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Tag Archives: Great Barrier Reef

Think very carefully, Queensland

When Queensland goes to the polls next Saturday they will be voting for their future – the future of their freedom, their democracy, their environment, the Great Barrier Reef, and their children.

Because of Queensland’s chequered political history and the behaviour of the current government, all political parties were recently asked to acknowledge good governance obligations expressed in very simple terms; that is, to:

  • make all decisions and take all actions, including public appointments, in the public interest without regard to personal, party political or other immaterial considerations;
  • treat all people equally without permitting any person or corporation special access or influence; and
  • promptly and accurately inform the public of its reasons for all significant or potentially controversial decisions and actions

Bizarrely, the Liberal National Party alone refused to commit to those constraints or to explain its reasons though Newman, under pressure at the leader’s debate, seemed to change his mind (possibly).

It is effectively telling voters that, if it is elected, it will do as it pleases; in effect, it will continue the behaviour which marked its first term and led to its heavy losses in recent by-elections.

With its single house of Parliament and history of political malpractice, Queensland is especially vulnerable to the misuse of political power.

In an article titled “Queensland political ethics: a perfect oxymoron”, Tony Fitzgerald recently said of the Newman government

“During its brief term in power, the present government treated the community with contempt. From behind a populist facade, it engaged in nepotism, sacked, stacked and otherwise reduced the effectiveness of parliamentary committees, subverted and weakened the state’s anti-corruption commission, made unprecedented attacks on the courts and the judiciary, appointed a totally unsuitable chief justice, reverted to selecting male judges almost exclusively and, from a position of lofty ignorance, dismissed its critics for their effrontery.”

The Q Forum has raised millions of dollars for the Queensland LNP and helped make the party the richest single political organisation in the country, according to the latest Australian Electoral Commission figures.

In July the LNP changed electoral disclosure laws to increase the threshold at which donations had to be declared, from $1,000 to $12,400.

The figure has since been inflation-adjusted to $12,800.

As a result, public disclosures of donations have become far less detailed.

Former Fitzgerald Inquiry special counsel Gary Crooke, who helped jail Queensland government ministers over corruption in the 1980s, described fundraising by charging for access to ministers as a “cancer” that kept coming back in politics and a betrayal of a fundamental public trust.

“They’re at it again with bells on, running these things where they are selling no more and no less than the community’s property that they hold in trust, in order to feather the coffers of a political party,” he said.

Mr Crooke, who also served as Queensland Integrity Commissioner, said such practices were “so unethical and so much in breach of fundamental duty that there should be a law prohibiting it”.

Now we have the bizarre situation of Campbell Newman (and others) suing Alan Jones for his allegations that Newman lied to him about the New Hope mine before the last election.

The decision to allow Acland to mine another 3m tonnes of coal a year was announced on the Friday before Christmas.

New Hope and its parent company, Washington H Soul Pattinson, donated more than $700,000 to the LNP at a state and federal level between 2011 and 2013.

Asked if New Hope’s donations influenced the government’s approval, Newman said: “I will not be commenting on Alan Jones.”

Asked by Guardian Australia if LNP officials had indicated whether the party’s donations had risen since it raised the secrecy threshold, Newman replied that he had “no idea”.

Ian Walker took a donation from a board director of New Hope Coal before his election in 2012 and, as the minister for science, information technology, innovation and the arts, subsequently oversaw the department which cleared levels of air pollution from uncovered coal trains in Brisbane before the expansion of New Hope’s Acland mine.

The pollution study by Walker’s department was released to companies including New Hope a week before it was made public in 2013.

Clean Air Queensland’s organiser Michael Kane claimed the government study clearing the pollution levels by averaging emissions over 24 hours was “absolutely the wrong methodology.”

New Hope’s chairman, Robert Millner, was called before the Independent Commission Against Corruption (Icac) in NSW last year over a donations controversy involving another Washington H Soul Pattinson subsidiary of which he was chairman, Brickworks.

