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Tag Archives: Greg Hunt

The Madness of Greg Hunt and the Carmichael Mine

Just in case anyone was left doubting the Abbott government’s disdain for environmental protection, our Environment Minister Greg Hunt has laid that to rest, approving the development of one of the largest coal mines in the world.

The Carmichael mine will be developed by Indian power company Adani. Owned by an Indian billionaire, Adani are sourcing Australian coal to fuel the surging demand for electricity in India.  They hope to begin exporting coal from the mega-mine in 2017.

The coal mine is simply gigantic – the largest Australia has ever seen, and one of the biggest in the world. Consisting of six open cut pits and five underground mines, it will cover an area seven times the size of Sydney Harbour.  The initial stages require the clearing of 20,000 hectares of bushland, home to 60 threatened species of flora and fauna.

Around 60 million tonnes of coal will be sent to the Queensland coast every year by an accompanying $2.1 billion rail corridor, where it will be exported to India from Abbot Point via the Great Barrier Reef.

CO2 emissions from the combusted Carmichael mine coal are estimated at a whopping 128 million tonnes per annum, cancelling out any of the gains made under the government’s pathetic Direct Action policy.  To put that figure in perspective, that’s equal to four times the amount that New Zealand emits in a year.

There were so many reasons not to approve this unprecedented development, both economic and environmental. Greg Hunt, however, was unmoved.

Of foremost concern – Adani’s alarming environmental track record. In India, they have been fined for illegally building on villagers’ land and destroying protected mangrove areas. They have been involved in the large-scale illegal export of iron ore, bribing officials, building an aerodrome without environmental approval, manipulating the approval process, ignoring environmental conditions and non-compliance with environmental monitoring.

Remember the Abbot Point controversy?  Well, Adani were one of the companies behind that too. Adani owns the coal export terminal at Abbot Point.  For the massive volumes of coal to be shipped overseas from their Carmichael mine, they need to expand the terminal to meet the surge in exports, which will see upwards of 450 extra coal ships travelling through the Great Barrier Reef every year.

Safe to say, this is bad news for the reef environment.

The proposed expansion of the coal export terminal requires three million cubic tonnes of seabed to be dredged, and dumped in adjacent waters within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.  Despite concerns within the GBR Marine Park Authority itself and UNESCO, as well as public outcry over the threat to the reef, Greg Hunt approved the dredging.

So toxic and unpopular is the Abbot Point dredging project, even international banks don’t want to be associated with it, with HSBC, Deutsche Bank and The Royal Bank of Scotland withdrawing funding.  But despite this, the Australian government thinks it fine to go ahead.

Despite Adani’s woeful record, Greg Hunt is comfortable allowing them to operate in one of the most environmentally sensitive areas in the world.  I am not.

The impact on groundwater has been a major cause for concern.  When operational, the mine will extract 12 billion litres annually from local rivers and aquifers, in an agricultural region already prone to drought and dependent largely on water from bores. Hunt assures us that,

“The absolute strictest of conditions have been imposed to ensure the protection of the environment, with a specific focus on the protection of groundwater.”

In what we’ve learned to be the usual Greg Hunt response, he has slapped on a bunch of ‘Conditions’ and ‘Offsets’ to mitigate any environmental damage, 36 in this case, although a Senate enquiry has shown what rubbish these are.

“These 36 conditions complement the conditions imposed by the Queensland Government, and will ensure the proponent meets the highest environmental standards and that all impacts, including cumulative impacts, are avoided, mitigated or offset.” – Greg Hunt

So what are the net benefits for Australians? Economic reports continue to show us that coal is just not profitable anymore.  There are real questions surrounding the viability of Galilee Basin coal projects in the face of a long term, downward trend in global coal prices.  A huge investment in infrastructure by Adani is needed to service the Carmichael mine, which has driven down their potential for profit substantially.

“Good quality steaming coal exported from Australia is fetching about $US67 ($71.30) a tonne in the spot market, which means that after taking borrowing costs into account there would be little profit margin.” – SMH

Any profits made will be channelled overseas to India first, then to other Asian nations who will take on development contracts like Korea, whose company POSCO who will build the rail link. In the absence of a Carbon or Mining Tax, benefits to Australians are small – apart from the promise of employment and regional development.

But at what cost?  A country is more than just an economy.  All Australians will be left with is a massive hole in the ground, linked to a dying reef by a ghost train.  In the mean time, Greg Hunt will twiddle his thumbs, waiting for the years-away clean coal technology to be rolled out.

