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.”
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.