Jones has also attacked the government over the energy minister, Mark McArdle, and the environment minister, Andrew Powell, accepting entertainment from New Hope in its corporate box at a Wallabies rugby game in Brisbane in 2013.

But what can we expect when the head of corporate affairs for a mining company has been in charge of developing policy on the environment for Queensland’s ruling Liberal National Party (LNP) since 2012.

James Mackay also worked full-time for the LNP during the 2012 election, while he was being paid $10,000 a month by the company, QCoal.

Mr Mackay has chaired the LNP’s state environment and heritage protection committee, which develops policy for discussion at the party’s annual conference, since being voted on to the committee in 2012.

Shortly after coming to power in 2012 the LNP introduced a bill to remove “green tape” or what it considered to be unnecessary or superfluous environmental regulation.

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said at the time that the state was “in the coal business” and if people wanted new schools and hospitals they had to accept that the state needed royalties from coal mining.

QCoal boss Mr Wallin gave $120,000 to the party in two donations just before the 2012 state election.

Campbell Newman is trying to tell us that mining will boost employment. In 2013-14 it did not even rate in the top ten employers by industry with about a quarter of the number of people employed in health care and social assistance.

The mining lobby keeps telling us about the great contribution it makes to the Australian economy. There is a lot of exaggeration in this and often much worse.

  • As Ross Gittins in the SMH and others point out mining accounts for about 10% of our national production, but only 2% of employment. The large increase in mining investment in recent years has mainly been to purchase equipment from overseas.
  • About 80% of our very profitable mining industry is foreign owned. BHP/Biliton is 76% foreign owned, RioTinto 83% and Xstrata 100%. This means that 80% of mining profits accrue to foreign shareholders and not to Australians. In this situation it is important for the owners of the minerals; we Australians, that we get some worthwhile return either in taxes or royalties.
  • State governments do receive royalties from mining companies for the exploitation of our national resources, but they hand a lot back to the mining companies. According to the Australia Institute, the states gave the mining companies $3.2 billion in concessions last year – mainly in providing railway infrastructure and freight discounts. In Queensland, these concessions or subsidies were equivalent to about 60% of the royalties the Queensland government received.
  • Michael West in the SMH on 27 April 2014 points out that Australia’s largest coal miner, Glencore/Xstrata paid no company tax at all over the last three years despite an income of $15 billion. According to West it achieved this remarkable result of paying no company tax by paying 9% interest on $3.4 billion in loans from overseas associates. This 9% incidentally was about double the interest it would have had to pay in the open market or from a bank. Having paid 9% on these borrowings to load up its “costs” in Australia it then lent money to ‘related parties’ interest-free. We are not told who these related parties were. But there is more. Apparently there has been a large increase in Glencore’s coal sales to ‘related companies’ from 27% to 46%. This would seem to indicate transfer pricing to shift income to lower tax countries. In this regard Michael West reported on the complex Glencore company structure. ‘The Glencore structure is now run as a series of business units controlled by one company [Glencore/Xstrata Plc) which is incorporated in the UK, listed on the London and other stock exchanges, with its registered office in Jersey (a tax haven) and its headquarters in Baar, Switzerland. It is probably all legal but is it right?

Indian-based company Adani has a large mine proposal at Carmichael in the Gallilee Basin and needs to build a rail line 388 kilometres to Abbott Point port where the coal will be exported. Campbell Newman has offered $300 million of taxpayer funds to build the railway despite Adani having trouble finding finance for its mining operation with most financiers saying it is not commercially viable.

Adani plans to export 100 million tonnes a year of coal to India and provide 2400 jobs.

Adani’s chief executive Sandeep Mahta estimates their coal plant generates more than $6 billion in royalties for the Queensland Government in its first decade of operation.

Reef tourism generates over 60,000 jobs and $6 billion a year in revenue to the Queensland economy.