But there’s still a glimmer of hope.  While the coal mine has been approved, Adani still need to secure billions of dollars of funding before they can begin construction (or destruction in this case).  Greenpeace, together with GetUp, AYCC and Market Forces are campaigning to stop the Big Four Banks from funding Adani.

If Australians continue to show their collective power through grassroots campaigning and action, hopefully our banks will have the sense to ditch this sinking ship.

The Government’s War on the Environment

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

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

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

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

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

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

Budget Losers

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

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

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

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Image courtesy of katesenviroblog.com.au

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Repeat of the Gladstone Disaster?

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

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Image courtesy of katesenviroblog.com.au

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

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

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

The report continues to recommend:

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

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

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Image courtesy of katesenviroblog.com.au

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

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

What’s there to crow about?

Image by imgur.com

Image by imgur.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Ross Gittins explains,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sir Abbott, duplicity is thy name

 

queen

Do you come here often?

Every day the duplicity of this government becomes more apparent. In order to assist their political puppet masters, the Coalition is prepared to condemn future generations to the enormous task and cost of coping with catastrophic climate change.

Joe Hockey, in another crass display of duplicitous behaviour, tells us that Labor left us with a debt of $667 billion. What he fails to mention is that this is projected debt for 2024. By that time, if we continue on this path of destruction, I would suggest our debt will be far higher as we cope with natural disasters of increasing intensity and the health and social costs from rising temperatures and pollution of our air and water.

Our tourism trade will suffer as the reef dies, the old growth forests are logged, marine creatures are slaughtered, and animals become extinct as their habitat is handed over to miners and developers. Our farmers will struggle with drought as the Murray-Darling dries up. Summer will be a time to fear as bushfires rage around the southern states and cyclones and floods devastate the North.  Our exporters and airlines (if we have any) will face sanctions from countries that have emission reduction strategies in place.

The WHO’s Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan, joined the ever-growing chorus from influential leaders when she said:

Climate change will affect, in profoundly adverse ways, some of the most fundamental determinants of health… we need champions throughout the world who will work to put protecting human health at the centre of the climate change agenda.”

The group Doctors for the environment Australia focuses on the environmental causes of human illness and the means to address them. At their recent conference an impressive display of speakers urged doctors to become vocal and active in campaigning for urgent action on climate change.

Greg Hunt was heckled as he, in all seriousness, said that Australia would use its presidency of the G20 as a “catalyst” to help the “G4” – the US, China, the European Union and India – complete the groundwork for a new deal to lower emissions. He spoke about the value of trees in carbon reduction amidst taunts about logging the World Heritage forests in Tasmania. Do as we say, not as we do?

In October last year, Hydro Tasmania announced a record $238 million profit, $70 million of which came directly from the carbon tax. When asked if Tasmania would receive compensation for scrapping the tax, Greg Hunt said “We are not proposing compensation to businesses as a result of the carbon tax repeal.” But they are more than happy to give billions to polluters to update their factories.

Tasmanian opposition energy spokesman Mathew Groom said Hydro Tasmania’s record dividends had come at the cost of high power prices in Tasmania, and scrapping the carbon tax would lower power prices, but Lara Giddings said power prices were set to drop 5 per cent on January 1, independent of the carbon tax. So much for caring about Tasmania.

The Senate Committee investigating the Coalition’s Direct Action Plan have released their findings. To paraphrase…Direct Action is crap, won’t work, will cost a fortune, will require a huge bureaucracy to administer, is lacking in detail about implementation, is inadequate for now let alone the future, and is just downright madness. Recommendation – stick with our current system but up the ante.

Clean energy and low-carbon investors are abandoning Australia as the Federal government, and its conservative colleagues at state level, turn their interests and policies away from renewables and long-term carbon abatement incentives. Nathan Fabian, the head of the Investor Group on Climate Change, told the Senate committee that “Direct action is not an investment grade policy,” noting that investors viewed it more like a short-term grants scheme. Banks, he said, were likely to take a similar view, echoing the frustrations of many players in the clean energy industry who have been unable to obtain finance because of policy uncertainty.

Fabian also said the proposed review of the RET “appears to be another very clear signal that Australia will not be a market for low-carbon investing for the next few years. My members are looking at the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States, France and some South American countries as having more stable investment environments for low-carbon opportunities ” So much for being open for business.

