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Tag Archives: Maurice Newman

The relevance of Tony Abbott

By Paul G. Dellit

Now That The Lunatic Is No Longer In Charge Of The Asylum . . .

That’s unfair. Tony Abbott neither is nor was a lunatic. In the view of this writer, he was, at least as far as his Prime Ministerial persona was concerned, a brawling, misogynistic, serial-lying, duplicitous, incompetent, inarticulate, graceless buffoon. And he sought to mask all of these character traits with slogans and repetitions of slogans, and repetitions of repetitions of slogans said with animus as if to imbue them with the gravity they lacked . . . but he was not a lunatic.

We could go on, well into the night, reciting the many failings of this man in the role of Prime Minister and in the role of sensitised human being – but it would avail us nothing. It is not often wise to quote Senator Eric Abetz – in fact it is frequently impossible to quote the good Senator accurately, given the number of extra syl-lie-bles he finds for each word – but he said it all, ruby cheeked and trembling of hand, when asked about his prospects of a Ministerial position post Abbott. “The king is dead . . .”, he said. He didn’t add, “bur-i-ed, and cre-may-ted”. He didn’t need to. Former Prime Minister Abbott is now relevant to the current political scene in Australia only insofar as he is the exemplar of how not to do it.

However, it seems that life’s reversals are not learning experiences for Anthony John Abbott. He has already broken a post-Prime Ministerial promise to go gently into the night. He was, as he would have it, the victim of external forces, not personal failings, just as was Peta, she said, victimised because her name wasn’t Peter, even though she was responsible for the LNP winning the 2013 election.

But the purpose if this article is not to indulge in necrocide. Nor is it, in Shakespearean terms, to bury Tony Abbott without praise. And here I must crave your indulgence. The purpose of this article is to praise our most recently deposed Prime Minister.

It is easy to consider that man as little more than political carrion, but he did render a service to us for which we must be eternally grateful. It was for the fact that he was true to himself. From beginning to end, he was a shining beacon for right wing extremists in Australia (and Canadia). He gave them the status of having one of their own occupying the highest political office in the land. He gave the timorous within their ranks the courage to openly express their inner voices. He gave them licence to propose the policies and schemes, hitherto concealed, by which they would seek to transform Australia. And he gave them the belief that he had within his power the means to pursue those ends on their behalf. In short, the praiseworthy service Tony Abbott rendered to Australia was to expose the agenda of our extreme right wing while at the same time unwittingly laying IEDs along the road to their ultimate defeat.

Some of you may remember my article in May of this year, ‘Australian Democracy at a Tipping Point‘ which argued that Prime Minister Abbott was setting about the abolition of the rule of law and, given his way, would replace it, step by step, with rule by unchallengeable Ministerial fiat. The ratio decidendi of Ministerial decisions and the evidence upon which they were based would be kept secret, with any disclosure without Ministerial permission punishable by law. This attempt by the Abbott Government has largely been stymied by the effects upon the Senate of the outcries of respected lawyers and large sections of the public. While the rump of this Abbott initiative remains in play, a preponderance of legal opinion has it that these remnants to the original bill, if passed, would be struck down by the High Court. We seem to be out of danger on this score for now.

However, there are many precedents for democratic governments being overthrown by right wing movements. Their first item of business after gaining power is to restructure government in ways that would fit comfortably alongside the challenges to democracy proposed in the original Abbott bill. Had circumstances been different, had those with ultimate power in Australia decided they wanted that bill passed into law, its passing would have set a precedent for other such laws to follow. A clever strategist could then have set about introducing small changes, none of which would seem so egregious as to warrant a revolution, but by accretion would, like boiling frogs by raising the water temperature slowly so that they become inured to change, kill our Westminster system of government.

Minister Dutton and others attempted to promote the original Abbott bill by assuring the public that the LNP would never abuse the power it gave them. Yet there is evidence that even without the power of that bill passed into law, the extreme right wing abuse what power they do have.

A recent FOI request revealed a case in point: A man of some power and influence within business and politics in Australia, Maurice Newman, used that power and influence to arrange for The Australian newspaper to launch an attack upon the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM). The willingly complicit Murdoch press manufactured evidence to claim that that the BoM had manipulated and falsified data to suit a left wing climate change conspiracy. With this campaign of misinformation successfully launched, Maurice Newman had provided the excuse for his close friend, Tony Abbott, to launch a Prime Ministerial foray into the data gathering and analysis functions of the BoM. The nature and tone of his intervention was manifestly designed to intimidate the BoM into toeing the Abbott/Newman climate change denial line – clear evidence of an attempt to smother science with extreme right wing ideology.

More importantly, the attempt to manipulate the work of the BoM demonstrated Prime Minister Abbott’s propensity for using the power of the Executive to covertly exert anti-democratic influence upon role of the Public Service to provide “frank and fearless advice”. How many other attempts, successful or otherwise, might he have made to pervert the fundamental principles upon which our system of democracy is based? We may never know, but, on balance, we don’t have to care. If there are further examples to be unearthed, they will be because, by his own actions, he has ensured that he will not be around to covertly carry them through. His interference with the BoM was undertaken before he had rendered the FOI legislation impotent. And all of his other assaults upon democracy in the prosecution of his extreme right wing agenda were committed before he had shored up his defences against the democratic backlash that was ultimately his undoing:

  • The appointment of his benefactor, Dyson Heydon to run the TURC (This is not to say that a TURC was not justified, whatever Abbott’s motives for creating it, but Dyson Heydon’s appointment ensured that the partiality of the Commissioner and his commitment to causing as much mud as possible to stick to the ALP was never in doubt).
  • The appointment Bronwyn Bishop (nee Setright) as a highly politicised Speaker.
  • Reposing in his unelected Chief of Staff the extraordinary executive power to control the actions of elected representatives, including Ministers, culminating in the directions issued from her Office which resulted in Border Force officers roaming the streets of Melbourne with the stated intention of randomly stopping and questioning members of the public under pain of arrest.
  • And of course, the law, passed with the supine collaboration of the ALP, that threatens whistleblowers with imprisonment for following their own professional standards and obligations – a law that allows the most egregious abuses of the human rights of people under the Government’s control without any legal means of exposure.

So I for one am grateful to Tony Abbott for dragging the extreme right agenda into full public view and epitomising, Pauline Hanson-like, the kind of irrational, ideologically driven, callous people who would prosecute it if they had the chance.

 

Trust, transparency and accountability or gimme gimme gimme?

Buoyed by their success at the 2013 election, the Abbott government has wasted no time in using their power to feather their own nest and to promote, reward and employ their backers.  Whilst all governments do this to a degree, Abbott has taken it to a whole new level of blatant nepotism and servitude to his masters at the expense of the public interest.

On the 9th of September 2013, before the count was even finalised, Julie Bishop flexed her muscles by her petty and vindictive decision to revoke the appointment of Steve Bracks as consul-general in New York.  He had been appointed in May, long before the caretaker period, and was due to start that week.

It’s not as if Ms Bishop had a better person in mind. The position remained vacant for six months until it was gifted to Nick Minchin, the man who gave Tony Abbott leadership of the Liberal Party in return for his conversion to climate change denial.