If you agree with Campbell that the coal business is your future and you are prepared to sacrifice the Reef and the revenue and tourism jobs it sustains for a project that the banks won’t touch then you will probably vote for the Coalition. Get back to me on how that works out.

PS Could we please have less public kissing.

tony and lisa

 

Standing up for coal – Abbott and Newman give investment advice

Tony Abbott has told a G20 leaders’ discussion on energy he was “standing up for coal” as the Queensland government prepares to unveil new infrastructure spending to help the development of Australia’s largest coal mine.

Abbott, who recently said coal was “good for humanity”, also endorsed the mine, proposed by the Indian company Adani, to the meeting.

The Australian government has given all environmental and regulatory clearances for the $7.5 billion coal mining, rail and port project, said Gautam Adani, chairman, Adani Group, in an interview to The Indian Express.

And Campbell Newman is happy to put your money where his mouth is.

“We are prepared to invest in core, common-user infrastructure,” Mr Newman said. “The role of government is to make targeted investments to get something going and exit in a few years’ time.”

Despite poor market conditions, high costs and the massive outpouring of concern over the environmental impacts of their projects, Indian companies GVK and Adani remain hell-bent on opening up the Galilee Basin in Queensland. The smallest mine is as large as Australia’s biggest operating coal mine and the largest, twice the size. All of the proposals in the Galilee Basin would produce enough coal to chew up 7% of the world’s remaining carbon budget, drastically reducing our chances of keeping a lid on global warming.

Adani and fellow Indian company GVK are pushing their projects and Adani wants to start construction early next year, but the key problem is access to funds.

Few banks are willing to lend when coal prices are so low and the industry is facing issues with climate change.

There are also issues with both companies.

Adani Mining Pty Ltd borrowed $516 million from another subsidiary of the Adani Group, Adani Minerals, at an interest rate of 4.25%. Adani Enterprises, the parent group, borrowed from the banks 2 per cent more cheaply that it charges Adani Mining the subsidiary in Australia for internal loans.

Why would these loans be priced so far above commercial rates? Potentially they could rack up losses in Australia and rip out equivalent profits to India. Some $10 million a year thereby transferred – 2 per cent on $516 million – tax free to the subcontinent. Rupert would be proud.

Adani Mining P/L had no revenue and booked a pre-tax loss of $112 million in 2013-14. It spent $75 million on exploration and evaluation of the mining area, which was capitalised, along with $41 million of interest, into the balance sheet rather than expensed against the profit and loss.

Adani Mining’s red ink of $112 million mostly relates to currency losses. All loans are in US dollars with no hedging, giving rise to a loss every time the Australian dollar declines

The total investment so far by the Adani group in Adani Mining is now $984 million and shareholder equity is negative to the tune of $45 million which reflects net borrowings of $1.015 billion in this Australian subsidiary alone.

So we have a company with $1 billion in debt, negative shareholders funds, zero revenue and high cash burn with $15 billion still to spend, and the parent company, Adani Enterprises, has debts of $US12 billion.

Tim Buckley, director at the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, puts it bluntly: “This project is not commercially viable”. Apart from the financial deficiencies of the main participants, he says thermal coal is in structural rather than cyclical decline.

In another red flag, Linc Energy accepted $155 million from Adani a couple of months ago for its option in the project. It is worth asking why Linc boss Peter Bond would sell a royalty of $2 billion over 20 years – perhaps worth $600 million today – for just $155 million.

And then there’s GVK.

Despite claiming to be a “leading global infrastructure owner, manager and operator” GVKPIL has no experience operating any business outside of India. It has never successfully built and operated a coal mine – in India or otherwise. GVKPIL has not operated any business in Australia, let alone a US$10bn greenfield project in the face of massive environmental, operational, logistical and financial challenges.

GVKPIL is currently committed to 16 greenfield infrastructure projects across six different asset classes. Many are behind schedule and / or over budget.