Tim Buckley, a former Citigroup chief analyst in Australia, clean energy funds manager, and now with the US-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, told the same hearing that the Australian clean energy industry is regressing because of the lack of clarity on policy.

“We are worse than stalling; we are actually investing in assets that I think will become stranded as a result,” Buckley said. “Internationally, companies and economies are building industry capacity to transition for the long term. We should be building capacity as well and we are not doing so.”

He said Australia was currently missing out on hundreds of billions of dollars that were being invested every year in renewables, in energy efficiency and in development of these new technologies, and the hundreds of thousands of jobs being created in China, in Germany and in America. So much for jobs, jobs, jobs.

Numerous other parties have dismissed the proposed emissions reduction fund as “unfinancable” – mostly because it offers a maximum 5-year investment horizon. That reflects the view of most people – and possibly even the government – that Direct Action is not a long-term policy position, just part of a short-term political manoeuvre that has helped deliver power to the conservative parties.

Economists are convinced that carbon pricing will yield the greatest environmental bang-for-buck at the lowest economic cost. Justin Wolfers, an Australian professor at the University of Michigan, says:

“Abbott’s plan doesn’t effectively harness market forces; it relies instead on the government handing out cheques. One problem is that we’ll end up subsidising a lot of abatement that would have occurred anyway. Another is that the plan imposes extra costs because it uses scarce tax dollars . . . All told, Direct Action involves more economic disruption for less of an environmental payoff.”

Quoting from the Federal Parliament website:

“The Senate is a house of review and a powerful check on the government of the day. The proportional representation system of voting used to elect senators makes it easier for independents and the candidates of the smaller parties to be elected. In recent decades this has meant that the government party usually does not have a majority of votes in the Senate and the non–government senators are able to use their combined voting power to reject or amend government legislation. The Senate’s large and active committee system also enables senators to inquire into policy issues in depth and to scrutinise the way laws and policies are administered by ministers and public servants.”

I would ask all Senators to remember their role. You have heard the expert advice. You have received submissions from stakeholders and concerned parties. You have whole departments to help you understand what you are being told. On the basis of what you have learned, you have recommended that we do not proceed with the Emissions Reduction Fund, that we have an Emissions Trading Scheme, and that we increase out targets.

The lie about the carbon tax hurting business and families just has to stop. Families were well compensated for the small increase in power bills due to the carbon price. Trade exposed businesses were also compensated. Renewable energy and sustainable practice received funding, and research and development was leading to whole new industries.  And if you were really all that concerned you could make power GST free.

Mr Abbott, your absolute intransigence on this matter, your insistence on “we said we’ll do it so we will”, regardless of all expert advice to the contrary, makes you unfit to lead our country. You show no intitiative, you are unable to react to changing circumstances, you are unwilling to take advice, and you are prepared to sacrifice all for the short term gain of the wealthy. And as for you Greg Hunt and Malcolm Turnbull, you are despicable – you know the truth but are unwilling to speak it.

People of Western Australia, I urge you to consider how important it is to have a genuine house of review in the Senate. Our fate lies in your hands.

An act of betrayal

Image by themotorreport.com.au

Image by themotorreport.com.au

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr Hunt, two months ago you said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

Well, that was embarrassing, Andrew …

27 October 2013 (2:29pm) was an auspicious moment for commentator, media tart and Murdoch minion Andrew Bolt.  It was the moment in his professional life where he finally cast-off any lingering doubt as to his status as an intellectually dishonest dunderhead. In an entry to his Herald Sun blog, he attempted to simultaneously defend Environment…

Read more

What is the Minister for Women’s Affairs going to do for women in this country?

Since forming government we’ve heard a number of Coalition Ministers speak about, or take action on their portfolios. For example, Environment Minister Greg Hunt has shut down the Climate Commission, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Scott Morrison, has determined that asylum seekers were now to be referred to as ‘illegals’ and has done his utmost to demonise these poor people, Treasurer Joe Hockey keeps raising the debt ceiling (and his level of stupidity) whilst blaming it on the previous government and Christopher Pyne, the Minister for Education has threatened to overhaul the higher education system and turn public schools independent.

I, and most readers here as well as a large percentage of the wider community have been horrified by their announcements but at least we do know what they’re doing. Not so with the Minister for Women’s Affairs, Tony Abbott. He appears, on the surface, to be as distant from any of the the issues as he is from a probing question.

