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Tag Archives: Tony Shepherd

Transfield shares go up and so does the debt

LABOR CRASHES THROUGH PREVIOUS DEBT LIMIT TOPPING QUARTER OF A TRILLION DOLLARS

October 12, 2012

Joint Media Statement: Andrew Robb and Joe Hockey

The Gillard Government has driven up Australia’s credit card to a record $256.4 billion according to latest Australian Office of Financial Management (AOFM) figures.

The previous debt ceiling of $250 billion was raised by Labor to $300 billion in the May budget further confirming its inability to curb its debt addiction.

Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey, in a Liberal Party eNewsletter 27 July 2013, comments on the ALP’s “debt” TV commercial:

Kevin Rudd and Labor have increased Australia’s debt limit from $75 billion, to $200 billion, to $250 billion and now to $300 billion. The Treasury has told us that debt will hit $290 billion by Christmas, just $10 billion shy of the current legislated limit.

Only the Coalition will get the Budget back into the black, start to pay down Labor’s debt, and implement our economic Plan to grow the economy and create jobs.

Australians can’t afford another three years of Labor’s reckless spending.

Debt is certain to exceed $425 billion by Christmas

As at last Friday, 28 August 2015, gross government debt was $384.7 billion – the highest level ever recorded. This represents an increase of $111 billion from the level inherited by the Abbott government in September 2013. It is just as well Treasurer Joe Hockey scrapped the debt ceiling legislation early in the Abbott government’s term because he would now be having to introduce legislation to have the ceiling raised beyond $400 billion, a figure that will be exceeded before year end.


With the gross debt increasing by over $1 billion per week under the Abbott government, we have seen funding slashed to health, education, Indigenous Affairs, countless NGOs and charities, the CSIRO, the ABC, the NBN, and many other crucial areas.

We have seen the superannuation guarantee rise put on hold and the low income co-contribution abandoned. I’m not sure if axing the schoolkids bonus has passed yet. Family Benefit, after being reduced, is now being dangled as a sweetener again. Getting rid of the carbon and mining taxes cost low income earners in various different ways. Thousands of public service jobs have gone, as have many more in manufacturing and mining

So what have we got for the increased spending?

Plenty of money for defence and national security.

Since its election, the Government has invested more than $22 billion in Defence capability projects. The Government will provide Defence with $31.9 billion in 2015–16 and $132.6 billion over the Forward Estimates. This is an increase of $9.9 billion over the Forward Estimates when compared to the 2014–15 Budget and represents record expenditure on Defence.

Apparently Border Force is to have 6,000 officers. Taxi drivers beware! Perhaps some of those retrenched public servants could apply, provided they are willing to wear a black uniform, take an oath, use force, and fire a gun.

And lots of money for offshore detention.

Transfield has been providing services on Nauru, which has 637 asylum seekers, since September 2012, and on Manus Island since early 2014. Its existing $2.2 billion contract with the Department of Immigration for both centres will expire on October 31. Despite the many incidents and reports criticising the running of the detention camps, Transfield has just been awarded a further five year contract. The announcement saw Transfield shares rise by 9%.

Tony Shepherd, the head of Abbott’s Commission of Audit, was chairman of Transfield and had spent over a decade on the board, quitting only in October 2013 to take up the job as Commissioner.

Mr Shepherd left with more than 200,000 Transfield shares, allocated to his family superannuation fund, on top of his final salary of $380,000.

In a move strikingly similar to Dyson Heydon judging himself, Treasurer Joe Hockey and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann left it up to the audit commissioners to rule on potential conflicts of interest among themselves.

Shepherd now heads the WestConnex Delivery Authority which will award contracts to build the proposed Sydney toll road, co-funded by the Abbott government. He is also a director of the international arm of Virgin Australia.

Not that I am suggesting anything untoward in this tight knit circle.

“Mates help each other, they do not tax each other.” – Tony Abbott, February 23, 2011.

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Regaining goodwill

Joe Hockey said “We are going to give economic reform a red hot go in 2015.”

He went on to say “The taxation discussion with the Australian people next year will not be about increasing the revenue take for the Commonwealth, it needs to be how we can have a taxation system that makes us a more efficient and productive nation, and is fairer for all Australians.”

If we want to make revenue collection fairer, and we want to cut wasteful spending, then I have a few suggestions of where to start.

Corporate tax avoidance

Tackling corporate tax avoidance is an urgent priority; Australia does not have a spending problem, it has a revenue problem and it must be fixed.

Up to $80 billion was foregone by the taxman between 2004 and 2013.

Superannuation tax concessions

Superannuation tax concessions will cost the budget around $35 billion in 2013-14 projected to rise at a staggering 12 per cent annually to be $50.7 billion in 2016-17.

Capital Gains Tax and Negative gearing

Generous government tax breaks for property investors see them benefit from a 50% discount on capital gains tax (at a cost to the government’s budget of $4.4 billion per year) and negative gearing (costing $2.4 billion a year).