And she didn’t stop there. Despite having 18 months of his term left, Mike Rann was booted from the position of High Commissioner to the UK to make way for Alexander Downer.  This is the man who, under the guise of providing foreign aid, authorised the bugging of the cabinet offices of the East Timor parliament to further the commercial interest of Woodside Petroleum who coincidentally employed him after he left politics.

Rather than investigate this matter, which is before the International Court of Justice, George Brandis authorised raids to steal the evidence and cancelled the passport of the prime witness.

Brandis also hit the ground running to look after his mates. So appalled was he by the conviction of Andrew Bolt, he immediately set about changing the laws to protect the rights of bigots.  To champion the cause, he made the inexplicable decision to sack the Human Rights Commissioner for the Disabled, Graeme Innes, and appoint the IPA’s Tim Wilson (without advertising, application, interview, relevant qualifications or experience), to fight for the repeal of Section 18c of the racial discrimination laws,

After a huge backlash from the public, Brandis was directed to drop his crusade, and there sits Tim Wilson, drawing a salary of $400,000 including perks, with nothing to do.

Mr Wilson’s appointment followed Senator Brandis’ announcement that he had chosen former Howard government minister David Kemp – the son of IPA founder Charles Kemp – to chair the advisory council of Old Parliament House.  This position had been given to Barrie Cassidy but Brandis forced him to resign.  Along with Kemp, two others were appointed: Heather Henderson, the only daughter of Liberal Party founder Sir Robert Menzies; and Sir David Smith, whose place in history was assured on November 11, 1975, on the steps of Old Parliament House, when as official secretary to governor-general Sir John Kerr he was required to read out the proclamation sacking the Whitlam government.

Brandis, as Minister for the Arts, also appointed Gerard Henderson as chairman of the judging panel for the nonfiction and history category of the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, Australia’s richest book prize.

Tony Abbott only took a few hours to begin his Night of the Long Knives. The swearing-in ceremony had barely finished when the Prime Minister’s office issued a press release, announcing three departmental secretaries had had their contracts terminated and the Treasury Secretary would stand down next year.

The head of Infrastructure Australia also quit or was sacked for his criticism of the government’s interference with the independence of his organisation.  The head of the NBN, along with the entire board, were also replaced.

All funding for the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples was withdrawn.  Countless charities and advisory groups have been defunded.

Climate change and renewable energy bodies have been under constant attack with many disbanded and the rest hanging on temporarily by the grace of the Senate.

To replace all these experienced experts, we have seen an astonishing array of people appointed to high-paying positions as advisers, reviewers, commissioners, consultants, board members, envoys –

Maurice Newman, head of Tony Abbott’s 12-member Business Advisory Council, aged 76, a former head of the stock exchange and the ABC and a founder of another of the right-wing think tanks, the Centre for Independent Studies. Climate sceptic.

Dick Warburton, 72, the former chairman of the petrochemical company Caltex, among other corporate affiliations. Appointed  to review Australia’s 20 per cent Renewable Energy Target (RET).  Climate sceptic.  Also appointed was Brian Fisher.  Climate modelling done by his firm has been presented to the review panel by the oil and gas sector, as part of its campaign against the RET.

Tony Shepherd, former head of the Business Council of Australia (BCA), aged 69. Appointed to head the Commission of Audit.  Climate sceptic.  Former Liberal senator Amanda Vanstone and Liberal staffer and Chicago-school economist Peter Boxall were on the commission’s panel. Peter Crone, director of policy at the BCA, was head of the secretariat.

David Murray, 65, the former CEO of the Commonwealth Bank, appointed head of the government’s Financial System Inquiry. Climate sceptic.

Henry Ergas, 62, regulatory economist and columnist for the Australian. Appointed to Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s “expert panel” to assess the costs and benefits of Turnbull’s “copper magic” NBN-lite.  Climate sceptic who recently made a video with Christopher Monckton.

Kevin Donnelly, the IPA-aligned former chief-of-staff to Kevin Andrews and champion of corporal punishment. Appointed to review the National Curriculum.  He then appointed Barry Spurr, author of racist sexist ranting emails, to advise on the literature curriculum.

Warren Mundine, son-in-law of Gerard Henderson. Appointed to advise on Indigenous affairs.  Has set up a nice new office, 10km away from his department.

Jim Molan, retired general and author of the tow-back policy. Appointed as Special Envoy to fix the asylum seeker problem and to advise on the defence white paper, a position he quit after three weeks citing differences with the Defence Minister.

Janet Albrechtsen, columnist for the Australian, and Neil Brown, former deputy Liberal Party leader. Appointed to the panel overseeing appointments to the boards of the ABC and SBS.

It seems the pool of “experts” nowadays is confined to the IPA, the Australian, the Business Council, and the Howard government, and climate change scepticism is an essential criterion.

Aside from jobs for the boys (and a couple of girls who think feminism is a dirty word), we have also seen the blatant promotion of the coal industry with fast-tracking of approvals. We have seen the repeal of gambling reform laws.  We have seen the delay and watering down of food and alcohol labelling laws.  We are seeing an attack on the minimum wage and penalty rates.  All of these measures are against the best interests of the people and purely designed to reward business donors.

Our Prime Minister personally introduces James Packer to international government and business leaders around the world to promote his quest to build more casinos. This is despite the fact that his company, Crown, has been implicated in bribery to a Chinese official.

In a recent report, the OECD was scathing of Australia’s record, pointing out that Australia “has only one case that has led to foreign bribery prosecutions, out of 28 foreign bribery referrals received by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) … this is of serious concern”.

One of the 28 cases referred to the AFP related to two properties in Chinese Macau part owned by James Packer’s company, Crown.

A former Macau official is currently serving a 289-year sentence for accepting bribes of up to $100 million, with various suspect projects named, including the casinos.

The OECD report notes Australian police did not launch a domestic investigation into any possibility of Crown’s involvement.

In another scandal, former Leighton Holdings construction boss Wal King has denied all knowledge of a $42 million bribe Leighton is accused of having paid in Iraq. Leighton Holdings continue to be awarded lucrative government contracts.

Another of the 28 cases referred to by the OECD relates to payments made by BHP Billiton in China. They note that, unlike Australia, the US has launched two investigations into BHP Billiton

The OECD’s lead examiners expressed concern that the “AFP may have closed foreign bribery cases before thoroughly investigating the allegations”.

The only foreign bribery investigation that has resulted in prosecutions in Australia is the highly publicised case involving the Reserve Bank subsidiaries Securency and Note Printing Australia over which, interestingly, Dick Warburton has been investigated as a former director of Note Printing Australia.

One must wonder about a police force that can spend hundreds of thousands investigating and prosecuting Peter Slipper over $900 worth of cab charges, that can mobilise over 800 police to conduct raids leading to the arrest of one teenager who got a phone call from a bad person and the confiscation of a plastic sword, but who refuse to investigate widespread corruption in industry.

And every day it gets just a little bit worse.

