’s happening; it’s like a revolution in a very positive way.”

Just when a little Saudi sword-jiggle dance appears to be on the cards, Trump is overcome by gratitude, “I want to just thank you on behalf of a lot of people, and I want to congratulate you. You’ve done, really, a spectacular job.”

Spectacular human rights abuse, perhaps? Human Rights Watch’s Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson, has some sobering, contradictory testimony. “Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ‘reform campaign’ has been a frenzy of fear for genuine Saudi reformers who dare to advocate publicly for human rights or women’s empowerment. The message is clear that anyone expressing scepticism about the crown prince’s rights agenda faces time in jail.”

By an incredible stroke of luck, Saudi Arabia will host next year’s G20 summit, which gives Prince Mohammed a prominent place for his brand at the front and centre of this year’s dysfunctional “family photo” of leaders Thursday.

A UN Report published last week finds “credible evidence” to warrant further investigation into allegations the crown prince masterminded the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi whose body was dismembered with a bone saw in a planned assassination. “No conclusion is made as to guilt,” the report states, but: “Evidence points to the 15-person mission to execute Mr. Khashoggi requiring significant government coordination, resources and finances.”

Trump’s historic mission for world headlines goes beyond his reverence for dictators who dismember press critics with bone-cutters to a handshake in the DMZ with Kim. It’s huge even in an age of hyper-spin and hucksters’ hornswoggle.

Yet a shadow must fall. Shit happens, as Tony Abbott will tell you -even to a military man like Donald, a bone-spur draft exemption veteran, the man who put the offence in charm offensive, a roué who tells Howard Stern on Stern’s radio show repeatedly, that avoiding STDs was “my Viet Nam”. Trump jests he should get the Congressional Medal of Honor.

In the May 7, 1998 appearance, obtained and reviewed by CNN’s KFile, Trump also said “women are worse than men, they’re more sexually aggressive than men,” adding, “If they’re married they’re even worse.”

Trump also tells Stern and co-host Robin Quivers the key to his Miss Universe contest, “we don’t base it on talent, we don’t base it on brains.” In an earlier interview he calls his daughter, Ivanka is a piece of ass. In other talks he calls her voluptuous; comments on her figure and her breasts.

Trump is about to jet off to top this year’s G20 Circus, which is all about himself and his diplomatic, deal-making genius, when he is savaged by writer and journalist E Jean Carroll who alleges that he raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman store dressing room in Manhattan in the 1990s. Trump airily brushes aside his twenty-first accusation of sexual misconduct.

“He opens the overcoat, unzips his pants, and, forcing his fingers around my private area, thrusts his penis halfway – or completely, I’m not certain – inside me,” Carroll details how Trump raped her in a department store change room.

It’s just another bum rap, claims The Donald. Besides, she’s “not his type”. “It never happened. He denies he’s ever met Carroll- despite photographs and testimony of two other women, Carol Martin and Lisa Birnbach. He issues a written disclaimer.

Undeterred, the President sets a personal best in offence by publicly insulting Japan, India and Germany within hours of touching down in Osaka for G20, 2019. It’s the annual Neoliberal gab-fest and photo-opportunity in vacuous fatuity which originated in a real need for nations to cooperate to survive the GFC but which is now well past its use by date.

Co-operating to survive is heresy in a White House where a rules-based world order is less popular than nuking Tehran. There’s no risk of any change to “Bush-era war hawk,” John Bolton and “cheerleader of hatred”, Mike Pompeo’s mad plan to attack Iran. Nor will Trump budge in his equally disastrous trade war with China, for all his bluster about “continuing talks”.

But now he’s talked up a tariff war with America’s largest trading partner outside the EC, he can talk it down. It’s one of Trump’s typical approaches to negotiation. Bully-boy tactics are followed by some degree of appeasement. In this case his next wave of tariffs will be postponed. Huawei may be able to import US materials but who knows? Trump has made no specific commitments, Reuters reports.

The world’s two largest economies remain locked in the midst of a bitter and mutually disastrous trade war despite Trump’s sanguine mood.

It’s déjà vu all over again to Phil Coorey, guru of The Australian Financial Review, an arm of Nine Entertainment,

“So here we are again, new city, same situation. The WTO still hasn’t been reformed, the trade war is worsening and the world awaits another meeting between Trump and Xi.”

Luckily, Trump fanboy, little Aussie groveler, Scottie Morrison, is just busting to schmooze The Godfather of the free world.  Hard-working Australians thrill to see our taxes hard at work flying ScoMo’s crack trade squad business class to Japan just for “a working dinner” with The Donald, his family and a few toadies on staff he hasn’t had time to sack yet.

As bad luck would have it, some of ScoMo’s lies are catching up with him now that Liberal hack Niki Savva’s book is out and extracts from others including Turnbull himself and his fan, David Crowe, are appearing in The Australian. The transparent lie that Morrison did not plot to remove Turnbull is surely untenable in the face of an expanding body of opposing evidence.

Yet ScoMo dismisses his past behaviour. Being a disloyal liar last August is no clue to his present character. He says he knows we aren’t interested in ancient history. We’ve got exciting new unaffordable tax cuts to look forward to. A progressive tax system to flatten to accelerate our rapidly accelerating social and economic inequality. In the meantime, another foreign invasion would help restore some of ScoMo & Co’s waning credibility at home.

ScoMo & Co are so eager to help put pressure on Iran that no-one even bothers to ask what that means. Nor does the PM raise tricky stuff like bothering The Donald to ask Kim if he knows the whereabouts of 29 year-old Perth student, Alek Sigley who disappeared in North Korea a week ago. Trump’s got enough on his plate without finding lost Aussies.

Besides direct questions are dangerous. Morrison suggests we must temper our compassion with indirection – or something. His response is typically oblique, indirect, inadequate and offers little hope to Sigley’s wife and family.

“I will just be measured in what I say because that is all about using the best opportunities we have right now to, to inform ourselves about where Alek is and what his safety is and where he is being held, in what conditions,” cop-out Morrison tells reporters on Saturday evening. Our tough on borders door bitch is too afraid to tackle Kim.

President Pinocchio tells everyone he predicted Scott’s victory all along. How good are Trump’s lies? He makes a cryptic witticism in the midst of his self congratulation. It baffles everyone. Is it a droll non-sequitur or just a bloke’s joke?