Fossil fuel subsidies

The Government will spend almost $14 billion in the next four years on fossil fuel subsidies to the big mining corporations.

Fighter jets

Tony Abbott said Australia will acquire another 58 Joint Strike Fighters at a cost of around $90 million per plane; $24 billion has been budgeted to purchase and operate the aircraft until 2024.

Submarines

A decision to spend more than $20 billion on up to 10 Japanese submarines will be announced before the end of the year (maybe?)

Offshore detention

The Commission of Audit’s report shows that in the past four years, the Australian government has increased spending on the detention and processing of asylum seekers who arrive by boat by 129 per cent each year. Costs have skyrocketed from $118.4 million in 2009–10 to $3.3 billion in 2013–14.

This is the fastest growing government program and projected costs over the forward estimates amount to more than $10 billion.

(It costs $400,000 a year to hold an asylum seeker in offshore detention, $239,000 to hold them in detention in Australia, and less than $100,000 for an asylum seeker to live in community detention. In contrast, it is around $40,000 for an asylum seeker to live in the community on a bridging visa while their claim is processed.)

Transfield

The Abbott government has given Transfield Services a $1.22 billion government contract to run immigration detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island.

(Tony Shepherd, who was the chairman of Transfield until he resigned in October to Head the Commission of Audit, left with more than 200,000 Transfield shares, allocated to his family superannuation fund, on top of his final salary of $380,000. Shares in Transfield soared 20.8 per cent on the news, lifting the company’s market capitalisation by about $80 million. He now heads the WestConnex Delivery Authority where money from the East-West link may be redirected)

Employment Service Providers

The Coalition Government has released its exposure draft of the purchasing arrangements for a new employment services model – a $5.1 billion investment over three years from July 1, 2015 – which includes the new Work for the Dole scheme.

Emissions Reduction Fund

Under the ERF the government will spend $2.55 billion to purchase emissions reductions through auctions.

Public Service redundancies

The federal government is on track to fork out $1 billion in redundancy payouts to public servants even before entitlements such as leave are paid.

School chaplains

School chaplaincy will be continued for another five years at a cost of $245.3 million. Under the program, 3700 schools are eligible for up to $72,000 funding to employ chaplains.

Marriage guidance vouchers

NEWLYWEDS across Australia will be given a $200 voucher for marriage counselling from July 1, as part of a $20 million trial to strengthen relationships and avoid family breakdowns.

Tim Wilson

TONY Abbott’s hand-picked human rights adviser has been given a $56,000 expenses package to top up his six-figure salary. Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson now has a total salary of $389,000 plus vehicle and telephone expenses following a recent decision by the Remuneration Tribunal.

Hope that gets you started Joe, or whoever is now doing the budget. (Cormann? Frydenberg? Thawley? Credlin? Rinehart?)

PS: In light of the above potential savings, you may want to read my plan to get half a million people employed at a cost of $8.8 billion

PPS: In South Africa, Boxing Day was renamed Day of Goodwill in 1994. May you use it to contemplate wisely.

 91 total views

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.

 176 total views

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 macfarlane Seeing 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.

 

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 358 total views

The laws by Shepherd, he shall not want

Photo: news.com.au

Photo: news.com.au

The AIMN is often criticised for its claim of being an independent information alternative. I assume the criticism comes because most articles and comments tend towards progressive social justice and philosophy.

The definition of independent is “free from outside control; not subject to another’s authority; not depending on another for livelihood or subsistence.” I am not a member of any political organisation or union. Nobody tells me what to write and nobody checks it before I publish it. I am not paid to write. I therefore defend our claim to independence, but cannot do the same for the head of our supposedly independent Commission of Audit, Tony Shepherd.

As head of the Business Council of Australia, Shepherd advocates for Australia’s 100 biggest companies, and was chairman of construction and services giant Transfield Services until he quit in October after more than a decade on the board.

Transfield has secured hundreds of millions of dollars in federal government contracts in recent years, including reaping $180 million from operating detention facilities on Nauru. In February we learned that Transfield Services will be paid $1.22 billion by the Australia government to run both offshore detention centres

Mr Shepherd left with more than 200,000 Transfield shares, allocated to his family superannuation fund, on top of his final salary of $380,000.

Mr Shepherd’s Commission of Audit was tasked with looking at possible cuts to the ABC and SBS. Considering he is an advocate for pay TV providers in his position as chairman of the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association (ASTRA), this is surely a huge conflict of interest. The group, whose members include Telstra, Foxtel and ESPN, in January issued an invitation to a party at Parliament House in Canberra.

”Tony Shepherd AO, chairman, ASTRA, invites you to join the leaders and stars of Australian subscription television to celebrate the quality, creativity and diversity of content watched by 7 million Australians,” it said

Shepherd is also a director of the international arm of Virgin Australia and heads the WestConnex Delivery Authority which will award contracts to build the proposed Sydney toll road, co-funded by the Abbott government. The WestConnex is at an early stage in Infrastructure Australia’s four stage priority list. Its Benefit Cost Ratio is thought by many observers to be negative.