A Sydney restaurant owned by Tourism Minister Andrew Robb and his family is being promoted by a government-funded $40 million, 18-month Tourism Australia campaign that targets 17 key global markets to sell the Australian “foodie” experience to the world.

The Robb family restaurant, Boathouse Palm Beach, is showcased on Tourism Australia’s “Restaurant Australia” website, which was launched in May, as the “ultimate day trip destination” just an hour from Sydney and the “perfect place for a relaxed family outing”.

Perhaps Tony Abbott’s daughters earned their job at the UN and $60,000 scholarship.  Perhaps the contract to BMW had nothing to do with them giving an Abbott girl a gig.  We will never know.

This is only a sample of how the ruling class are using our nation as their personal plaything, of how they openly flaunt convention and even the law, of how they silence dissent and promote their agenda, of how they bestow rewards.

Until this abuse of power is curtailed, politicians will rightly be reviled as the least trustworthy people in the country.

Short memory

Photo: lifethoughts.com

Photo: lifethoughts.com

I recently spent a day with my extended family, one of whom is a ‘senior government employee’ who has served ministers in several different portfolios and governments including the current one.

When we found ourselves standing together at one stage, in a very non-confrontational, non-interviewing way (he doesn’t know I write here), I asked him a few questions.

He is a very intelligent, astute man who has the diplomatic talk down pat so I knew I wouldn’t hear any dirt – he isn’t the type of person who would do that and it doesn’t interest me either.  He is a pragmatic man who gets things done under whatever constraints are set and is rarely critical of whoever he may be working for.  I admire him for that and he is truly an asset for the government of the day regardless of their ideology.

He describes himself as being in ‘the centre’ – I would describe him as slightly right of there and he certainly lives a lifestyle more akin to the right.  But he is a realist and too smart to bother prevaricating so I found his comments both interesting and disturbing.

I asked about the carbon tax – he said it was never going to work.  I assume he meant politically though I did not have the chance to ask further.  He, like so many others, said Labor made themselves an unelectable train wreck.

He believes the free trade agreements with Japan and Korea are good things but said we are nowhere near an agreement with China.

When I asked about Tony Abbott he was surprisingly dismissive as if he wasn’t important to the conversation saying off-handedly “I could never vote for him though Malcolm Turnbull would probably get my vote.”

On Peta Credlin, he said somewhat resentfully “She wields an enormous amount of power for someone that no-one ever voted for”.  Everyone has to ask permission for everything they do and then plead for the money to do it – even down to ‘may we please have the airfare to get to the conference we are attending on the government’s behalf’ – pre-approval only, no private jets or ‘make a claim’ entitlement stuff for the people who are actually doing the work.

None of the above is particularly surprising.  You may disagree with it but there are no revelations there.  But what he said next flummoxed me.

He very confidently stated that the Coalition will “romp home” next election.  I spluttered in obvious incredulity.  He said “The sweeteners are coming and that is what they will remember”.  He has no vested interest in saying this and he has sufficient experience and inside knowledge that I must take his opinion seriously.

It is so blatantly obvious how crudely we are being played.  Every economic parameter is compared to Hockey’s MYEFO, in which Hockey added $68 billion to the deficit over the forward estimates through his government’s decisions, rather than with the PEFO prepared under the Charter of Budget Honesty.

Of the total Commonwealth securities on issue, the $19.7 billion increase on the Coalition’s watch above what had been predicted, represents 6 per cent of the Treasury Indexed Bonds for the 12 months to June 2014.  Add a few hundred billion to a projected debt in a decade and then cut money from the “leaners” to say look how much we have saved.

The refrain has returned to the “$1 billion in interest every month” mantra.  When interviewed on radio recently, Mathias Cormann repeated it and “debt and deficit disaster inherited from Labor” so many times I thought I was hearing an infinite loop replay.  The interviewer asked why, if we have such a problem, would you not use the GP co-payment to pay down the debt?  Cormann then revealed the Coalition’s true agenda by saying “it will be an asset that improves the budget bottom line.”  In other words, they don’t care about the interest being paid at all, they just want a number on a piece of paper.

We have been hit with the worst budget in living memory, attacking the very fabric of our society under the guise of “sustainability”.  It’s surprising that this government only applies that word to pensions, healthcare and education spending.  We never ask whether tax concessions for the wealthy are sustainable.  We never ask if subsidies to the mining industry are sustainable.  We never ask if pinning our economy on the mining and burning of fossil fuels is sustainable – ok 97% of sane people do ask that, sadly none of them advise our government who is apparently preparing for global cooling on the advice of their senior business advisor who is being avidly quoted on denial sites like wattsupwiththat. (I mean seriously….sack the fossil).

There will be some compromises from this budget passed off under “we listened to the people”, but the mining tax will go.  Then will come the company tax cut.  There will be adjustment to the top tax bracket to save those unfortunate high earners who have “crept” over the $180,000 mark through no fault of their own.  The temporary levy on the highest bracket will go.  The amount you can invest in superannuation will continue to rise.

But what crumbs will be thrown to the rest of us?  If we get back a few of the conditions that have been stripped from us will we be happy to be only a bit worse off?  Because we have been so battered and broken by this budget will we just be grateful to not get hit again?

Beware of Treasurers bearing gifts.

Some Sacrifices Are Good, While Others Just Primitive!

“Asked about his threat on Wednesday to look for other savings measures that by-passed the senate, Mr Hockey said the government was working hard to get what it laid on the table through the parliament.

He agreed some of his budget measures meant Australians would have to make sacrifices.”

 

news.com.au 17th July, 2014

 

“Maurice Newman, who has been vocal in his climate change scepticism, has attacked governments, including the former Labor government, for pursuing “green gesture politics” by introducing carbon price signals in an opinion piece for the Murdoch-owned News Corp publication The Australian.

He likened the measures to “primitive civilisations offering up sacrifices to appease the gods”.”

Sydney Morning Herald, August 14th 2014

My rich friend picked me up today. We were going for lattes in spite of his obvious wealth. I mean it goes without saying that he’s very well off. He was driving a car and he was talking me over a kilometre to the coffee shop. When you factor in the return journey, that was well over a mile in the old scale  – just in case Abbott has returned us to imperial measurements by the time you’re reading this.

Of course, I asked him to pay for the coffee – anyone who can drive that far must clearly be able to spring for a cup of coffee for a poor writer like myself, but he seemed to have heard that the age of entitlement was over and suggested that as he’d already driven there then perhaps I should be the one paying for the coffees as people like him – the ones that own cars – had already contributed enough to the likes of me.

I had to admit that he had a point, so while I ordered the coffees he picked up the newspaper.

“Jihad Bludgers” screamed the headline.

“Mm,” I speculated, “surely The Herald-Sun isn’t suggesting that the jihadists aren’t working hard enough to make it happen.”

“No,” he explained, “apparently when they go overseas, the Government’s been cutting them off the welfare payments.”

“That seems a bit unfair. Why isn’t everyone on the dole stripped of their entitlements whenever they go on one of their overseas jaunts?”

“I think they would be, but I don’t actually think that people on the dole travel overseas all that often.”