“They called it an upset, but I don’t call it an upset. You probably didn’t. Your wife didn’t call it an upset,” gags the subtle funster as he takes a rise out of a fawning ScoMo & Co at the Thursday dinner. Cue over-hearty, sycophantic guffaws. Is that a rocket in Hockey’s pocket, or is he just happy to play golf with a lying, narcissistic psychopath who cheats? Or is he just turned on by wealth?

Along with normalising Trump with his mindless sycophancy, ScoMo has his own stunt to get a bit of international attention. Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, Snapchat and other social media delinquents need to stop hosting terrorist stuff, he says. Terrorism is bad. Other leaders are overjoyed there’s at least a chance to be part of something join in,

“The internet must not be a safe haven for terrorists to recruit, incite or prepare terrorist acts,” leaders agree solemnly in the mother of all motherhood statements. Yet it’s the laughably earnest, toothless, injunction that follows that exposes the G20’s impotence. It’s not so much a toothless tiger as a pussy-cat in high dudgeon.

“We urge online platforms to meet our citizens’ expectations that they must not allow use of their platforms to facilitate terrorism and VECT. Platforms have an important responsibility to protect their users.”

The statement is a Morrisonian masterpiece of sonorous but evasive vacuity, an apparent tough stand which is in fact a retreat from real commitment. It’s symbolic and voluntary and compels tech companies to do nothing; nor the nations to pass the sort of beaut new surveillance and security laws which since 2011, we have eagerly invented to turn ourselves into a police state. But we’ve jumped the shark. Australia has already legislated in this area,

As Josh Taylor reminds us we passed “world first” laws in April creating new offences for service providers that fail to remove videos depicting “abhorrent violent conduct” including terrorist acts, murders, torture, rape or kidnapping. But isn’t the state guilty of abhorrent violent conduct itself constraining refugees indefinitely on Manus and Nauru?

Service providers won’t be able to host evidence of the Coalition government’s own brutality and inhumanity. Australia’s report, released to coincide with the gabfest, in fact may do more than the whole G20 in terms of putting pressure on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and other social media. Yet, as another means to censorship and government secrecy, it may have unintended consequences.

The torture of refugees by indefinite detention in Australia’s offshore prisons does not rate a mention from ScoMo’s audience. State terror? No way. Trump is upbeat about our sadistic cruelty to those innocents whose only fault is to be wretchedly dispossessed and alienated; forced to throw themselves on our mercy. Deny them medical treatment. It helps deter others. There is general approbation of the nonsense of strong borders. Yet our vast borders have never been so porous.

Asylum-seeker arrivals by plane are at an all time high, according to Home Affairs, which processed 27,931 protection visa applications last financial year. The men, women and children who fly here are less likely to be “genuine refugees”

Despite its claim of stopping the boats, the Coalition’s own data shows it’s soft on borders. In four years, 64,362 protection visa applications have been made by un-vetted individuals who have arrived by plane writes Michael Pascoe, clear evidence that Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton have been ineffectual immigration or border enforcing ministers. And liars.

Other leaders make sympathetic noises. How good is ScoMo’s idea that we police social media? Ban it perhaps? How can (US) Citizen Murdoch stay in power with social media correcting his falsehoods; presenting accurate information?

Tuesday, Trump posts a series of our anti-asylum posters which say:  “If you come here by boat without a visa you won’t be settled in Australia” and “Australia’s borders are closed to illegal migration”.  “Much can be learned!” he tweets. Learned? The Coalition’s ongoing inhumanity and breach of international refugee convention is now a toxic contagion?

Tragically, some of ScoMo&Co’s limelight is stolen by Christopher Pyne’s brilliant new career. The Fixer’s been snapped up by EY, (formerly Ernest and Young) which breaks all ministerial guidelines for his expertise which includes the hunt the Slipper diary farce and his bastardry as Leader of The House, a role invented by IPA stooge, Bob Menzies in 1951.

One in four ministers go on to become lobbyists, reports The Grattan Institute. A Guardian investigation last year found over half of all registered lobbyists previously worked in some government role or for major political parties.

Expect the first question time of the new parliament to be taken up with at least a few Labor questions about Fixer Pyne being able to fix himself up so soon and in defence, such a bottomless pit of funds to shovel out. But without a code of conduct with real sanctions, there is no way to shut the revolving door. Or safeguard our democracy from being further corrupted by vested interests.

Despite his best efforts and a slew of expert has-beens, including occasional Trump golf partner and professional leaner, Joe Hockey but, oddly, not Marise Payne, our stay-at-home Foreign Minister, ScoMo can only insult Australians with his sickening sycophancy; grovelling to the monster-baby whose trade war with China and baiting of Iran could unfix us all.

Trump’s Osakan hosts are beguiled as the American President says the U.S.-Japanese defence alliance is unfair. Happily, funster Trump adds a commercial promo to his gaffe, joking that if the almighty United States were attacked, Tokyo could leave Washington in the lurch and instead “watch it on a Sony television.” Allies love to feel needed. Laughed at.

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, whose stagey and supremely ill at ease act as Super Mario, an Italian plumber climbing out of a pipe, at the closing of the Rio Olympics, upstages anything his policies or charisma-bypass personality could ever achieve, is somehow this year’s perfect host. Abe is to the G20’s success as Tom Gleeson’s Gold Logie is to The sacred Logies but host aside, – and who can forget Tony Abbott quizzing G20 leaders about how to solve his brilliant doctor’s co-payment ideas in 2014 – the G20 is its own toxic self-parody. The world waits in eager anticipation of the Saudi show next year.

Perhaps MBS, like the great god capitalism, will lead by invisible hand to issue a communique of the need for arms dealers everywhere to assume their rightful legal liability for the injuries, suffering and property damage inflicted by their products. We have similar arrangements for other commercial products and services. Of course, we’d need to talk sense into insurance companies with their weasel worded “acts of war” clauses allowing them not to pay out as at present.

While we are at it, we could make Adani and other coal miners legally liable for damage caused by global warming boosted by the use of their product anywhere in the world. And environmental devastation.

Finally, to be inclusive of our generous Saudi hosts, let’s have a similar liability for the sale and subsequent use of hydrocarbon products, especially dirty diesel. That’d be a cracker of a G20.

 

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It’s Time for Abbott to Step Down

Surely when Alan Jones, one of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s most fervent supporters, gives him a grilling on radio, it is time to say enough is enough. For whatever reason the talkback radio host found it necessary to take Abbott to task on the issue of the free trade agreement with China, it was enough to ask: if his friends are unhappy, isn’t it time someone tapped him on the shoulder?