The Coalition’s September 2013 Policy for Women tells us a little more. Five whole issues fill its pages, being:

  1. Relocate the Office for Women
  2. A Real Paid Parental Leave Scheme
  3. Help Make Child Care More Accessible and Affordable
  4. Take Further Steps to Reduce Violence Against Women
  5. Increase the Annual Target for Women at Risk Visa Grants

It’s not a real lot, is it? And it is safe to assume that only a small percentage of the country’s women will benefit from any of these policies, if indeed they are initiated.

There is nothing for the majority of women, or more importantly the disadvantaged women in our society that don’t rate a mention in the above policy document, such as these:

Female workers

The pay packet is always smaller and the gap between what men and women are paid is still widening, according to the latest workplace survey figures. A study carried out by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) found a $266 a week overall difference between what men and women in full-time work earn. There are also proportionately fewer women in key positions in the Australian workforce.

What will the Minister for Women’s Affairs be doing about that?

Mental illness

Women are more likely than men to experience anxiety disorders (18% compared with 11%) and affective disorders (7.1% compared with 5.3%) and are more likely to have anxiety and affective disorders in combination.

What will the Minister for Women’s Affairs be doing about that?

Homelessness

Over 40% of homeless people in Australia are women.

What will the Minister for Women’s Affairs be doing about that?

Lesbian couples

Thousands of lesbian couples in Australia want the opportunity to marry their partner.

What will the Minister for Women’s Affairs be doing about that?

Underemployment rate

In August 2012, the extended labour force underutilisation rate was higher for females than males (15.2% and 11.3% respectively). Not to mention the 350,000 Australian women that are looking for work.

What will the Minister for Women’s Affairs be doing about that?

Indigenous women’s health

Aboriginal and Torres Strait women experience poorer health across all health areas compared with non-Indigenous women.

What will the Minister for Women’s Affairs be doing about that?

Poverty

A 10-year study has found Australia’s most disadvantaged are more likely to be, among others, women.

What will the Minister for Women’s Affairs be doing about that?

All of these are issues that should be a priority for the Minister for Women’s Affairs . . . if he cares.

My views on the self appointment of Tony Abbott to the Women’s Affairs portfolio are well known, which are based on his out-dated attitudes to women and a complete disregard of their place in modern Australia. Here’s a recap of what I published earlier:

“I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons.” Tony Abbott Four Corners 15/03/2010.

“While I think men and women are equal, they are also different and I think it’s inevitable and I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all that we always have, say, more women doing things like physiotherapy and an enormous number of women simply doing housework.” Tony Abbott Herald-Sun 06/08/2010.

“I won’t be rushing out to get my daughters vaccinated [for cervical cancer], maybe that’s because I’m a cruel, callow, callous, heartless bastard but, look, I won’t be.” November 9th, 2006

“I would say to my daughters if they were to ask me this question . . . [their virginity] is the greatest gift that you can give someone, the ultimate gift of giving and don’t give it to someone lightly, that’s what I would say.” January 27th “The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience.” 2010

It has been revealed that after having being defeated by Barbara Ramjan for the SRC presidency, Tony Abbott approached Barbara Ramjan, and after moving to within an inch of her nose, punched the wall on both sides of her head. news.com.au 09/09/2012

‘I think there does need to be give and take on both sides, and this idea that sex is kind of a woman’s right to absolutely withhold, just as the idea that sex is a man’s right to demand I think they are both they both need to be moderated, so to speak’ cited 23/08/2012

Gaining momentum across everywhere but the mainstream media are allegations that Opposition leader Tony Abbott inappropriately touched Aboriginal author Ali Cobby Eckerman in an Adelaide cafe last March. First Nations Telegraph 20/06/2013.

Tony Abbott urges women to save their virginity for marriage and reveals mixed feelings about contraception in a new interview. The Australian 25/01/2010.

And who can forget his behavior: standing in front of people as they hold signs calling Julia Gillard a bitch or a slut; rubbing shoulders with people after they’ve said on air that Julia Gillard should be dumped at sea; supporting members of his party who suggested Julia Gillard should be kicked to death.  He also failed to reprimand those in his party who said Julia Gillard needed a bullet.

He can’t even address a female by name; it’s either ‘her’, ‘she’, ‘it’ or someone with sex appeal.

I could best describe his elevated appointment as ‘token’. He may prove otherwise, but as the above problem areas suggest he has a lot of work to do to prove it. If not, 100,000s of women in this country will remain disadvantaged and quite frankly, I believe that’s the way it’s going to stay. Unless of course, Abbott’s Number One policy of relocating the Office for Women turns out to be the most social and economic reforming program ever enacted in this country.