“Right – so they’re not treating these people any differently. I guess they need to be careful how they report this, given the government’s broken promise on 18C, which we shouldn’t really consider a broken promise because he really meant it at the time and it’s only because of those bludging jihadists that he’s had to change his mind.”

“Yes, Andrew Bolt’s been writing about stopping Islamic migration for week’s now and because we haven’t removed 18C he can only vilify them on the grounds of religion, not which country they come from.”

“He hasn’t just been writing about that. Last week he was concerned about all the people writing anti-Semitic things about Israel.”

“Doesn’t he support the right to free speech?”

“No, it’s ok to be a bigot. But only if you’re bigoted against people he doesn’t like.”

“At least he’s consistent then.”

“Yeah, I can respect someone who has a different view, as long as they’re consistent.”

“Like Maurice Newman.”

“What’s he consistent on?”

“The only thing that matters is making money. That – and climate change being a myth.”

“No, I think you’ll find that’s not what he believes.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, he has an opinion piece in today’s Australian saying that we weren’t prepared for global cooling which is what one person is predicting, so I guess that means if the planet’s cooling then he must believe in climate change. Then he compared climate change measures to primitive societies making sacrifices to appease the gods.”

“Oh, I thought the Business Council wanted Australians to make sacrifices to get the Budget back in order.”

“Yes, but that’s completely different.”

“How?”

“In the same way that the ABC is biased and how when they have people from the IPA on, they never give them a chance to speak on climate change.”

“You think the ABC is biased? Don’t they have to ensure balance?”

“They’re meant to. But I was talking to a man the other day who said that he tried to get on after a scientist had described Mars as a lifeless planet. This guy – Bruce, I think his name was – said he was writing a book about how Mars is populated by tiny bugs and this is why the Martians had to move to earth and infiltrate our political ranks. And when he asked the ABC to stick to their charter of balance, they told him to come back when the book was published. Which, of course, will never happen.”

“Because the Martians will stop its publication?”

“No, of course not. It won’t get published because the man’s a raving lunatic who refuses to send it to publishers for fear that they’ll change the words.”

“So why do you think the ABC should have given him time?”

“For balance. I mean, people who are raving lunatics have a right to be heard too.”

“But don’t they get heard in the letters section of The Herald-Sun?”

“I just think if it’s good enough for the ABC to interview Eric Abetz, then why should they draw the line at a man who thinks we’re being invaded by Martians?”

“Surely, they have to draw the line somewhere. Why on earth would you interview a man who had no qualifications on the subject, no evidence and no idea what he was talking about just to achieve balance?”

“Now just a sec, it wasn’t the ABC who did the George Brandis interview on metadata…”

Our lattes arrived. At this point we always stop talking, because I have it on good authority that all latte saucers are bugged so that the government can listen to the likes of me as we plot its downfall.

But trying getting that on the ABC!

 

 

Tell me what I want to hear

As it becomes increasingly apparent that households will not be $550 a year better off without the carbon tax we hear the rhetoric change.  Andrew Laming said

“It will be $550 lower than it otherwise would be, but if other elements have made prices go up then you won’t see a $550 fall on any bill.  But you’ll be $550 better off than you otherwise would have been, and that’s a very important caveat.”

So if I understand him correctly, because prices are going up at a slower rate that is a cut.  How come the same does not apply to funding for health, education, and pensions?

Despite cutting $80 billion from State funding for health and education, Abbott assures us that this is not a cut because funding goes up each year, albeit by less than promised.  Likewise, Tony repeats over and over that pensions will go up twice a year.  The fact that they will be going up by less (CPI rather than AMWE), thus expanding the relative gap in standard of living, is not to be considered a cut.

Having abandoned carbon pricing, and facing criticism of, and opposition to, its Direct Action Plan, the government, at the behest of its masters, has now set its sights on the Renewable Energy Target.

Jennifer Westacott, Chief Executive of the Business Council of Australia, recently wrote

“We might be able to farewell the carbon tax, but it is just one of a long line of green energy policies which federal and state governments have layered on top of one another that are driving up the cost of electricity.

It is the cumulative impact of these policies that is pushing up the cost of electricity and making our businesses less competitive.

Repeal of the carbon tax therefore must be the beginning of removing shortsighted schemes and programs, and the start of a process to design an integrated approach to climate change and energy policy that supports rather than weighs down our economic competitiveness and jobs.”

Tony Shepherd, the man chosen to lead the “audit” of government expenditure, was also chair of the Business Council of Australia, which threw its weight behind the government’s move to repeal the carbon price.  As a previous chairman of Transfield Services, he has long-established ties to the Liberal Party and ex-NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell, and was an outspoken critic of the Gillard government.  He criticised the carbon tax legislation and warned of the dangers of Australia leading the world on climate change, stating “tails do not wag dogs”.

Shepherd wants nuclear power to be in the energy policy mix, not “excluded on ideological grounds”, which, as Crikey points out, seems to forget that for Australia nuclear power is excluded on simple maths — it’s hideously expensive, compared even with renewables.

In January 2012, Maurice Newman, head of Tony Abbott’s Business Advisory Council, wrote in the Spectator

“Even before they threatened my property, I was opposed to wind farms. They fail on all counts. They are grossly inefficient, extremely expensive, socially inequitable, a danger to human health, environmentally harmful, divisive for communities, a blot on the landscape, and don’t even achieve the purpose for which they were designed, namely the reliable generation of electricity and the reduction of CO2 emissions.”

In an interview on Lateline, Newman said

“I just look at the evidence. There is no evidence. If people can show there is a correlation between increasing CO2 and global temperature, well then of course that’s something which we would pay attention to. But when you look at the last 17.5 years where we’ve had a multitude of climate models, and this was the basis on which this whole so-called science rests, it’s on models, computer models. And those models have been shown to be 98 per cent inaccurate.  CO2 is not a pollutant.”

Newman is calling for the RET to be scrapped  saying

“Whether the Coalition will change their policy on the RET is up to them … I believe it should be removed because the basis upon which we accepted in good faith that we needed it is no longer there.  When we look at the experience of Germany, they have not been successful in reducing emissions; when we look at the science it no longer supports the global warming theory and when we look at the health and economic effects of windfarms and the obscene wealth transfer from poor to rich we have to ask: why are we persisting with them? I think it is a crime against the people.”

David Murray, a former CEO of the Commonwealth bank of Australia, former head of the $90 billion Future Fund, and the man chosen by  Tony Abbott to lead the review of the $5 trillion Australian financial services industry, has also dismissed the threat of climate change, and suggested climate scientists had no integrity.

In an interview on ABC TV’s Lateline Program, Murray said the climate problem is “severely overstated.”

Asked what it would take to change his mind about the climate science, particularly in light of the recent IPCC 5th assessment report, Murray replied: “When I see some evidence of integrity amongst the scientists themselves,” – an interesting comment considering what has come out about shonky practices at the Commonwealth Bank that he led.

He said if he were in a leadership role, he would “set up some scientific approach to get a community consensus here about what is the truth on this matter.” Rather than listening to every major scientific institution around the world, and the overwhelming scientific consensus, he wants “community consensus”?