On Insiders Sunday November 15th, Malcolm Farr summed up his thoughts: “Tony Abbott is a man who should not be left alone with his own mouth.” The comment was made in reference to Abbott’s opening remarks to the leaders of the G20 on the weekend about the $7 GP co-payment, the carbon tax and stopping the boats.

It was that, and Abbott’s attempts to exclude climate change from the G20 agenda that made him look foolish. Laura Tingle said it well enough in the Australian Financial Review. “Unfortunately for our Prime Minister, however, Barack Obama has delivered a rather humiliating exercise in power politics over the weekend: showing how leadership and power lies in setting and controlling an agenda.”

blew it

Obama expressing disbelief?

If Abbott ever had a golden moment to look every inch the statesman, it was the G20. He blew it in breathtaking fashion. Surely there must be a point where the collective mental health of the nation takes precedence over the choice of a national leader. How much more are we expected to endure?

If ever a supportive media had the chance to make him look worldly, it was at the G20, but even they could not do it. We saw him, warts and all, make an idiot of all those who voted for him and have the rest of us reaching for the Prozac. Then, on Monday night at a dinner to host the Chinese president, he confused China with Tasmania.

The thought of having to endure another two years watching this man stumble from one gaffe to another while continuing to lead our country, is asking too much. We deserve better. Whatever misgivings people may have had about Kevin Rudd or Julia Gillard, surely those misgivings must pale into insignificance when placed alongside the recurring examples of ineptitude displayed by this man.

For a moment, let us look beyond the sheer dishonesty that is the trail of broken promises. As unfair as they are, as economically unsound and unlikely to work as they are, his government would not be the first to play that card. Let us look beyond the appalling treatment of asylum seekers, a policy decision based solely on the belief that it gave his party an electoral advantage.

Let us look beyond his extraordinary approach to the issue of climate change. Let us put some of his utterly stupid remarks about coal to one side for the time being. Let us look beyond the possibility that he is, and has been, ineligible to stand for parliament in the first place, because of Section 44 of the Constitution which prohibits those holding dual citizenship from being candidates.

These are all issues we can debate but which are overshadowed by another. The question all LNP members of parliament should be asking is: does this man demonstrate the qualities and mental capacity necessary to lead the nation, or is he simply a figurehead, a puppet attached to, and dangled by, other more powerful interests who take advantage of his inability to articulate a coherent narrative?

bizarreWhen one addresses that question and places all his bizarre comments, his misguided sense of equality, his inability to express an original thought, surely they must scratch their heads and wonder: is he the best they have to offer?

If they cannot nominate an alternative, then they too must all be seen as incompetent and tarred with the same brush.

That then leaves the only alternative: to demand of the Governor General that he be replaced.

It’s not as if he would be the first. As unlikely as that is to happen, however, it is as clear as it is appropriate. If the man himself was willing to put the country ahead of his own personal ambitions, he would step down.

The latest Newspoll would suggest the majority of voters agree.

It’s all about the jobs, bout the jobs, no trouble

Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have been at pains to tell us it’s all about “jobs and growth”.  Now that we have “a number” the economies of the world will be saved.  But how do we intend to reach this magical figure of “2% growth above what is expected”?

The government’s action plan has listed five “key commitments” to underpin its pledge.

The first key commitment to expanding economic activity is infrastructure spending, including its “asset recycling initiative” – encouraging state governments to privatise assets and then plough the proceeds into new projects.

Considering we are selling the profitable Medibank Private to invest in railways for dubious Indian coal mining ventures, this seems an avenue to privatising profits and socialising losses.  No doubt some Liberal Party donors will do well out of it.

“Employment welfare reforms” is ranked as the No 2 commitment, and notes that the changes will “strengthen participation and activation strategies”.

By cutting payments entirely to some unemployed and requiring jobseekers to search for more jobs to qualify for payments, the government argues it will spur the unemployed to look for work rather than live on welfare, thereby boosting economic activity.

But that boost can only come if there are jobs for the unemployed to get and there seems little in the way of a plan to create jobs beyond “axe the tax” and “build some roads”.

Anglicare Australia commissioned a report called “Beyond Supply and Demand” which rubbished the Abbott government’s treatment of the long-term unemployed, calling for a “life first” rather than a “work first” approach to end joblessness.

Anglicare executive director Roland Manderson said

“It’s a problem if the public debate hinges on an assumption that people can just try harder and get work, that’s not true.  What is true is that people can get work and develop really great work but you need to put that investment in at the front end.  The problem with the ‘earn or learn’ (budget measure) is it makes the assumption that any training will do the trick. It’s disempowering to train people who might find work for a short time, but then are out of work again because they haven’t worked through their life barriers.”

Labor assistant treasury spokesman Andrew Leigh said cuts to welfare payments such as   the unemployment benefit, family tax benefits and the pension would act to suppress economic growth.

“If you produce a budget that reduces the income of the poor, it has an impact on consumer demand because they spend everything they’ve got,” he said.  “That will detract from economic growth.”

The other key commitments are “cutting red tape”, “contributing to global trade liberalisation” and “creating self-reliant industries”.

If one thing came out of the many millions spent on inquiries into the Home Insulation Program, it was to underline the dangers of “cutting red tape” and oversight.

The most obvious result of this commitment is to fast track development and mining approvals without regard to environmental impacts, and to remove rights of appeal.

The detail of the China Free Trade Agreement, or Memorandum of Understanding to be more accurate, is yet to be released so it is difficult to assess its impact but one concession we made was to allow Chinese companies to bring in their own workers.  I’m not sure how selling our assets to foreign companies who send their profits back home and who employ foreign workers will actually boost our economy.

Andrew Robb also admitted that Treasury has not done modelling on the overall impact of this agreement and he does not know how it will affect our balance of trade.

The commitment to “create self-reliant industries” seems to fly in the face of Abbott’s staunch resistance to reducing fossil fuel subsidies.  And how does Newman’s Galilee railway and Hunt’s Emissions Reduction Fund fit into that plan?

As was forcibly pointed out over the weekend, renewable energy is an industry of the future, but rather than taking advantage of the billions available for investment in this area, Abbott seems determined to kill off this industry and the tens of thousands of jobs that go with it, presumably because it offers competition to those humanitarian coal producers and users.

Which seems strange as the Coalition’s plan for more jobs is based on improving productivity and competitiveness.

Across the globe, mining productivity has declined by 20 per cent over the past seven years, despite the push for increased output, and declining market conditions.