With a market equity capitalisation of only US$243m, GVKPIL is carrying on-balance sheet net debt of US$2.8bn. It’s share price is at an all time low and has underperformed the Indian index by 80% since 2010.

Building Australia’s largest black thermal coal mine in the untapped Galilee Basin would challenge experienced operators, but the combination of an inexperienced developer, slack demand globally for thermal coal and a deteriorating cost of production scenario in Australia moves the project beyond speculative.

Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting sold a majority stake in two Galilee coal prospects – Kevin’s Corner and Alpha – to GVK in 2011 under a deal believed to include a $1.3 billion upfront payment and a requirement for a $1 billion payment later on. However, the latter payment is still unresolved more than three years on, with Hancock Prospecting listing the unpaid amount at $656 million in its 2013 financial accounts. Apparently they can’t afford to pay.

That asset was written down to nothing in Hancock Prospecting’s 2014 financial accounts, which were published by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission on Friday.

“The carrying amounts of the financial assets relating to a coal transaction with GVK … is based on the ability of the purchaser, GVK, to complete the outstanding transaction conditions, which includes the payment of substantial amounts,” the company wrote. “Management believes it is increasingly unlikely that these accounts will be received from GVK.”

According to The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, GVK‘s Alpha project appears likely to remain “stranded in the valley of death”.

Six of the top ten and nine of the top twenty coal funding banks have now stated that they don’t plan to fund the expansion of Abbot Point. Given the global scale and Australian focus of Galilee Basin projects, the Big Four banks in Australia (Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, ANZ Bank and National Australia Bank) will be critically important to the financing of this multi-billion work.

So far, the banks have been coy about saying anything about the proposals to expand coal exports through the Great Barrier Reef, falling back on sustainability policies that have, in recent years, seen them lend nearly $20 billion to fossil fuels. It has created an absurd situation where banks headquartered in Paris, London, and New York are doing more to stand up and defend the Reef than Australian banks.

It is already costing the banks. Several thousand customers have so far joined the rapidly growing divestment movement, moving to other banks in protest of the big four’s massive lending to the fossil fuel industry. And thousands more, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, sit in waiting, ready to shift their business based on whether the Australian banks will stand up and defend the Reef or fund its demise.

Rather than taking investment advice from Abbott and Newman, it’s time for us all to let our banks know what we Australians want.

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.

The role of government versus the role of our government

Image courtesy of smh.com.au

Image courtesy of smh.com.au

I recently read an article titled ‘The Responsibilities of Government’ and, whilst I did not agree with everything the author said, a few things really struck a chord with me.

“The government of a democracy is accountable to the people. It must fulfil its end of the social contract. And, in a practical sense, government must be accountable because of the severe consequences that may result from its failure. As the outcomes of fighting unjust wars and inadequately responding to critical threats such as global warming illustrate, great power implies great responsibility.”

The veil of secrecy surrounding this government protects them from their duty of accountability. The blue books advising the incoming government were withheld. Operational and intelligence matters will not be discussed. Crucial trade negotiations regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) are kept secret. Ministers are kept away from the media and all interviews must be approved by the Star Chamber. The media are denied access to our on and offshore detention centres, and now the Salvation Army are to be removed as well. The first sitting of Parliament was delayed, debate has been gagged, and the Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) report was not presented before Parliament rose.

Public servants are sacked and reviews are outsourced to the private sector, or consultants are engaged, all of whom seem to have a connection with the Liberal Party and/or big business. They are given little time to review or consult, restricted frames of reference, and unrepresentative panels. Much of what they have been asked to review has already been the subject of recent review, or a review is already underway by government bodies like the Productivity Commission. It seems that these people are being paid a lot of money to give the answers the government wants to hear.

The response to the “critical threat” of climate change has been to undo the action already taken in pricing carbon, to disband all climate change advisory bodies, to decimate the CSIRO, and to refuse to co-operate in international initiatives to deal with this global threat.