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‘FREE’ Election Policies Form Guide

abbott policies

I was an admirer of Julia Gillard. What I liked most was her devotion to sound progressive Labor policies that were forward looking and would serve the common good. In her short stint as Prime Minister she oversaw more policy reform (in a minority parliament) than most long serving governments. By any standards her policy legacy stands unique among any of her predecessors. And surely that is what governing is all about. Good policy that improves the wellbeing of every Australian. The fact is that regardless of whoever wins the forthcoming election the winners will find themselves implementing some Gillard policy.

As a political strategist she out positioned the leader of the opposition leaving no big ticket policies for him to pursue and I might add no funds anyway. Therefore in commenting on policy in general this conversation concentrates itself mainly on the government’s proposals. Having said that it might be unfair on the opposition given that the campaign has not yet started. Who knows they might pull a policy rabbit out of the hat. After all they have had three years to develop them.

When we vote a number of factors come into play. A particular allegiance to one or the other parties and its ideology. A like or dislike for one or the other candidate can persuade us. A leader’s character. A hip pocket ‘’what’s in it for me’’ mentality. Or even a one policy agenda such as ‘’Marriage Equality’’.

However policy is important to most people. In this election they are confronted with a number of policy proposals that will determine Australia’s future. Mr Abbott has vowed to oppose everything so the voters have a clear choice. Traditionally the areas of economy, health and education have been of major importance to the electorate but from time to time nation changing or indeed moral issues are added to the mix.

This election is significant in the policy sense because some of the election policies being proposed will have far reaching consequences for the nation and its future.

Now let’s look at the election policies that are on the table and way them up as best we can. I don’t propose to be long winded about each one. Just too randomly list each one and make a few comments.

• Education funding: The opposition education spokesman, Christopher Pyne, has had some conflicting things to say on his party’s policy. The one certain thing is that they don’t have one. He has said that they would repeal Labor’s Gonski funding package. His leader has stated that it would go ahead if Labor could get all the states to sign up. Pyne has also said that they are happy with the current funding arrangements until something better comes along. The Gonski proposals offer equality of opportunity and have wide public support. In the absence of any policy from the opposition it’s a one horse race.

• Climate change: The Prime Minister has pulled the rug from under Tony Abbott’s feet by dumping” the carbon tax and bringing forward a floating carbon pricing scheme. You can argue whether that is good for the environment but it is smart politics. Abbott can no longer shout his carbon tax slogans. But a bigger problem for him is his own policy. Or lack of one. What he has now has been thoroughly discredited by all and sundry. To quote Lenore Taylor in The Guardian.

‘’Business is desperate to know how the 2009 Direct Action policy will actually work, but usually emerge from meetings with the Coalition spokesman, Greg Hunt, with few answers. Hunt has promised a white paper after the election to flesh out the details, with legislation to be finalised within six months of a Coalition term.’’

I might add that Mr Abbott’s own goal statement ”what an emission trading scheme is all about, it’s a market, a so-called market, in the non-delivery of an invisible substance, to no one.” Follows his previous similar statement where he dismissed carbon dioxide as an “invisible, odourless, weightless, tasteless substance”. Statements such as these conclusively but him in the climate change official nutter’s category. We can only conclude that the LNP has no policy at all.

Dr Harley Wright Principal at Climate Sense put it rather succinctly:

I plead to the Coalition to come to its senses and deal with this serious issue seriously. Stop playing political games with our descendants’ future. A return to a responsible, bipartisan approach would be welcomed, possibly respected, all-round.

NBN: If we go back to when Abbott appointed Malcolm Turnbull as opposition shadow communications minister it was, if I am not mistaken for the purpose of “destroying” the NBN. That’s what Abbott in his Luddite naivety wanted. When exactly the realisation took place that the Internet has a vital place in our world took place, is unknown. But apparently it did. And so they made their policy announcement in the studios of Murdoch’s Fox Studios.

The next morning I did my early morning scan of on line MSM and it is fair to say that the LNPs policy had met with universal condemnation. Although I must say the Melbourne Herald Sun couldn’t find any room for it at all amongst its daily drivel. But then it is the newspaper where the truth goes to die so I wasn’t surprised. The Age ran an online poll of around 27.000 people and around 75% gave the policy the thumbs down.

A quote of mine:

“On the NBN. “The problem with designing a network to meet the needs of today is that it denies you the ability to meet the needs of tomorrow”.