Efficiency in the Australian mining industry has received a stern rebuke from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), rated as one of the least productive regions in the world.

The damning report ‘Mining for Efficiency’ states that Australia is the second least productive mining region in the world, with Africa taking the wooden spoon, and North America beating Australia on all classes of equipment.

The report claims there is an inherent conflict between the productivity plans of the mining boom which were based on increased volumes, and plans based on cost reduction which are now coming to the fore of business strategy.

Despite claims by industry lobby groups that high wages in Australia will impact on our competitiveness, results actually show “significant divergences” between mines in close proximity chasing the same minerals under the same industrial relations conditions.

Equipment and the way it is used is a key focus of the report, which shows that productivity differences between the best and worst performing mines are stark, with some of the best practice outputs coming in at more than 100 per cent greater than the median performers.

“The popular tagline of the mining sector is that the miners are serious about productivity,” PwC states.

“We suggest that most are reducing costs and increasing volumes but there are precious few with legitimate claims to improving core productivity in their open cut operations.”

Comments in the report echoed the new fashion for cost reduction employed by the major miners who continue to sell off ‘non-core’ assets, such as BHP Billiton had done earlier this year with Nickelwest operations.

“Miners are banking the first available dividend, selling or segregating mines deemed too hard to fix and tempering expectations of further productivity gains by citing a combination of labour laws, high costs, regulatory hold ups and mine configuration constraints,” Lumley said.

And then this morning, we are hit with the news that the axe has fallen again at Australia’s research agency, the CSIRO, with another 75 researchers retrenched across the organisation’s future manufacturing, agriculture and digital productivity programs.

All three affected areas belong to the CSIRO’s flagship “impact science” division, set up in 2003, which aims to partner with universities and the private sector to bring “large scale and mission directed science” to bear on major national priorities.

Future manufacturing research will be hardest hit, losing up to 45 full-time positions, including in advanced fibres, biomedical manufacturing and high-performance metals.

Among the work to which future manufacturing research scientists have contributed is state-of-the-art ceramic body armour for Australian soldiers, the southern hemisphere’s first Arcam additive manufacturing facility, which enables 3D printing of metals, and a spray-on topcoat for aircraft.

But this shouldn’t surprise us from a government who thinks coal is the industry of the future and a Treasurer who thinks that climate change is “absolutely not” an impediment to economic growth

You bet you will

When Tony Abbott got a little over-excited with his shirt-front threat, saying “You bet you will”, it was perhaps more prophetic than a slip of the tongue.

It seems the other leaders have been lining up to have ‘robust conversations’ with Vladimir Putin, while Tony is lining up for photos, though he did put Vlad at the end of the line in the group shot.

Meanwhile, Tony’s buddy, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered a verbal shirt-front to Putin.

“I guess I’ll shake your hand but I have only one thing to say to you: you need to get out of Ukraine,” Harper told Putin at the summit in Brisbane, Australia, according to his spokesman Jason MacDonald.

Putin’s response to the comment was not positive, MacDonald said in an email, without elaborating.

Obama said the United States was at the forefront of “opposing Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, which is a threat to the world, as we saw in the appalling shoot-down of MH17” — a reference to the downing of a Malaysian airliner over rebel-held territory on July 17, with the loss of 298 lives.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the European Union was considering further financial sanctions against Russian individuals because of the crisis in Ukraine.

“The present situation is not satisfying,” she told reporters. “At present the listing of further persons is on the agenda.”

A Kremlin spokesman said the Ukraine crisis was the only topic discussed at a one-on-one meeting between Putin and British Prime Minister David Cameron, but he added both expressed interest in “ending confrontation” and rebuilding relations.

The European Union demanded Moscow withdraw troops and weapons from Ukraine and put pressure on rebels there to accept a ceasefire, after the latest fighting wrecked a truce agreed in September.

EU foreign ministers will meet on Monday to assess the situation in Ukraine and whether further steps including additional sanctions are needed against Russia, said European Council President Herman Van Rompuy. Obama plans to meet European leaders to discuss the matter on Sunday, he added.

Outside the summit, Ukrainian Australians staged an anti-Putin protest, wearing headbands reading “Putin, Killer”.

Meanwhile, Putin was all smiles, shaking hands with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.  Press secretary, Mr Peskov, also praised Tony Abbott, saying the Prime Minister was an absolutely hospitable host.

Call me Tony.

koala

Tony Abbott Addresses The G20 But Forgets To Put Stamp On Envelope And So It Comes Back To Him!

Today Mr Abbott had the opportunity to talk to the World’s Leaders. As he noted, some of the most powerful and influential people in the world were in the room, and if Rupert and the IPA had been there it would have been a really important occasion.

“Nowhere on earth will there be a more influential gathering than this,” he said, before adding that, normally, due to the red tape of the local council, they’d have had a lot more trouble getting a park. Mr Abbott went on to explain some of the extremely important issues that faced the municipality where the G20 was being held, in the hope that some of the hysterical calls for discussions on climate change could be seen in perspective.

“This room symbolises the limitations on our power!” Mr Abbott went on, “Thanks to the Liberal Government blocking all the traffic, you people have been able to drive on whatever side of the road you chose to, and that’s our plan for all of Australia. Anyone with a chauffeur can do whatever the hell they want to.”

Mr Abbott then suggested that they speak from their hearts rather than the parts of the body that politics often called for. “Personally, I’ve been forced to say things I don’t mean for years now, and I’d just like to have the opportunity to allow you people to tell me in private how much you respect me for being able to get myself elected with so little to offer.”

He suggested that people address each other by their first names, no matter how difficult they were to pronounce, and for any knights or dames to be simply addressed as “sir” to avoid gender confusion.

Mr Abbott added that there were constraints facing us all. Australia, for example, had a big deficit problem, and that some people weren’t happy with the brave decisions his government was trying to make, while not annoying people with a double dissolution.

“It doesn’t matter what spending program you look at, it doesn’t matter how wasteful that spending program might appear, there are always some people in the community who vote who love that program very much.

Mr Abbott went on to cite an example of an extremely wasteful community program.

“For a long time most Australians who went to see a doctor have been seen at no charge and we would like to see a $7 co-payment for people who are going to see the doctor.

“In most countries this is not unusual … but it is proving to be massively difficult to get this particular reform through the Parliament.

“So getting the budget under control has proven very difficult.”

 

Mr Abbott added that he was sure that all of the world leaders would like to set the example by paying a $7 payment every time they spoke at the G20, because as they all knew, nothing was free, not even speech.