Instead we have hastened to approve the biggest coal mines in Australia and the port expansion and railways to support them. Two proposed coal mines in the region could be responsible for an estimated 3.7bn tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions over their lifetimes. Greenpeace estimates if all the Galilee Basin mines hit their maximum potential, 705 million tonnes of CO2 will be released each year. For comparison, Australia’s current annual emissions are in the order of 400 million tonnes.

“The coal to be mined from the Galilee basin and exported through Abbot Point each year which will create more CO2 emissions a year than produced by both Denmark and Portugal combined.”

One of the three terminals was proposed by the Indian resource giant Adani, the second by a joint venture between the Indian company GVK and Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Coal, and the third site was to be developed by BHP Billiton. But BHP recently pulled out of its involvement in the project.

Even though port developers Adani note in their environmental impact statement, submitted to the government, “The current developments (proposed and approved) for port expansion will facilitate the export of coal, the combustion of which is recognised as a significant contributor to greenhouse gases and the global effects of climate change”, climate change was not mentioned in the approval documentation.

Adani was not required to assess downstream effects of the coal passing through its port because, it said, two Federal Court cases over previous, unrelated projects, found that it wouldn’t be necessary. They were only required to report on how port operations may interact with climate change. In order to mitigate the effects of port operation on climate change, Adani proposes that it powers up with renewable energy:

“Adani recognises that measures to reduce [greenhouse gas] (GHG) emissions through energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy technologies or low emissions materials make good business sense. Consequently Adani will commit to reducing GHG emissions through its procurement and operations practices.”

Aside from the irony of a coal port being powered by renewable energy, the ultimate ramifications of the coal being unlocked has not been considered by either the developer or the government in the approval process.

Hunt has also approved the Arrow LNG facility on nearby Curtis Island, as well as its associated transmission pipeline.

This year Unesco’s World Heritage Centre warned that the Great Barrier Reef, which has lost half of its coral cover in the past 30 years, would be placed on its “in-danger” list if there were major new port developments. A study commissioned by the previous Labor government found that dredging spoil dumped at sea travelled further than previously thought, potentially endangering coral and other marine life. The approval documents show the spoil from the dredging will be dumped within the Great Barrier Reef marine park area.

On Monday the Coalition passed changes to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to strip away any repercussions if the government fails to consider expert advice before approving major developments such as mines and ports, removing the ability for community groups to legally challenge new developments if the environment minister failed to consult approved advice, thus removing the protection that the judicial system could have offered.

Which leads me to the second quote about the responsibilities of government.

“The central purpose of government in a democracy is to be the role model for, and protector of, equality and freedom and our associated human rights. For the first, government leaders are social servants, since through completing their specific responsibilities they serve society and the people. But above and beyond this they must set an ethical standard, for the people to emulate. For the second, the legal system and associated regulation are the basic means to such protection, along with the institutions of the military, for defense against foreign threats, and the police.”

Whilst we were quick to accede to America’s request to criticise China about a restricted flight zone, we condoned the human rights abuses in Sri Lanka and West Papua, and hesitated about action in Syria.

Social and income inequity is widening, exacerbated by this government’s preference for removing benefits from the poor whilst increasing them for the rich.

The vilification of Julia Gillard, the poor behaviour in question time in Parliament, and the rorting of MP’s entitlements, have hardly been ethical standards that the people should emulate.

The courts have been used to play politics as in the case of Peter Slipper, and to block equality laws like gay marriage, environmental laws have been changed, our military are being used to hunt down asylum seekers and our police are busily interrogating anyone caught riding a motor bike.

“Government economic responsibility is also linked to protection from the negative consequences of free markets. The government must defend us against unscrupulous merchants and employers, and the extreme class structure that results from their exploitation.

Governments argue that people need to be assisted with the economic competition that now dominates the world. But the real intent of this position is to justify helping corporate interests . . . siding against local workers, consumers and the environment.”