NDIS: The opposition has said it supports this policy. It is however so popular that they could hardly say otherwise. But it is Labor policy and how ironic it would be if the conservatives had to implement it. And there is no guarantee that they wouldn’t re hash it in some way.

The Economy: We should not under estimate the difficulty the LNP will have framing an economic policy for the next election. With the downturn in revenues the government has had much difficulty in costing its own initiatives. The opposition will have more so. Despite pressure from the government it has yet to say where all its savings measures will come from. It has said it will eliminate the school kid’s bonus scheme and super will be cut from lower paid women but they will need a lot more than that. And of course they will take around 12,000 jobs out of the public service. The government has a record of outstanding economic performance and with Rudd at the helm should be able to sell it more vibrantly.

The opposition intends to have a “commission of audit” after the election, to review government spending “top to bottom”, rein in waste, identify where taxpayer funds should be spent and start “with a clean slate” on government spending. That’s a pretty broad brief and I would interpret it to mean a repeat of the Queensland experience.
Now cast your mind back to the last election and remember that Abbott was not capable of presenting LP Economic Policy himself so he hand balled to Hockey who in turn passed it on to Robb. It then became a total balls up and the accountants they hired to verify their figures were fined for dishonesty. The policy they presented would not get past a first year economics student. It will be interesting to see if Abbott has the guts to present this time around remembering that he has said that the subject bores him.

Asylum Seeker-Immigration Policy:
Both sides of politics should hold their heads in shame for the politicisation of such a human crisis that is not only one of national importance but one the international community is trying to come to grips with. But Tony Abbott who despite having had numerous opportunities to join a bipartisan approach has chosen together with Scott Morrison to tread gutter filth in the hope that they may win a couple of redneck seats in Western Sydney. These two have done more to demonise legal asylum seekers that any other members of parliament. Some of their comments have been founded in racism. And they are both practicing Christians.

My view is that in all its complexity there is no solution to this dilemma. It can only ever be a ‘’manageable problem.’’

A people smuggler in Indonesia has told the ABC that none of the domestic policies being considered in Australia can stop the boats. As the Federal Government looks for answers leading up to the election, the people smuggler says proposed measures like turning boats back or making it harder to get refugee status are not enough. The smuggler says there are now too many people fleeing death and persecution and that factor outweighs Australia’s attempts to stop them. And while more boats reach Australian waters, some former refugees who have lost family members on the dangerous journey say the immigration system is oppressive.

At the time of writing Kevin Rudd seems to be coming up with some fresh proposals and we can only live in hope that Tony Abbott might come to his senses and adopt a more humane and bipartisanship approach. Lies and shouts of ‘’stop the boats’’ will resolve nothing.
• Maternity Leave: The Liberal Party does have a policy. It will increase company tax by one and a half per cent. Most economists say the policy is unaffordable and caters for women with high incomes. No costing’s have come to light.
• Marriage Equality: Tony Abbott is totality against it because of his Catholic beliefs. Imposing his own morality on everyone. Kevin Rudd is in favour and has indicated that he will legislate. And so he should. Meanwhile the rest of the world moves on.

An Australian Republic: The Labor Party would support a plebiscite as a first step. Mr Abbott is a devout Royalist and led its campaign at the last referendum. In doing so he told some atrocious lies.

The following Liberal Party policies are taken from an article in The Guardian by Lenore Taylor.

• Renewable energy: The Coalition has promised a review of the 20% renewable energy target in 2014, even though it was already reviewed by the Climate Change Authority just last year. Some in the Coalition are demanding that it be scrapped altogether. More likely, say senior sources, it will be wound back a little, because its promise to deliver 41,000 gigawatt hours of renewable energy by 2020 is working out to be more like 25%, due to falling electricity demand. Bottom line: the renewable energy industry is not sure what will happen to the target under the Coalition.

• Federal state relations and COAG: In his budget-in-reply speech, Abbott promised that within two years of a change of government, working with the states, the Coalition would produce a white paper on Coag reform, and the responsibilities of different governments, to ensure that, as far as possible, the states are sovereign in their own sphere. The objective will be to reduce and end, as far as possible, the waste, duplication and second-guessing between different levels of government that has resulted, for instance, in the commonwealth employing 6,000 health bureaucrats even though it doesn’t run a single hospital.”