“It’s just a way of helping cover the enormous costs of an event like this. After all, thanks to the Labor Party, Australia had the GFC which left the country with enormous debt and, unlike most of you, who were unaffected by Labor’s mismanagement, we need every cent we can get to the Budget back into surplus.”

Mr Abbott closed his remarks by demonstrating that even while he was drinking a glass of water, he could still make statements on behalf of the IPA.

image

Laggards or Leaders

While Joe Hockey labels Australians as “lifters or leaners”, governments are similarly judged as “laggards or leaders”.  In one fell swoop this government has taken us from being a world leader to a despised laggard.

You could be forgiven for not knowing there was a climate change conference in Bonn in June.  In fact, I am not even sure if we actually sent anyone.  The last I heard, the delegates were standing around at Sydney airport wondering what to do because the PM’s plane had flown off to France full of photographers and businessmen, relegating the delegates to catch commercial flights, but the PM’s office, who control such things, had neglected to give approval for their expenses.

Since I had heard no reports of the conference I looked for myself.  This was the first story I came across.

Australia awarded Fossil of the Day at UN Climate Talks for Trying to Reconvene Flat Earth Society

June 10 2014, Bonn – Germany: CAN bestows the first Fossil Award of the Bonn UNFCCC negotiation session to Australia in recognition of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s stupendously brazen denial of the catastrophic risks posed by climate change in his effort to form an alliance of “like minded” countries opposed to action on climate change, already dubbed by some as a new “flat earth society.”

News accounts report that the Minister has enjoined Canada in his new coalition and is reaching out to other countries including the UK and India “aiming to dismantle global moves to introduce carbon pricing.”

CAN salutes the Abbott’s commitment and consistency in his willful blindness to the catastrophic economic costs incurred by climate change.

He has also recently announced his intention to keep climate change out of the upcoming G20 talks hosted by Australia arguing that  climate change is inappropriate because such talks are primarily about economics.

Prime Minister Abbott must have missed the IPCC memo which spells out that climate change is the economic problem facing our age – it’s already costing us, but it doesn’t cost the earth to save the world.

He is clearly looking for recognition of his visionary approach to climate change, and CAN is proud to be among the first to step out and congratulate his dedication to the fossilized past.  [In case you were wondering – no, this isn’t a joke.  Abbott has really done this.  Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.]”

This came on the heels of the report from the conference in Warsaw in November last year.

November 22, 2013

This year’s Colossal Fossil goes to Australia. The new Australian Government has won its first major international award – the Colossal Fossil. The delegation came here with legislation in its back pocket to repeal the carbon price, failed to take independent advice to increase its carbon pollution reduction target and has been blocking progress in the loss and damage negotiations. Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi!

Some people have described our new Senators as a “breath of fresh air”.  What I see is ill-informed naïvity.  Clive Palmer has somehow convinced these “ordinary people” that Australia will be better off without a carbon price and a mining tax.  Nice going Clive.

Tony Abbott has managed to do the same, telling us that our cost of living will go down, jobs will be created, and investment money will flow….but don’t bet the house on it.

This unholy alliance has sent Australia backwards but they will not prevail.  Their actions will be increasingly condemned as the world forces them to take action on the greatest challenge our planet has ever faced.

Image by climate-change-guide.com

Image by climate-change-guide.com

Abbott will face enormous pressure at the G20 summit later this year, and at the climate change talks in Paris next year, despite his efforts to remove discussion from the agenda.  Under pressure from Obama, in a typically immature approach to control the language, Abbott agreed to discuss “energy efficiency”.

A recent poll by the Lowy Institute showed that after six years of declining public concern about climate change, the trend had reversed with 45 per cent of people saying it is a “serious and pressing problem”.

In the meantime, it is worth remembering that smart, decent people are waiting for this temporary nightmare to pass and have viable plans for the direction our future must take.

In July 2012, Beyond Zero Emissions produced a document called “Laggard to Leader – How Australia Can Lead the World to Zero Carbon Prosperity”.  The main thrust of the study is:

  • Australia must stop using the promise of a global treaty that won’t eventuate to duck responsibility for its ballooning coal and gas exports.
  • A moratorium on coal and gas expansion followed by a phasedown will drive a massive increase in global renewable energy investment.
  • Australia can lead the world to cheap, abundant renewable energy by deploying off-the-shelf, zero carbon technology that will grow Australia’s prosperity.

The International Energy Agency warned in 2012, “the door to a 2°C trajectory is about to close”.  To keep the door open, global emissions must peak and begin to decline by 2020 at the absolute latest and then keep declining to zero by between 2040 and 2050. We are in “the critical decade”.  Decisions we make today will largely determine the state of the climate system within which all subsequent generations must live.

The world’s nations gathered in Durban in late 2011 to continue long-standing negotiations towards a comprehensive international treaty to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The best they could agree was that they would aim to negotiate by 2015 an agreement requiring some countries to start reducing emissions beginning in 2020. These negotiations cannot be relied upon to secure the emissions cuts that are required. “It is clear”, argue the editors of the world’s preeminent scientific journal, Nature, “that the science of climate change and the politics of climate change … now inhabit parallel worlds”.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Australia where the Federal Government and its State Government counterparts are aggressively supporting a massive programme of investment in new mines, wells, pipes and ports. These projects will see Australia export a staggering amount of highly emissions-intensive coal and gas during — and well beyond — the critical decade.

Australia is already the world’s largest coal exporter, responsible for more than a quarter of the world’s traded coal, and is the fastest growing exporter of liquefied natural gas. The emissions embodied in Australia’s fossil fuel exports already total much more than our “domestic” emissions. Based on data accumulated by Australian Government agencies, Australia’s combined coal and gas exports are projected to more than double between now and 2030.

To allow this to occur would be catastrophic for global efforts to avoid dangerous climate change: it would mean Australia would be causing more than 1 in every 10 tonnes of the greenhouse gas emissions that can be emitted into the atmosphere in 2030 consistent with a 2°C warming trajectory.

Australia is the steward of its natural resources. They belong to all Australians and we can choose what to do with them. When our exports of coal and gas are burned, the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is the product of these choices. The fact that these emissions are not counted in Australia’s “carbon accounts” under UN carbon accounting rules has previously been used as an excuse for us to ignore their consequences.

But these rules are based on the idea that all countries will have emissions reduction targets, the achievement of which will “add up” to the global cuts necessary to stay within the 2°C limit. With the UN negotiations deadlocked and no foreseeable prospect of such an international regime emerging in the necessary timeframe, this excuse is not acceptable.