The lack of transparency, consultation, and discussion of possible consequences of our free trade agreements is of great concern. Allowing foreign corporations to dictate to us is a very dangerous path to follow. Instead of protecting us, the government are allowing big business to set the agenda in every area, and facilitating their every request with no thought to legal and social ramifications. There are a few aberrations to this general course. The failure to support Holden will cost many jobs and billions to the economy, and the failure to sell Graincorp has sent a message that we are closed for business.

“Another general role, related to the need for efficiency, is the organization of large-scale projects. It is for this benefit that we accept government involvement in the construction of society’s infrastructure, including roads, posts and telecommunications, and water, sewage and energy utilities. Further, giving government charge over these utilities guarantees that they remain in public hands, and solely dedicated to the common good. If such services are privatized, the owners have a selfish motivation, which could negatively affect the quality of the services.

That such assets should have public ownership is expressed in the idea of the “commons.” They should be owned by and shared between the members of the current population, and preserved for future generations.”

This government’s refusal to accept the necessity of a world class national broadband network (NBN) is baffling. The productivity benefits are huge, and the employment in the construction is significant. The refusal to fund public transport infrastructure is also very short-sighted.

We have already sold many of our valuable assets and the list being suggested for future privatisation seems to grow daily – schools, hospitals, Medibank Private, Australia Post, the ABC, HECS debts. Private businesses must make a profit and are not obliged to continue to provide unprofitable services. This can have dire repercussions for regional Australia, and for the variety of services that can be offered.

“Indeed, while we of course still need a means of defense, including against both external and internal (criminal) aggressors, it seems clear that our greatest need for protection is from other institutions and from the abuses of government itself, particularly its collusion with these other institutions. (Many of the needs that we now have for government are actually to solve the problems that it creates.)”

Who will protect us from this government?

Give Tony a chance! You’re kidding me!

I quite like the Sydney Morning Herald journalist with the acid wit, Mike Carlton. He’s one of the only journalists left in the country in touch with us common folk and besides, any journalist who refers to Andrew Bolt as Melbourne’s village idiot is worth listening to.

Yesterday he asked that we give Tony Abbott a chance to prove himself as Prime Minister. Suggesting that Tony Abbott entered the job the least credentialed of any in living memory he reminds us that:

. . . history shows that the prime ministership can sometimes have transformative powers, elevating those who attain it. Bob Hawke abandoned his boozy larrikin ways to become Labor’s most electorally successful leader. Paul Keating, with no formal education beyond the age of 15, rose to a dazzling command of the policy heights. John Howard, like Abbott also once seen as unelectable, was the towering conservative figure of his generation for nearly 12 years.

It seems only reasonable to wait and see what Abbott makes of it.

It’s a valid point.

I’ve waited four days. He’s the same idiot. Even the Irish have recognised four days of failure with the Irish Times reporting:

Australia’s new prime minister Tony Abbott spent the last past three years destabilising the Labor administration at every opportunity, saying it was the country’s “worst government ever”.

For a thousand days there was no respite from the Abbott attacks, which made it seem like the longest election campaign to date. But when the actual campaign began, Abbott suddenly shifted gear.

The tough campaigner who said the Labor carbon tax would ruin the economy (it didn’t), and whose scare tactics warned of Labor’s “debt and deficit”, accused Rudd of being “so negative”.

The Australian public could have been forgiven for saying, “Mr Pot, let me introduce you to Mr Kettle”. But they didn’t notice, or were way past caring.

Days before the election, the “budget crisis” Abbott said was Labor’s legacy was forgotten. Knowing the election was in the bag, he backed away from his promise to balance the budget within one term. Now it was “within 10 years” (by which time the Liberal-National coalition will be on its fourth term of government if it is still in power).

Having secured victory with a 32-seat majority, Abbott and his cabinet were not sworn in until 11 days after the election. The supposed budget crisis was now just a memory and the asylum-seeker boats he had pledged to stop from day one of winning power kept on coming. Seven of them in fact, containing more than 500 men, women and children from Iran, Afghanistan and other troubled regions of Asia.