Murray’s appointment to head the first full scale review of the financial system in 17 years is problematic given his stance on climate change. The financial services industry is probably the most exposed to risk created by a changing climate, changing policy, and the likelihood of stranded assets as the world accelerates towards a low carbon economy.

A growing number of actuaries, advisors and investor groups are raising concerns that banks and funds managers are “flying blind” on climate risk because they are effectively ignoring the issue.

They argue that systemic reviews, be they in finance or resources of manufacturing, need rigorous attention to how the world is changing. Denying climate change is the wrong way to start.

In 2011, Dick Warburton became the executive chairman of the newly-formed lobby group Manufacturing Australia, whose members included big players like Amcor, BlueScope Steel and Boral and small-to-medium business.  Their aim was to urge for a delay to carbon tax legislation.

When Warburton, a self-professed sceptic, was interviewed on the ABC, the following exchange took place:

TICKY FULLERTON: You said earlier today that why should we be doing this when the rest of world is actually pulling out of carbon taxes and the ETS? I’m just wondering what countries you’re thinking about there?

DICK WARBURTON: Canada has announced that they’re not going to go ahead with any carbon tax, so has Korea, so has Japan. They’ve made those announcements they’re not going ahead. And no country has gone ahead with a carbon tax or an ETS since Copenhagen.

TICKY FULLERTON: Can I take you up on that?  Because my understanding is that they are – Japan is still going to be putting a carbon tax in place; in Canada the carbon taxes are being put in – going to be scheduled in through different states. And indeed, in Korea, they used their stimulus money into new green initiatives. And so these are very strong moves. They may be shifted back a bit, but everybody’s moving in that direction, aren’t they?

DICK WARBURTON: No, they might be doing moves like Korea – you’re talking about is the moves of mitigation or moves of change. That’s good. I’m very much in favour of that. But they announced that they would not be introducing an ETS (inaudible). Canada announced it straight after the election. They announced that. Japan, I can’t recall when they made the statement, but Canada and Korea definitely have.

Mr Warburton may like to change his sources of information.

South Korea’s only securities exchange, the Korea Exchange, is reported to have won a contract to operate world’s second largest Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) from the start of 2015.

Two Japanese regions have operational mandatory ETSs in place: Tokyo and Saitama. Similar schemes, although likely voluntary, are being or have been considered for the Osaka-Kansai Prefecture and the Chiba Prefecture.

In March 2010, the Japanese government introduced the “Basic Act on Global Warming Countermeasures.”  An initial feature of the Act was a nation-wide emissions trading system (ETS) that would have begun in April 2013.

While this nation-wide ETS was removed from the Act in December 2010, other cap-and-trade measures, such as the Japanese Voluntary ETS (which began in 2005 and became part of the Experimental ETS in 2008), the Tokyo ETS, and the Experimental ETS (the trial period was for 2008-2012, and the government continues to encourage firms to participate), have been active in the country.

According to Japan’s former National Strategy Minister, Koichiro Gemba, the primary reason that the Japanese ETS was deferred was because fellow nations (particularly the United States and Australia) struggled to develop their own robust climate policies.

With the Government’s recent coal-fired electricity regulations, Canada became the first major coal user to ban the construction of traditional coal-fired electricity generation units.

”Our approach will foster a permanent transition towards lower or non-emitting types of generation such as high-efficiency natural gas and renewable energy.”

The Province of Alberta passed its Specified Gas Emitters Regulation in 2007 establishing an emissions intensity trading scheme.

To achieve its emissions reduction goal, the Quebec government has enacted regulations for an ETS. As with the Californian scheme, it began in 2013.

Warburton said on repeated occasions that climate science was not settled. “On the cause there’s huge debate about whether carbon dioxide is the main cause.”

Last year, Tony Abbott said “We have to accept that in the changed circumstances of today, the renewable energy target is causing pretty significant price pressure in the system and we ought to be an affordable energy superpower … cheap energy ought to be one of our comparative advantages,”

Earlier, the Climate Change Authority’s review of Labor’s renewable energy scheme had concluded that the current targets should be kept. Although it had the statutory obligation to undertake the next review, the government moved quickly to appoint its own inquiry and what better man to appoint to head the RET review panel than Dick Warburton?   The other members of the panel are Matt Zema, the CEO of the Australian Energy Market Operator, Shirley In’t Veld, the former head of WA government owned generation company Verve Energy, and Brian Fisher, the former long-term head of ABARE who gained notoriety for his positions on climate policies and is a noted free-market hardliner.

Environmentalists’ fears that this inquiry was set up to reach a predetermined conclusion were strengthened by the government’s rapid moves to cut funding in this area. The budget recommended the abolition of the $3.1 billion Australian Renewable Energy Agency, or ARENA, an institution formed to help bring new technologies into production and deployment, and to fund Australia’s world-leading solar research. While it retained funding to meet its existing contracts, it had almost no funds to enter into any new agreements.

But what can we expect when we have the Prime Minister who said in a radio interview he understood why people were anxious about windfarms that were “sprouting like mushrooms all over the fields of our country”.

“If you drive down the Federal Highway from Goulburn to Canberra and you look at Lake George, yes there’s an absolute forest of these things on the other side of the lake near Bungendore,” he said.

It must be on the daily song sheet as we heard the Treasurer make similar comments.

“If I can be a little indulgent please, I drive to Canberra to go to Parliament, I drive myself and I must say I find those wind turbines around Lake George to be utterly offensive.  I think they’re just a blight on the landscape.”

The government is under pressure from the coal lobby, incumbent utilities, network operators and state governments to either dump, or sharply reduce the renewable energy target.

As Ross Garnaut said

“Whether or not Abbott really does believe in anthropogenic climate change, it is extraordinary that the four business leaders the government has appointed to senior advisory roles – Dick Warburton on the inquiry into renewable energy, David Murray on the financial system inquiry, Maurice Newman to chair the PM’s Business Advisory Council, and Tony Shepherd to head the Commission of Audit – all share a strong view that the science on climate change is wrong.”

ian macfarlaneSeeing Senator Cory Bernardi heading the Senate Committee into Direct Action – ”I do not think human activity causes climate change and I haven’t seen anything that changes my view. I remain very sceptical about the alarmists’ claims.” – and Senator Ian Macdonald wearing a high vis “Australians for Coal” vest in the Senate at the behest of the Minerals Council, just underlines what we are dealing with – a bunch of hand-picked flat earthers who get their climate advice from Christopher Monckton and Andrew Bolt.

 

The omniscient Maurice Newman

Maurice Newman is the head of Tony Abbott’s Business Advisory Council, a group established to meet three times a year with senior members of the government and “help guide programmes and policies that are sympathetic to the needs of both small and large businesses in Australia”.

maurice-newman-headware

Image courtesy of uknowispeaksense.wordpress.com

The 75-year-old former stockbroker, banker and chair of the ABC and the ASX, has apparently also become a self-appointed expert on climate change regardless of the fact that he has absolutely no scientific qualifications whatsoever.