Hoping, against all probability, that the negotiations will reach a breakthrough just in time, while at the same time making the problem they are trying to solve significantly worse is a dangerous, counterintuitive and counterproductive approach for Australia to take.

It is well beyond time to approach the global challenge of preserving a safe climate in a very different way. It is time to put leadership towards zero carbon prosperity at the heart of our response.

The logic of “Cooperative Decarbonisation” is simple. Each country must phase down to zero or very near zero the greenhouse gas emissions associated with every economic and social process over which it has control or influence.  Instead of drawing lines at national borders, this approach recognises that, in a globalised economy, countries have shared responsibility for many of the emissions that occur in any one place. As such, countries should use every lever they have to eliminate those emissions within their “sphere of influence”, including the fossil fuels they export and the goods they import.

Clearly, international cooperation will be required — particularly to ensure that the goals of sustainable economic development are achieved and that wealthier countries assist low income countries to make this essential transition. But instead of trying to do it all in one “grand bargain” as they are today, countries should work in smaller groups, focusing their efforts on the individual sectors and processes that cause emissions — working to leave fossil fuels in the ground, preserve the world’s forests and make renewable energy affordable for all.

Australia, one of the world’s wealthiest nations, is one of only a small handful of countries that can lead this process. The main reason for this is simple: our sphere of influence over global emissions is immense. Our high domestic emissions make us an important player, on par with nations like France, Spain and South Korea. But it is our ballooning coal and gas exports that make us a truly critical influence on global emissions.

We can use this position to focus the attention of world leaders on the most important, yet least discussed part of the climate problem: the fact that only one eighth of the world’s remaining fossil fuel reserves can safely be burned. Australia can help make that which is currently “unthinkable” — a global fossil fuel phase out — a reality.

We need an Australian moratorium on new fossil fuel developments: a bold move from the world’s largest coal exporter that can serve as the centrepiece for a wider call to action. Such a move would maintain the current global price of coal and stop it from falling by an expected 30% this decade. It would be one of the few conceivable ways that any single country could jolt world leaders into action, creating the economic and political momentum to commence immediate global discussion on the best and fairest means to phase-out fossil fuels.

Thankfully, Australia’s global power does not arise only from our ownership of the resources that are fuelling the problem. As the beneficiary of world class solar and wind resources, we also hold the key to the most important solutions.

Solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind energy are essential to decarbonising the world’s energy system. Thanks largely to the targeted investments made by Germany and other European countries when these technologies were more expensive, they have sailed down the “cost curve” and are now price-competitive with fossil fuel energy in many markets. Germany’s installation of almost 30GW of solar PV brought PV prices down by an incredible 65% over the past six years.

The other crucial technology is concentrating solar thermal (CST) with storage. This technology, which is operating today in other countries, produces 24 hour energy from the power of the sun. The Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan showed that powering the Australian economy using predominantly CST is technically and economically achievable, starting now, in ten years. The greatest gift that sunny Australia could give to the world is to repeat for CST what cloudy Germany did for solar PV: through smart policies and targeted investments, enable the deployment across Australia of enough CST to make this game-changing technology cost-competitive with fossil fuels everywhere.

Cheap renewable energy will solve some of the most challenging problems facing humankind this century — from climate change, to oil scarcity, to energy poverty — and allow us to build a global economy on foundations as reliable as the rising sun.

Australia has the power to make it happen.  It is up to us to insist that it does.

Abbott’s International Tour de Farce

Last week, Tony Abbott embarked on his international tour of embarrassment. Not content to cause shame on the national stage, he is hell-bent on humiliating Australia in lands far and wide, following up his lampooning on popular US TV show Last Week Tonight.

Of all the catastrophic cringes inflicted upon us in the mere days since he left our shores – calling Canada “Canadia”; using his D-Day speech to promote the Coalition’s harsh economic policies (Open For Business blah blah blah); cancelling meetings with the world’s most powerful economic organisations; inspiring the trending Twitter hashtag #WhatAbbottWillSayToObama – it’s his climate-sceptic stance which is the greatest cause for shame.

obama

Photo: WhatCulture

It is feared by many that the strong ties with our US ally are at risk over Abbott’s inaction on climate, particularly following the warm friendship Obama shared with Julia Gillard. Those in the Obama administration have publicly voiced their concern over our climate sceptic PM. According to Obama’s former chief climate adviser, Heather Zichal, ”I think everyone except the climate deniers are deeply concerned with the direction [Australia] is going”.

How embarrassing that Abbott has compared his pathetic Direct Action plan to the Obama administration’s historic plans to tackle climate change, unveiled last week. The latest in a long line of significant progress, Obama has always supported tough action on climate change and big polluters, but has struggled to get his emissions trading legislation past Republicans. Abbott on the other hand actively campaigned against the Carbon Tax and any emissions trading scheme for years, mocking it as the “non-delivery of an invisible substance”.

Even The Australian thinks Abbott needs to act on climate in light of this strong action from the US.

In February, Abbott announced that climate change would not be on the agenda for the annual G20 summit in Brisbane. He described climate change as an issue which would “clutter up” the schedule, squandering the chance to discuss real economic issues like free trade and reduced regulation.

Clutter? The greatest political, environmental and economic crisis facing our generation is CLUTTER?

The summit has been described by Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek as, “the most important international meeting that has ever been held on Australian soil.” While BHP Billiton CEO Andrew Mackenzie wholeheartedly supports leaving climate off the agenda, surprisingly, world leaders do not agree. Climate change was on the agenda both in 2012 in Mexico and 2013 in Russia, and here’s a good reason why:

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria, and IMF Managing Director Christine Legarde have all identified action on climate change as a key international policy priority for the global economy.

Unlike Abbott, the remaining members of the G20 take the economic ramifications of a more unstable climate seriously.  They understand that climate change costs the national economy through failed agriculture, coastal erosion, sea level rise and extreme weather events.  Even more importantly, they understand the more serious international issues caused by climate change – food insecurity, mass migration, famine, political instability, disease – all of which have the potential to cause global economic instability.

Abbott’s continued refusal to acknowledge any link between climate change and the impacts of extreme weather unfolding in Australia is astounding.

fire

Photo: Mid North Coast Greens

The east coast of Australia just experienced its hottest May on record, registering a scary 8 degrees above normal on May 25th. Huge areas of agricultural land in NSW and QLD have been without significant rainfall for over a year, and the government must now fork out millions to support farmers in these drought-stricken lands. We’ve seen more extreme weather events, from drought to storms to floods. What embarrassment when Abbott derided UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres as “talking through her hat”, for suggesting a link between our ferocious spring bushfires and climate change.