In October last year, more than 100 people gathered at Leichhardt Town Hall to hear public transport experts Michelle Zeibots and Gavin Gatenby point out the many flaws in the shaky case for Australia’s most expensive infrastructure project.

This led to Leichardt Council presenting a Notice of Motion stating

“The WestConnex is a very bad transport plan. In fact it is not a transport plan at all it is just a very long, very expensive private road. It will generated very high carbon emissions in both construction and use and it will force people off public transport and back into their cars.

It is also has a very bad urban development plan which has been conveniently linked to the private tollway plan.

It would appear that the government is somewhat opportunistically seeking to imply that high rise development along the route of a private tollway somehow equates with encouraging higher density development near public transport hubs. There is no logic to this at all only a hungry grab for land for developers. This is not the future that Leichhardt Council and her residents and local businesses aspire to. The “WestConnex Revitalisation Land Use Planning” , should it go ahead will destroy the Leichhardt we know and love.”

It would be interesting to see who is buying up land in that area.

WestConnex is the biggest urban infrastructure project in the country – with $3.3 billion of taxpayers’ money already committed to it – and hardly anything is known about it.

Taxpayers do not know how many cars are expected to use this motorway. They do not know its estimated impact on local roads. They are yet to be told its precise route. They’re in the dark on construction methods. Even the need for the WestConnex is not known.

WestConnex is really a connection of three motorway projects the NSW government says will cost about $11.5 billion together.

One of the three projects – the second to be built – will be another M5 East tunnel in southern Sydney and a connecting road to Sydney Airport. The state says it will be able to build this for $3.6 billion to $3.8 billion, with construction starting in 2016 and finishing in 2020.

This forecast – presented with no justification to back it up – seems vastly underestimated.

When the former NSW Labor government appealed to the federal government for funding for pretty much the same project in 2010, it put a $4.5 billion price tag on it (with inflation, that would probably be close to $6 billion by 2020). Even then the federal government’s advisor Infrastructure Australia said the $4.5 billion figure was likely to be understated.

So on what basis are Abbott and the NSW State government now so confident that they can do the job for billions less than their predecessors?

The public servant running the project to date, Paul Goldsmith, said

”When we started the business case, we recognised this as a very difficult place to build a motorway. It’s a very expensive place to build a motorway and this is why we developed a couple of industry partners to have some input into developing solutions for that part of WestConnex. We haven’t got a fixed solution but we have a whole bunch of ideas and we’ve got some short-listed solutions to that area.”

In other words, the government is sure it can build this section of motorway for $3.8 billion but it either does not know how or will not say.

Tony Shepherd’s board of businessmen should be providing the workings, analysis and assumptions of WestConnex, in the same way they would if governments proposed massively expensive new welfare, disability, education or health programs.

Research shows us that in most industrialised cities, including Sydney, car use is declining due to fuel prices and other living pressures, while demand for public transport continues to grow. Sydney is a model example of this shift. So while Prime Minister Tony Abbott believes the ”humblest person is king in his own car”, the evidence says many of us are opting out of this 1950s mindset.

The claim that WestConnex is an integrated transport solution is also deceptive. ”Integrated” transport can be interpreted as allowing different travel modes to complement each other. A more holistic understanding implies the incorporation of social, economic and environmental elements, and policies to reduce the need for travel and the impact of journeys made.

WestConnex does neither. First, widening the M4 and M5, and building an 8.5-kilometre tunnel, does not enable private transport users to integrate walking, cycling or public transport as part of their journey. Second, it does not meet key environmental, social and economic outcomes. The government’s business case executive summary provides no insight into how WestConnex will meet environmental criteria or encourage healthier transport choices.

Perhaps that’s because building large motorways increases greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution levels, dependency on fossil fuels and inequitable access to mobility.

Choosing roads over integrated public transport options is not logical, but ideological, as shown by Abbott’s plans to abolish funding for urban rail, while promising support for WestConnex, Perth’s airport gateway road and Melbourne’s east-west link. Mike Baird’s so-called innovative financing model for the WestConnex is underpinned by this same neo-liberal ideology.

Failure by successive Labor and Liberal governments to recognise the need for affordable, reliable, efficient, integrated transport options has earned Sydney the title of the world’s fourth-worst major city for transport and infrastructure.

Public money should be spent on projects such as an integrated light rail connection up Parramatta Road and building Parramatta Council’s proposed full light rail network in western Sydney.

It is time to invest in 21st-century public transport systems that can connect communities, cut environmental impacts, and generate long-term economic success.

Considering Tony Shepherd’s many business involvements presenting a multitude of conflicts of interest, was he really the man to head the Commission of Audit? It appears to me that Tony Shepherd is recommending what is good for Tony Shepherd and the countless businesses he represents.

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