• Northern Australia: The absence of a northern Australia policy would not normally be notable, but Abbott recently released a “vision” to have a white paper on the development of the north. The “vision” said the white paper would look at most of the ideas being vocally advocated by mining magnate Gina Rinehart and the Institute of Public Affairs, but in terms so vague and non-committal it is unclear whether the Coalition intends to actually do them, or was just trying to appease its powerful backers.

• Industrial relations: The Coalition’s policy promises only minor changes to the fair work laws, but will ask the Productivity Commission to undertake a “comprehensive and broad” review of industrial relations policy – with the results to be taken to the next election

• Car industry assistance: We know the Coalition will cut $500m from the budgeted car industry assistance between now and 2015. It says it will have another Productivity Commission inquiry into what assistance should be provided after that and how it should be spent. Given that the industry says ongoing assistance is essential for its survival, that leaves a large question mark.

. Childcare policy will be the subject of yet another Productivity Commission review. The terms of reference ask for policy to be assessed against the working hours and needs of modern families, and leave open the possibility of government rebate being extended to in-home nannies. That all sounds good, but we also know spending will be constrained so the results remain unclear.

• Competition policy: The Coalition has given mixed signals on competition policy, saying both that the existing laws are too onerous and that small business needs more protection against large competitors. Competition law will be the subject of another “root and branch review” after the election.

• Tax policy: Abbott has said he will repeal the carbon and mining taxes and promised a “modest” company tax cut, with the size and timing still uncertain. He has also said he will have a white paper, a full review of the tax system, with any subsequent decisions to be taken to the next election.

Authors note: The Labor Party intends to scrap its carbon tax in favour of a floating price so Mr Abbott can no longer campaign on a repeal the tax policy.

There may of course be other policy areas that would interest people. Predominantly in their own electorates. I think however I have covered the key issues. This election should be about policy and who has the best to serve the nation. Of course the personal character of the opposing leaders will hold some sway with the punters. One is a negative individual and the other sees a positive future for our country. But I do hope policy determines our fate. Hope all this helps you in your decision making.

What is an Opposition?

opposition

Tony Abbott, leader of the Opposition

On July 2 Lenore Taylor wrote an article in The Guardian titled Tony Abbott’s policy gap: what’s on theCcoalition’s “Figure it out later” list?

In it she summarises LNP policy”. Or more accurately as the title suggests tells us that in reality it consists of a miss mash of uncosted plans and thought bubbles that really just ask the electorate to elect us and we will “Figure it out later”.

When I finished her piece I was a little alarmed. No perhaps I was a little angry and I asked myself. What do we expect from an opposition or indeed what is opposition. Tony Abbott is on the record as saying that the function of opposition is to oppose. I fundamentally disagree with that proposition. An opposition’s job is to hold a government to account but just as importantly is its duty to show that it is a worthy alternative. Mr Abbott is also said to be the most effective opposition leader the country has ever had. If by definition this means that by being negative about your country and having little regard for the common good then those who embellish him with this title are probably correct.

On the other hand I would judge him on his alternativeness”. We the taxpayers of Australia pay our politicians to do a job. Mr Abbott has been opposition leader for some four and a half years now and an election is upon us. We have been paying him all this time to formulate policies that the people could reasonably consider as alternatives to the governments. Thus far he has not delivered. Not one costed policy is before the people for their perusal.
For a moment let’s look at Mr Abbott as the CEO of a Public Company who had been charged with the re structure of his company. He has been given three years to complete the task with recourse to adequate resources to complete the mission. What progress do you think he has made? Are the shareholders entitled to question his work ethic and those of his subordinates? He has to face a shareholders meeting soon. Is the business plan in a reasonable condition taking into account the common good of all the stakeholders? Will the costing’s stand up to the most rigorous inspection. After all the future of the company is at stake.

As Lenore Taylor points out:

“We are spending a lot of time talking about Kevin. But we also need to talk about Tony’s policies – the ones we know about, but particularly the ones we don’t know about, and probably won’t when we cast a vote.’’

“Real Solutions for all Australians” plan, which looks reassuringly like a big book of policies, all chunky and nicely bound, but is actually a much less definitive collection of goals and priorities, with very little detail.”

‘’But Abbott has also said clearly there are a long list of policies he will not announce in detail before this poll, but will think about afterwards. Having attacked Kevin Rudd in 2007 for “hitting the ground reviewing”, the Coalition has a “figure it out later” list easily as long.”

As chairman of the board I would be entitled to say that a “figure it out later’’ policy is not policy at all and I would be entitled to sack him. All he is doing I would argue is trying to foist upon the shareholders an inadequate plan in the hope that they are gullible enough to accept it. And in doing so obtain a position of trust he is unworthy of. And together with that all the perks that go with the job without putting in the hard yards.