But on his travels, Abbott seems to have found a soul mate in his ultra conservative Canadian twin Stephen Harper.  Harper’s government has embarked on a similar path to the Coalition – campaigning against a carbon tax, gutting environmental funding, jumping into bed with the fossil fuel industry, and being ‘Open For Business’.  Under Harper, Canada became the only country to withdraw from the Kyoto protocol due to the huge influence of their fossil fuel industry.  If Abbott has his way, Australia will be the only country to abolish an emissions trading scheme.  Soul mates indeed.  Go Canadia!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzkzJhA6s1g

Meanwhile, the gaffes keep rolling in, and Buzzfeed have even created an ode to the embarrassment that is Tony Abbott.  Hilarious as it is, every time Abbott opens his mouth Australia loses credibility on the world stage.

Far from building his international reputation, Abbott’s diplomatic tour is showing just how out of step he is with the rest of the world.

Hot time in Brisbane

Image from news.com.au

Image from news.com.au

In September 2013, then host of the G20, Russia, produced a 27 page long G20 Leaders’ Declaration outlining their future priorities and goals.  Contained in that document was the following:

“We welcome efforts aimed at promoting sustainable development, energy efficiency, inclusive green growth and clean energy technologies and energy security for the long term prosperity and well being of current and future generations in our countries.

It is our common interest to assess existing obstacles and identify opportunities to facilitate more investment into more smart and low-carbon energy infrastructure, particularly in clean and sustainable electricity infrastructure where feasible. In this regard we encourage a closer engagement of private sector and multilateral development banks with the G20 Energy Sustainability Working Group (ESWG) and call for a dialogue to be launched on its basis in 2014 that will bring interested public sector, market players and international organizations together to discuss the factors hindering energy investment, including in clean and energy efficient technologies and to scope possible measures needed to promote sustainable, affordable, efficient and secure energy supply.”

In Australia, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation is doing just that.

“The CEFC investments in renewable technologies span a range of energy sources- wind, solar and bioenergy – and different financial structures. The CEFC has co-financed utility scale investments along with other Australian and international banks, co-financed businesses to maximise their potential use of renewable energy resources, and participated in refinancing deals.”

What’s more, they are attracting investment, creating jobs in new industries, and making a profit for the government while doing it.

“Since its creation 18 months ago, the CEFC has matched private sector funds of $2.90 for each $1 of CEFC investment to catalyse over $1.55  billion in non-CEFC private capital investment in projects and programs, while it has committed $536 million. Those projects account for a reduction in 3.9 million tonnes of carbon.

The CEFC is earning an average return of 7 per cent, and its abolition would cost taxpayers up to ­$200 million annually in lost ­revenue.”

There can be absolutely no justifiable reason for closing down the CEFC.  It is the ultimate example of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

The 2013 G20 report also said:

“We appreciate the progress achieved since the establishment of the G20 Global Marine Environment Protection (GMEP) Initiative and welcome the launch of the GMEP Initiative website as a key element of the GMEP Mechanism for the voluntary exchange of national best practices to protect the marine environment, in particular to prevent accidents related to offshore oil and gas exploration and development, as well as marine transportation, and to deal with their consequences.”

They must be thrilled to hear this.

“According to a press release from the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation, the peak body representing angler interests nationally, Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the Government would come good on its promise to “suspend and review” the controversial marine parks process initiated by Labor and the Greens.”

And this:

“Unfortunately, soon a massively destructive coal port will be built just 50 km north of the magnificent Whitsunday Islands. The port expansion was approved by the Abbott Liberal National government on Wednesday 11 December, and it will become one of the world’s largest coal ports.

The coal export facility is ironically located on Abbot Point. The construction of this port will involve dredging 3 million cubic metres of seabed. The dredge spoil will be dumped into the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.”

And this:

“While Western Australia’s shark cull policy was meant to protect beachgoers, it has alarmed and horrified marine conservationists since it goes against the global effort to protect the declining shark population.”

Not to mention the whales…really…don’t mention the whales.

Another of the G20 goals was to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

“We reaffirm our commitment to rationalise and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption over the medium term while being conscious of necessity to provide targeted support for the poorest.”

Christine Lagarde, president of the International Monetary Fund, has warned that climate change is one of the greatest economic threats facing the world.

“The planet is “perilously close” to a climate change tipping point, and requires urgent cooperation between countries, cities and business, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde has said.

Addressing an audience in London, Lagarde said reducing subsidies for fossil fuels and pricing carbon pollution should be priorities for governments around the world.

“Overcoming climate change is obviously a gigantic project with a multitude of moving parts. I would just like to mention one component of it—making sure that people pay for the damage they cause,” she said. “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.”

I wonder if they realise that:

“the Australian Government plans to gift over $10 billion of taxpayer’s money to subsidise fossil fuel use.”

Australia has assumed the presidency of the G20 for 2014 and Tony Abbott has released his agenda.

“Australia’s G20 Presidency in 2014 will structure leaders’ discussion around the key themes of:

  • Promoting stronger economic growth and employment outcomes
  • Making the global economy more resilient to deal with future shocks

We want to maintain a tight focus on practical outcomes that will lift growth, boost participation, create jobs and build the resilience of the global economy.”

Okay, reasonable goals, but what about clean energy and sustainable practice.  This is what Tony has to say on that:

 “Strengthening energy market resilience

Well-functioning energy markets and reliable supply are essential to every household and business and have a significant impact on the cost of living and the cost of doing business. Emerging economies are expected to account for more than 90 per cent of growth in energy demand to 2035. In 2014 the G20 will support international efforts to improve the operation of global energy markets and increase cooperation between major producers and consumers. The G20 will also explore how it can advance work on energy efficiency and continue its work to improve the transparency of energy markets. These efforts will help position us to meet the energy demands of the future.”

The only environment mentioned in his document is the investment environment.

Abbott and Newman must be expecting a hot old time at the G20 meeting later this year in Queensland.  In typical Queensland fashion, they have made new laws to cope with it.

 “The Queensland Government last night passed legislation to strengthen police powers during the G20 events in Brisbane and Cairns.

The legislation declares special security areas in the two cities, gives police extra search and arrest powers, and creates offences for actions such as crossing barriers and disrupting meetings.