In 2010, Christopher Monckton and James Hansen both toured Australia. Monckton is a fruitcake with no scientific qualifications at all. He is paid by people like Gina Rinehart to promote climate change denial. Hansen is an American adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University. He is best known for his research in the field of climatology, his testimony on climate change to congressional committees in 1988 that helped raise broad awareness of global warming, and his advocacy of action to avoid dangerous climate change.

Maurice Newman was the chairman of the ABC at the time. He believed that climate sceptics and denialists didn’t get a run in the media. Monckton was given extensive national coverage on television, radio and online. Hansen did one interview with Philip Adams. Monckton was discussed 161 times on the ABC while Hansen was only mentioned nine times.

In an interview with the Australian in December last year Mr Newman argued Australia had fallen “hostage to climate change madness”. He said climate change policies have been a major factor in the collapse of Australia’s manufacturing sector. He accused the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of “dishonesty and deceit” as it focuses on “exploiting the masses and extracting more money” in a climate crusade.

“The scientific delusion, the religion behind the climate crusade, is crumbling. Global temperatures have gone nowhere for 17 years. Now, credible German scientists claim that ‘the global temperature will drop until 2100 to a value corresponding to the little ice age of 1870’.”

Firstly, to correct Mr Newman, the period known as the little ice age ran from about 1645 to 1710 – 1870 was a later, lesser period of lower temperatures.  Secondly, cherry-picking data from short time periods, or using a very hot year as your base comparison, are sceptics’ tactics that have been exposed and refuted.

He appears to be referencing the work of Horst-Joachim Lüdecke and Carl-Otto Weiss, who say natural processes including solar activity are driving climate change. They are members of an advisory board of the European Institute for Climate and Energy (EIKE) – a German group of climate change skeptics that argues freedom, not the climate, is at risk. The group lists Lord Christopher Monckton as one of their Advisory Board members and they teamed up with the Heartland Institute to host a combination conference in 2012.

The only way to blame the sun for the current rise in temperatures is by cherry picking the data. This is done by showing only past periods when sun and climate move together and ignoring the last 35 years when the two are moving in opposite directions.

A comparison of sun and climate over the past 1150 years found temperatures closely match solar activity (Usoskin 2005). However, after 1975, temperatures rose while solar activity showed little to no long-term trend. This led the study to conclude, “…during these last 30 years the solar total irradiance, solar UV irradiance and cosmic ray flux has not shown any significant secular trend, so that at least this most recent warming episode must have another source.”

On Tuesday night, Mr Newman chose to share some more of his ‘wisdom’ with us when he said on Lateline that “there is no empirical evidence to show that man-made CO2, man-made emissions are adding to the temperature on earth”.

When Emma Alberici asked why he was so convinced that the IPCC, which collates the science from 195 countries, 97% of climate scientists, and nineteen academies of science across the world were wrong he said

“I just look at the evidence. There is no evidence. If people can show there is a correlation between increasing CO2 and global temperature, well then of course that’s something which we would pay attention to. But when you look at the last 17.5 years where we’ve had a multitude of climate models, and this was the basis on which this whole so-called science rests, it’s on models, computer models. And those models have been shown to be 98 per cent inaccurate.”

Contrary to Mr Newman’s assertion, there is a raft of evidence showing continued warming.  Satellite and surface measurements find less energy is escaping to space at CO2 absorption wavelengths. Ocean and surface temperature measurements find the planet continues to accumulate heat.

When pressed to answer the question “who is it that’s influencing you so that is so convincing you otherwise?” he said

“Roy Spencer, who’s carried out a thorough review of all of the models and the empirical data which against both land-based and satellite-based measuring. And they were found to be wrong.  There’s a study that came out from NASA in the last few weeks which says that the impact of CO2 on the upper atmosphere brings about a cloud and the result of that is a bit like our own body temperature moderating as a consequence of perspiring. So you get an albino effect which reflects sunlight.”

This transcript came from the Lateline website.  As a few commenters pointed out, Mr Newman used the correct phrase ‘albedo’ not ‘albino’.  Thanks to those who drew my attention to this.

Roy Spencer is a research scientist at the University of Alabama who believes that the “theory of creation actually had a much better scientific basis than the theory of evolution” because the DNA molecule could not have happened “by chance”. He also told a US Senate Committee that if he was placed in a debate, he would be able to offer more scientific evidence “supporting that life was created” than an opponent could offer that life had evolved.

There are two major questions in climate modeling – can they accurately reproduce the past (hindcasting) and can they successfully predict the future? Models have successfully reproduced temperatures since 1900 globally, by land, in the air and the ocean but are unable to predict recent warming without taking rising CO2 levels into account. Noone has created a general circulation model that can explain climate’s behaviour over the past century without CO2 warming.

In July 2011, a paper co-authored by Roy Spencer was published in the journal Remote Sensing. His paper looked at a potential connection between clouds and global warming. The paper received significant media attention, and climate change skeptics claimed that it “blow[s] a gaping hole in global warming alarmism.”

Within three days of the publication of Spencer & Braswell’s paper, two climate scientists (Kevin Trenberth & John Fasullo) repeated the analysis and showed that the IPCC models are in agreement with the observations, so refuting Spencer’s claims.

Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist and Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University whose research subject areas are atmospheric chemistry, climate change and climate change policy, said of Spencer’s work

“[This] paper is not really intended for other scientists, since they do not take Roy Spencer seriously anymore (he’s been wrong too many times). Rather, he’s writing his papers for Fox News, the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, Congressional staffers, and the blogs. These are his audience and the people for whom this research is actually useful — in stopping policies to reduce GHG emissions — which is what Roy wants.”

In response to the flawed peer review that allowed the publication of the paper, the Editor-in-Chief of Remote Sensing stepped down. He had this to say:

“After having become aware of the situation, and studying the various pro and contra arguments, I agree with the critics of the paper. Therefore, I would like to take the responsibility for this editorial decision and, as a result, step down as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Remote Sensing.

With this step I would also like to personally protest against how the authors and like-minded climate sceptics have much exaggerated the paper’s conclusions in public statements…”

Our Prime Minister is getting his climate change advice from an aging stockbroker who gets his ‘scientific facts’ from some guy in Alabama who doesn’t believe in evolution.  It shouldn’t be a surprise that Tony has appointed executive chairman of Manufacturing Australia Dick Warburton, another sceptic who does not believe that man-made emissions are causing global warming, to head up the review of the Renewable Energy Target.

We then hear that the Commission of Audit were unable to assess the Coalition’s $3.2 billion Direct Action Plan because there is no plan yet. Tony Shepherd said

“The Commission of Audit couldn’t really look at it because we didn’t have a policy to look at. If they had a policy and it was out there we would have had a look at it, but in the absence of any detail we couldn’t.”

Clive Palmer declared this week that his Palmer United Party would not back the “hopeless” policy and he threatened to reconsider his position on the carbon and mining taxes if the government does not bring direct action legislation to the Senate for debate.

All I can say is, more strength to your arm Clive. We’ll make you an environmentalist yet!

 

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

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

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

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

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

“Overcoming climate change is obviously a gigantic project with a multitude of moving parts. I would just like to mention one component of it—making sure that people pay for the damage they cause.  We are subsidizing the very behaviour that is destroying our planet, and on an enormous scale. Both direct subsidies and the loss of tax revenue from fossil fuels ate up almost $2 trillion in 2011—this is about the same as the total GDP of countries like Italy or Russia.”