Below is a list of policy arrears itemised from Leonor Taylor’s article. I am sure after reading it that you will agree with me. This is simply not good enough. The opposition has had three years to piece together and put before the Australian public policies as an alternative to those of the ALP. If the public accepts this nonsense and takes Mr Abbott on trust they must truly have rocks in their heads.

• Education funding. The education spokesman, Christopher Pyne, has said the Coalition wants to repeal Labor’s Gonksi funding package, roll over the existing system for two years and in that time strike a different funding agreement with the states. It is difficult for the Coalition to develop an alternative policy while details of the government’s policy continue to change and it remains unclear how many states will sign funding deals, but nevertheless, it seems parents will vote at this election without knowing how much money the Coalition is promising to spend on education beyond its first two years in power.

Tax Policy. Abbott has said he will repeal the carbon and mining taxes and promised a “modest” company tax cut, with the size and timing still uncertain. He has also said he will have a white paper, a full review of the tax system, with any subsequent decisions to be taken to the next election.

• Climate change. Business is desperate to know how the 2009 Direct Action policy will actually work, but usually emerge from meetings with the Coalition spokesman, Greg Hunt, with few answers. Hunt has promised a white paper after the election to flesh out the details, with legislation to be finalised within six months of a Coalition term.

• Renewable energy. The Coalition has promised a review of the 20% renewable energy target in 2014, even though it was already reviewed by the Climate Change Authority just last year. Some in the Coalition are demanding that it be scrapped altogether. More likely, say senior sources, it will be wound back a little, because its promise to deliver 41,000 gigawatt hours of renewable energy by 2020 is working out to be more like 25%, due to falling electricity demand. Bottom line: the renewable energy industry is not sure what will happen to the target under the Coalition.

• Federal state relations and Coag.
In his budget-in-reply speech, Abbott promised that within two years of a change of government, working with the states, the Coalition would produce a white paper on Coag reform, and the responsibilities of different governments, to ensure that, as far as possible, the states are sovereign in their own sphere. The objective will be to reduce and end, as far as possible, the waste, duplication and second-guessing between different levels of government that has resulted, for instance, in the commonwealth employing 6,000 health bureaucrats even though it doesn’t run a single hospital.”

• Financial system. The shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, has said he will have a “root and branch review” to improve competition in the banking sector.

• Spending. The Coalition will announce savings in the lead-up to the poll but it has also promised a “commission of audit” after the election, to review government spending “top to bottom”, rein in waste, identify where taxpayer funds should be spent and start “with a clean slate” on government spending. That’s a pretty broad brief.

• Northern Australia. The absence of a northern Australia policy would not normally be notable, but Abbott recently released a “vision” to have a white paper on the development of the north. The “vision” said the white paper would look at most of the ideas being vocally advocated by mining magnate Gina Rinehart and the Institute of Public Affairs, but in terms so vague and non-committal it is unclear whether the Coalition intends to actually do them, or was just trying to appease its powerful backers.

• Industrial relations. The Coalition’s policy promises only minor changes to the fair work laws, but will ask the Productivity Commission to undertake a “comprehensive and broad” review of industrial relations policy – with the results to be taken to the next election

• Car industry assistance. We know the Coalition will cut $500m from the budgeted car industry assistance between now and 2015. It says it will have another Productivity Commission inquiry into what assistance should be provided after that and how it should be spent. Given that the industry says ongoing assistance is essential for its survival, that leaves a large question mark.

* Childcare policy will be the subject of yet another Productivity Commission review. The terms of reference ask for policy to be assessed against the working hours and needs of modern families, and leave open the possibility of government rebate being extended to in-home nannies. That all sounds good, but we also know spending will be constrained so the results remain unclear.

* Competition policy.
The Coalition has given mixed signals on competition policy, saying both that the existing laws are too onerous and that small business needs more protection against large competitors. Competition law will be the subject of another “root and branch review” after the election.

It can be seen that there is very little policy in all this. Plenty of reviews that will take another three years. And of course no costings. Oppositions have to be more than opposition for opposition’s sake. More than just endless negativity and suspensions of standing orders. We must demand more from them. Otherwise what are we paying them for? We deserve better.

Incidentally Lenore Taylor is to be congratulated for being one of the few journalists in mainstream media who focuses on policy areas.

 

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