Police Minister Jack Dempsey says locals who do not pass criminal history checks will be denied access to restricted zones and alternative accommodation will be provided at the cost of a few hundred dollars.

“We’re expecting 99 per cent of people being able to go freely once they’ve had their criminal history checks and balances in place.”

The bill prohibits a series of items from G20 zones, including weapons, cans, jars, whips, eggs, insects, reptiles, banners that measure larger than 100cm in height by 200cm in width, and remote-controlled planes.”

I wonder how many patrol cars will be out there armed with Mortein, or capsicum spray for anyone caught with eggs in their groceries.

I would suggest that Tony is more likely to need protection from the people he has screwed over inside the conference centre rather than from the Joe Blakes outside.

Abbott Solves World’s Problems! G20 Shocked About How Badly Labor Did.

 

Scene: Davos.

“Hello, Hans, did you catch that Tony Abbott’s speech?”

“No, unfortunately I was delayed. Was it good?”

“Was it good? it was brilliant. I learnt so much. Did you know that this World Economic Forum at Davos has been an important contributor to global progress for over 40 years?”

“Has it? No, I didn’t know that. Wow, I’m sorry I missed it. That would have been really worth hearing. Was that all?”

“No, he was quite an expert in economic matters. I mean I knew we’d have some extraordinary minds here, but this Abbott’s insights were quite breathtaking. For example, did you know that as soon as people have economic freedom, they create markets.”

“Really?”

“Yes. He went on to say that growth would solve all the world’s problems. And he told us that profit is not a dirty word because success in business is something to be proud of.”

“That must have made all the business people rethink things. I mean, many of them so are ashamed of their success that they hide their profits in places like the Cayman Islands.”

“Well, thanks to this Abbott person they can now be proud again.”

“Such a shame I was late. This sounds like the sort of speech that will prevent a global financial crisis from ever happening again.”

“Yes, according to  Abbott, that was not a ‘crisis of markets, but of governance”. We need to strengthen governance without suppressing the vitality of markets.”

“And how does one do that?”

“He didn’t go into much detail. But a man as brilliant as he is would surely have a plan. He then went on to explain how the previous Australian Government really messed things up by not going into recession, and started spending their money on drugs. Or something like that. I wasn’t paying attention. After all, Australian domestic politics is of little interest to me. I’m just interested in seeing that ideas like his are spread as widely as possible.”

“Well, I must go and see if I can meet this Herr Abbott. I understand he is quite an expert on mountain climbing too.”

“Yes, he knows that there are a limited number of mountains and you can’t climb what isn’t there!”

“Well, thank you for catching me up on what I’ve missed, Rupert. I may see you later.”

(For those of you who don’t get the mountain reference, see clip below.)

The Davos Experience

Tony Abbott speaking at Davos (image from news.com.au)

Tony Abbott speaking at Davos (image from news.com.au)

On day two of what Tony Abbott refers to as “the Davos experience”, he had what he described as “an excellent meeting with some of Australia’s most senior and important business people”.  One may wonder why he has to fly to Switzerland to meet with Aussies but Mr Abbott assured us that it was “not because we love travel, but because we want to do the right thing by the people, the workers and the businesses of our country.”  He explained the purpose of the meeting in a press conference:

“The interesting thing about my discussions with Richard Goyder of Wesfarmers, with Nev Power of Fortescue, with Gail Kelly of Westpac, and with David Thodey of Telstra is that …. the leaders of those businesses are here at this conference because they want to ensure that right around the world we have got the policies in place which are going to promote private sector-led growth, investment and employment. What that requires is sensible government which gets taxes down, which gets regulations down, which gets productivity up because if we can do all those things we get growth up and that means more jobs and more prosperity for our people.”

So do these business leaders want prosperity for all?

According to Wesfarmers website,

“The primary objective of Wesfarmers is to provide a satisfactory return to its shareholders.

It is one of Australia’s largest listed companies – a conglomerate with many ventures including Coles supermarkets, coal mines, chemicals, energy, fertilisers, and insurance.

Two months after the election, Wesfarmers chief Richard Goyder sent a clear message to Canberra not to interfere with the nation’s supermarket sector, warning that an attempt to cap the market share of Coles and Woolworths would lead to higher prices for shoppers.

Coles and Woolworths, who currently enjoy an estimated combined grocery market share of about 70 per cent, are concerned that government may one day try to push through caps on market shares to open up competition from chains like Aldi and Costco.  The ACCC has promised investigations into Coles and Woolworths for alleged treatment of farmers and suppliers, as well as shopper-docket schemes for fuel discounts at supermarket-owned petrol stations.

Mr Goyder said he gets

“a bit perplexed when Coles is blamed for many of the challenges in the farming/food sector today. The farming and food industries do have challenges today, as they have had for many years.  They are not helped by our strong currency, as well as productivity issues and cumbersome regulations.  But, it is just too easy, too simplistic, to blame the supermarkets for a lot of these difficulties.”

Wesfarmers have also been actively expanding production and purchasing new coal mines despite the falling price of coal.

In a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange, Wesfarmers said total coal production in the December 2013 quarter was 3.7 million tonnes, a 6.8 per cent lift compared to the 3.5 million it produced in the December 2012 quarter.

Wesfarmers said in a separate statement it had agreed to acquire a mineral development licence from Peabody Energy for $70 million. The group said the purchase will increase the total base of coal reserves available at Curragh by 29 per cent and reflects confidence in the long-term outlook of its export business.

Another arm of Wesfarmers is CSBP, a major manufacturer and supplier of chemicals, fertilisers and related services to the mining, minerals processing, industrial and agricultural sectors.  Along with their affiliated companies, their products include

“Fertilisers, Ammonium Nitrate, Sodium Cyanide, Ammonia, Industrial Chemicals, Solution sodium cyanide, Solid sodium cyanide briquettes, PVC resin, wood-plastic composites, Residential LPG, AutoGas, Kwik-Gas, Bulk Gas, Industrial (45s and Speciality Gas), Natural gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG).”

No wonder Mr Goyder is keen to get rid of “cumbersome regulations”.  They could be a hindrance to “satisfactory returns”.

Whilst seemingly unable to say anything sensible about Syria, and sticking to his “Don’t mention the whales” stance with Japan, Mr Abbott has found time to consult with the miners and bankers on how to increase their superprofits, and with the supermarkets and Telstra on how to protect their monopoly markets.

Mr Abbott’s aim may be to see “more prosperity in Australia” but for whom, and at what cost?

 

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