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

The IPCC released a paper on 30 January, 2014 stating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So shut up all you tree-hugging socialists….

We don’t need no stinkin’ advice!

Slave trade capitalism and the new Republican Party

Image courtesy of littlegreenfootballs.com

Image courtesy of littlegreenfootballs.com

Time is a funny thing, especially how the same things seem to happen again and again.

In the early nineteenth century, the young United States of America was heading toward civil war.  The practice of slavery had been accepted, but restrained from spreading further, by the Founding Fathers and the new American constitution. However, with the annexing of the new territories in Kansas and Nebraska, slavery was becoming a major fissure in the cultural landscape of the new nation. During the 1850s one of the presidential hopefuls, Henry Seward made a speech addressing the growing disparity between the wealthy slave owners in the South, and the emerging industrialized society in the north;

“There are two antagonistical elements of Society in America”, Seward proclaimed, “freedom and slavery.  Freedom is in harmony with our system of government and with the spirit of the age, and is therefore passive and quiescent.  Slavery is in conflict with that system, with justice and with humanity and is therefore organized, defensive, active, and perpetually aggressive.  “Free labour” he said, “demands universal suffrage and widespread diffusion of knowledge.  The slave based system, by contrast, ‘cherishes ignorance’ because it is the only security for oppression.”

The freedom that Seward referred to was the free, or non-slave, workers that toiled in the increasingly industrialized northern cities. What is striking about this passage is just how much the sentiments that Seward expressed resonate today.

Today we appear to be facing a parallel scenario to Seward’s, with a push from wealthy multi-national corporations and northern foreign-owned miners who want to spread their low-wage, low skill, high-profit form of business to every state on the planet.

This aggressive and well-funded movement born in American Capitalism now threatens Australian shores; Maurice Newman, chair of the Commission of Audit, attacks the Australian minimum wage, Tony Abbott dismisses of the importance of penalty rates, education reform is defunded and a ‘review’ is announced into the newly minted national curriculum, all nicely framed by ongoing disinformation from government ministers on the reasons for recent collapses in manufacturing in the southern states, all the while encouraging us to drink the trickle-down Kool Aid.

While these attacks on the backbone of a progressive society continue, it seems that there is little fight from either of the standing opposition parties, the ALP or the Greens.

Can we learn anything from the history of slavery and American capitalism?  And in those lessons is there a blueprint for action that we can take now?

Suggesting that American Capitalism is rooted in the slave plantations of the past is not a new thing.  Slave-grown and picked cotton was America’s most valuable export. Without which silver and gold from England and Europe would not have flowed so readily into U.S. Treasury coffers and the pockets of Northern factory owners, providing the much needed ‘capital’ for the growing nation.  Modern management practices also can be traced back to slavers.  Including time and motion studies, and calculating an employee’s worth against ‘unit labour costs’ to calculate productivity.

From this comes one of the central pillars of American capitalism; the practice of paying as little as possible for labour. With many corporations in America, most visibly WalMart and McDonalds, basing their entire business model on hiring unskilled workers that can be paid the absolute minimum.

The difficulty for the workers is that it is not enough.  Recent debate in the USA has revealed that these corporations access billions of dollars in government welfare through their employees.  Because they do not pay their workers a living wage, employees are forced onto welfare programs like food stamps.  The fast-food industry alone rakes in a government subsidy of roughly $7 Billion per year, with McDonalds even having an employee advice line helping employees sign up to government welfare.  These revelations have gone straight to the core of the argument over a living wage, workers rights and the real corporate welfare queens.

In light of this it can be seen that the only difference between Seward’s “two antagonistical elements” and our own is the deep hypocrisy in the arguments of wealthy ‘job creators’.

American, and Australian, elites insist on their quasi-religious, Ayn Rand infused utopian delusion that, instead of inheriting their wealth and profiting from the intelligence and work of generations of workers, they actually built their entire empires by themselves.  This was perhaps best refuted by Bill Clinton when he responded to attacks on President Obama for his out of context “You didn’t build that”:

“The Republican narrative is that all of us who amount to anything are completely self-made . . . Bob Straus, used to say that every politician wants you to believe he was born in a log cabin he built himself. As Straus then admitted, it ain’t so.”

The economy and all the technological advances we enjoy today have been built by the skilled working and middle class that grew from the Industrial revolution in 19th century.  The claim that higher wages hurt business is simply false. It was the massive movement of consumer funds from well paid industrial workers that created the base wealth upon which the post-WW2 industrialized economies have been built.

Without the capital drawn from taxes paid by thousands of workers the ports, rail, and roads built in the 1950s and 60s that transported goods would never have happened. Those same taxes paid for schools that trained up the next generations of skilled employees that businesses could then leverage into creating products and delivering services.

The profits that companies made in the last hundred years were not driven by a select elite purchasing high price items, but by millions of consumers and businesses buying and selling, working and living, increasing demand and driving growth and trade.

When a portion of the population cannot afford to live, then they cannot participate.  When participation in the economy drops so does demand, with employment, trade and profits following soon after.

The rich will always maintain a degree of wealth and privilege.  In many ways the elite still exist in a semi-feudal world where those on ‘their’ lands should be grateful for the opportunity to eke out a subsistence living.   Thanks to their lofty position the wealthy are able enjoy their life regardless of economic conditions, as the businesses that service the wealthy operate in a very different space to the rest of the economy.  They are often able to ride out recessions, and can simply transfer their wealth to another market or country if trade or economies collapse.

The working and middle class, on the other hand, are reliant on trade and education.  The various accountants, tradesmen, managers, shop keepers, artisans, teachers, and lawyers require commerce and constant self-improvement to maintain their standard of living.  Without trade the rich can still enjoy their lands and property without much impact on their life.  However if trade declines or collapses, as seen in the Great Depression and recent Financial Crisis, the middle class and working classes are devastated.

One of the side effects of trade is exposure to new ideas.  Trade also drives innovation and social progress, as both serve to create new markets and new consumers.  All of this is a threat to any established elite, as social progress and greater knowledge builds further demand for equality. Not simply for equal rights for non-whites or non-heterosexuals, but for more equal representation in government, more equal access to opportunity, in short for a more democratic society.  This evolution of more equality in representation is one of the things that the wealthy and political elite fear most.  The American War of Independence and Civil War were fought over just these things.

The feudal world is a remnant that still hangs from our representative democracy.  In many ways representative democracy is the half-way hybrid of feudalism and true democracy.  We rely on a patrician class of political operators to work in our best interests, when in reality they are mainly working in their own self-interest and the special interests of their patrons.  A more direct democracy would see be form of republicanism akin to ancient Athens where all citizens voted directly on bills or the young USA where the voice of the citizenry was a direction for action by their elected representatives.  The attack on workers and education is an attempt to stave off this next logical step in social and political evolution to a more direct and effective democracy.