But the Liberal Party chief has been true to his view that climate change is “crap”. The climate commission, an independent body set up by the previous government “to provide reliable and authoritative” information has been abolished.

Former chief commissioner Prof Tim Flannery is disillusioned: “We’ve just seen one of the earliest ever starts to the bush-fire season in Sydney following the hottest 12 months on record,” he said.

Not only an idiot but a powerful one.

But let’s not be candid. Give Tony Abbott a chance and he’ll do what?

In his election victory speech, Mr Abbott promised no surprises. He’s had the chance to prove his word is true but that has already been broken to the detriment of at least one set of disadvantaged Australians. He has also broken his word by not following through with his pre-election commitment to Indigenous Australians.

But it is even more frightening if he doesn’t break his word. True to his form will he succumb to the wishes of the IPA and:

Lower the tax-free threshold from $18,200 back to $6000. This will drag more than one million low-income earners back into the tax system. It will also increase the taxes for 6 million Australians earning less than $80,000.

Save families $300 dollars a year of Carbon Tax but cost them $2,300 per year in reinstated tax.

Privatise Medibank.

Privatise the Snowy-Hydro Scheme.

Privatise Australia Post.

Privatise the SBS.

Break up the ABC and put out to tender each individual function.

Privatise the Australian Institute of Sport.

End all public subsidies to sport and the arts.

Privatise the CSIRO.

Immediately halt construction of the National Broadband Network and privatise any sections that have already been built.

Abolish the means-tested Schoolkids Bonus that benefits 1.3 million families by providing up to $410 for each primary school child and up to $820 for each high school child.

Abolish the Baby Bonus.

Repeal the mining tax.

Withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol.

Repeal the Fair Work Act.

Repeal the carbon tax, and don’t replace it.

Repeal the marine park Legislation.

Repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Abolish the low-income superannuation contribution.

Reject proposals for compulsory food and alcohol labelling.

Reduce the size of the public service from current levels of more than 260,000 to at least the 2001 low of 212,784.

Abolish the Clean Energy Fund (done already).

Repeal the renewable energy target.

Introduce voluntary voting.

End mandatory disclosures on political donations.

End media blackout in final days of election campaigns.

End public funding to political parties.

Eliminate the National Preventative Health Agency.

Abolish the means test on the private health insurance rebate.

Repeal the Alcopops tax.

Means-test Medicare.

Cease subsidising the car industry.

End all corporate welfare and subsidies by closing the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education.

Introduce a special economic zone in the north of Australia.

Remove anti-dumping laws.

Abolish the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Abolish the Office for Film and Literature Classification.

Abolish the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

Eliminate laws that require radio and television broadcasters to be ‘balanced ‘.

Abolish television spectrum licensing and devolve spectrum management to the common law.

End local content requirements for Australian television stations.

Eliminate media ownership restrictions.

Give Tony Abbott a chance and he’ll also risk the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef. According to The Huffington Post:

“Australia is facing a hard choice right now whether to make a quick buck from coal exports or whether to preserve an economically, long-standing national treasure.

” . . . Tony Abbott could overturn all the steps that have been taken domestically to protect the environment, to instead fast track coal export developments and drastically weaken environmental laws that were created to protect the country”.

Give Tony a chance! You’re kidding me!

Mike, it’s insulting to Hawke, Keating and Howard to be compared in some small way with Abbott. Even Howard waited a few years before unleashing his hunger for power and his pandering to the big end of town. Those three men are intellectual giants compared to our new Prime Minister. They also believed, rightly or wrongly (with the exception of Howard on occasions) that most of their actions were in the best interests of the country. Give Tony Abbott a chance and he’ll show us the complete opposite.

Mike, I also think it’s irrelevant if the prime ministership makes a good man out of Tony Abbott. He won’t be remembered for it. Instead, he’ll be remembered as the bloke we gave a chance to run this country and who blew it. Spectacularly.

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