This is why religious conservatives and economic libertarians attack the means of sustaining a viable middle class.  Poor education dramatically reduces opportunities for employment and advancement, and hamstrings innovations that may threaten the status quo.  Cutting health care forces families to spend more of their income and time on caring for sick or elderly family members.  Failing to invest in effective public transport creates a class divide between those who can afford a vehicle to access job opportunities and those who are trapped in a cycle of poverty due to lack of mobility.

Even now the decision not to build a national, equal-access broadband infrastructure is picking winners and losers.  Those with fibre connections are already enjoying higher house valuations. Once again the inner cities will have the advantages, while the suburbs and regional cities – the tradition heartland of the working and middle classes – are relegated to second class citizens.  How long until cuts to education, health, penalty rates and minimum wage see further collapse of employment options and standards of living in Australia?

For Seward and his contemporary Abraham Lincoln, the principal opposition party of the time was too weak to respond to the pro slavery Democratic Party and the loud threats and aggression from the southern states that demanded they be allowed to establish slave estates in the new territories ‘for the sake of the nation’.

Eventually there was a split, and many from the opposition Whig party joined with other more progressive groups to form the new Republican Party.  Under this banner the nation set about a new path toward the equality promised in the American constitution.  Civil war followed, but the USA emerged stronger and more vigorous than ever.  What followed was over a hundred years of progress and growth that led the 20th century to be named the American Century.

In Australia the Liberal-National governments federally and in the states are filled with a similar aggression to their pro-slavery forebears, and are in a hurry to force their changes on our society before the sleepy masses awaken.  A vocal opposition would do much to quicken this awakening and stifle the fuming vigour of the neo-libertarians.

Unfortunately, the Greens party seem too much interested in attacking the ALP to increase their market share.  Meanwhile the corruption in the ALP Right and the union movement is currently hamstringing the pragmatic and progressive reform elements in the party, and the ALP is nowhere to be found except in lockstep with the right-wing unionists, vague statements on social media and irrelevant emails.

Now more than ever Australia needs a progressive political force that is unafraid to tackle the destructive policies and practices that are currently arrayed against Australia.

The ALP has split in the past; usually with right-wing elements peeling off to create new conservative parties, such as the United Australia Party; forerunner to the modern Liberal Party, and the Democratic Labor Party.

Perhaps now it is up to the progressive and Left in the ALP party to make a stand and plant a new banner that can be a rally point for the dozens of progressive micro-parties that sprang up at the last federal election, for environmentalists, for small businesses, for workers, for entrepreneurs. For everyone who wants better representation, not just in a leadership ballot but in building policy.  For everyone who sees the threat arrayed against our nation and its future, and wants to do something about it.

Perhaps, once again, It’s Time.

In order to bestow upon future generations a planet like the one we received, we need to win

Hansen

In 2010, Christopher Monckton and James Hansen both toured Australia.  Monckton is a fruitcake with no scientific qualifications at all.  He is paid by people like Gina Rinehart, as is Ian Plimer, to promote climate change denial.  Hansen is an American adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University. He is best known for his research in the field of climatology, his testimony on climate change to congressional committees in 1988 that helped raise broad awareness of global warming, and his advocacy of action to avoid dangerous climate change.

Maurice Newman was the chairman of the ABC at the time.  He believed that climate sceptics and denialists didn’t get a run in the media. Monckton was given extensive national coverage on television, radio and online.  Hansen did one interview with Philip Adams.  Monckton was discussed 161 times on the ABC while Hansen was only mentioned nine times.

Lately we have all devoted a lot of time and research into exposing the climate change deniers, their methods, lies, and money trail.  Time to hear from the REAL experts in this paper by Hansen et al published on Dec 3, 2013.

Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change”: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature

Humans are now the main cause of changes of Earth’s atmospheric composition and thus the drive for future climate change. The principal climate forcing, defined as an imposed change of planetary energy balance , is increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) from fossil fuel emissions, much of which will remain in the atmosphere for millennia. The climate response to this forcing and society’s response to climate change are complicated by the system’s inertia, mainly due to the ocean and the ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica together with the long residence time of fossil fuel carbon in the climate system. The inertia causes climate to appear to respond slowly to this human-made forcing, but further long-lasting responses can be locked in.

More than 170 nations have agreed on the need to limit fossil fuel emissions to avoid dangerous human-made climate change, as formalized in the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change. However, the stark reality is that global emissions have accelerated  and new efforts are underway to massively expand fossil fuel extraction by drilling to increasing ocean depths and into the Arctic, squeezing oil from tar sands and tar shale, hydro-fracking to expand extraction of natural gas, developing exploitation of methane hydrates, and mining of coal via mountaintop removal and mechanized long-wall mining. The growth rate of fossil fuel emissions increased from 1.5%/year during 1980–2000 to 3%/year in 2000–2012, mainly because of increased coal use.

A crucial point to note is that the three tasks [limiting fossil fuel CO2 emissions, limiting (and reversing) land use emissions, limiting (and reversing) growth of non-CO2 forcings] are interactive and reinforcing. In mathematical terms, the problem is non-linear. As one of these climate forcings increases, it increases the others. The good news is that, as one of them decreases, it tends to decrease the others. In order to bestow upon future generations a planet like the one we received, we need to win on all three counts, and by far the most important is rapid phasedown of fossil fuel emissions.

It is distressing that, despite the clarity and imminence of the danger of continued high fossil fuel emissions, governments continue to allow and even encourage pursuit of ever more fossil fuels. Recognition of this reality and perceptions of what is “politically feasible” may partially account for acceptance of targets for global warming and carbon emissions that are well into the range of “dangerous human-made interference” with climate. Although there is merit in simply chronicling what is happening, there is still opportunity for humanity to exercise free will. Thus our objective is to define what the science indicates is needed, not to assess political feasibility. Further, it is not obvious to us that there are physical or economic limitations that prohibit fossil fuel emission targets far lower than 1000 GtC, even targets closer to 500 GtC. Indeed, we suggest that rapid transition off fossil fuels would have numerous near-term and long-term social benefits, including improved human health and outstanding potential for job creation.

A world summit on climate change will be held at United Nations Headquarters in September 2014 as a preliminary to negotiation of a new climate treaty in Paris in late 2015. If this treaty is analogous to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol , based on national targets for emission reductions and cap-and-trade-with-offsets emissions trading mechanisms, climate deterioration and gross intergenerational injustice will be practically guaranteed. The palpable danger that such an approach is conceivable is suggested by examination of proposed climate policies of even the most forward-looking of nations. Norway, which along with the other Scandinavian countries has been among the most ambitious and successful of all nations in reducing its emissions, nevertheless approves expanded oil drilling in the Arctic and development of tar sands as a majority owner of Statoil. Emissions foreseen by the Energy Perspectives of Statoil, if they occur, would approach or exceed 1000 GtC and cause dramatic climate change that would run out of control of future generations. If, in contrast, leading nations agree in 2015 to have internal rising fees on carbon with border duties on products from nations without a carbon fee, a foundation would be established for phaseover to carbon free energies and stable climate.”

I wonder if Tony Abbott has a contingency plan for when China slaps tariffs on our exports because we don’t price carbon.

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