When you have a leader whose most memorable contribution has been a rather tragic Elvis impersonation, I guess it’s understandable that the natives might get restless. But in the last few weeks, the Nats have gone so far off reservation they seem to be occupying a totally different universe.
It took a workplace rape in a Minister’s office to get Parliament to sit up and take notice of the many women who have been complaining about the culture of sexism, intimidation, bullying and harassment that exists in the boys’ club in Canberra.
At the same time as numerous investigations and reviews are being undertaken, there is open conjecture about the return of Barnaby Joyce to the leadership of the Nationals.
This is the man who opposed marriage equality because of the “sanctity of the marriage vows between a man and a woman” yet he was having regular unprotected sex with a junior staff member resulting in an extramarital pregnancy.
But that’s not why he resigned.
He resigned because of a formal sexual harassment complaint against him, and rumours of several more women with similar allegations.
To get the numbers to stage yet another go at getting a payrise, Barnaby is wooing Craig Kelly to join the Nats. One of the reasons Kelly quit the Liberal Party was his refusal to sack an adviser that has numerous sexual harassment complaints against him from young women in Kelly’s office.
Is this the team to put together when their workplace is under investigation for the treatment of the women who work there?
Barnaby decided to move his own amendment in parliament to allow the CEFC’s grid reliability fund to invest in new coal-fired power plants. I’m not sure why Barnaby thinks they have party room meetings if you aren’t even going to run it by your own side first. Most likely it was designed to try to attract attention from someone other than Mike Bowers.
Not to be outdone, Sports-rorter Bridget McKenzie and Matt King Coal gathered their three newbie fellow backbenchers in the Senate to front the cameras and tell us that we must support nuclear energy and carbon capture and storage.
Speaking to the ABC on Wednesday, Canavan said “I don’t think we should be heading down this – giving any credence to this net-zero emissions path, that would shut down large sections of rural Australia. It costs thousands of people their jobs in the agricultural and mining and manufacturing industries. They’re the lifeblood of our towns.”
Mirroring the Whyalla being wiped off the map line that Barnaby loved, Canavan added “You know, you won’t have towns like Moranbah if you don’t have a mining industry.”
Perhaps Matt is unaware of what the locals feel about the 100% FIFO workforce who have made housing unaffordable and filled the town with men. You also don’t have a mining industry if there is no demand for your product and it would probably be a good idea to prepare for that time.
A report by Beyond Zero Emissions, an energy and climate change thinktank, says practical projects to decarbonise the economy could create 1.78m “job years” over the next five years – on average, 355,000 people in work each year – while modernising Australian industry.
Maybe Matt doesn’t know that the members of the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) voted in favour of “an aspirational economy-wide target of net carbon zero by 2050,” suggesting there is “huge potential for Australia to be a global leader in low-emissions agriculture.”
It seems farmers don’t want agriculture to be “carved out”, as the (at time of writing) Nationals leader had insisted. In fact, the red meat sector has a target of being carbon neutral by 2030 and is already making great headway on research and new technologies that will enable that transformation.
According to the Australian Energy Market Operator and the CSIRO, if the Nationals want cheap reliable power, they should be championing solar and wind with pumped hydro and batteries for storage, new transmission lines from renewable energy zones, and better links between states.
“At 90% renewable energy, the total cost [of generation, storage and transmission] is A$63/MWh. But that’s still cheaper than the cost of new coal and gas-fired electricity generation, which is in the range of A$70 to A$90/MWh (under ideal assumptions of low fuel pricing and no climate policy risk).”
Nuclear was the most expensive option examined. It also is not renewable (needing uranium fuel), produces radioactive waste, uses an enormous amount of water, and would take at least 15 years to come on line.
Carbon capture and storage is just a way to keep the fossil fuel industry going. Aside from the fact that it doesn’t really work and isn’t commercially viable (yet), it misses the point that we have to, as far as possible, stop adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Reducing how much we add isn’t good enough.
When Angus Taylor announced a parliamentary inquiry into establishing a nuclear industry, he may not have just been appeasing the Nats. As reported in the Guardian:
“At least in part, the minister seems to have been informed by the work of SMR Nuclear Technology, a company hoping to bring [small modular reactors] to Australia. Its directors include coal power plant owner and Coalition donor Trevor St Baker, who the company says has met Taylor on the issue.”
That’s the guy that Gladys Berejiklian sold Vales Point power station to for $1 million.
I will leave the final words to anti-corruption campaigner Tony Fitzgerald:
“Politics today is a clash of interests, not ideas. The established parties, which receive large sums of public money to finance their campaigns, are controlled by professional, “whatever it takes” politicians driven by self-interest and ideology and addicted to vested interest funding.
To them, political ethics is merely an amusing oxymoron. Power provides a rich opportunity for personal and political advantage: cronyism, the sale of access and influence and the misuse of public money are now scandalous.
The “winning is all that matters” conduct from politicians affects community attitudes. Australian society is gradually becoming less egalitarian and more cynical and self-centered as economic policies redistribute wealth upwards, widening the gap between “haves” and “have-nots” and producing a largely powerless underclass.
Our boasted commitment to a “fair go” for all sits uneasily with social realities: multibillion-dollar fortunes and mega-mansions while there are homeless children on the streets, Indigenous children living in broken communities and children who’ve been detained and traumatised because they asked for refuge; meagre pensions and generous middle-class welfare; a paltry minimum wage, low wages even for essential services workers and executives who are paid a lifetime’s income in a year; tax deductions to enable investors to purchase multiple properties to rent to families who can’t afford to buy homes because of the investors’ tax advantages; economic trickle-down mumbo-jumbo justifying tax cuts for imaginary rich altruists who seek more wealth only to create jobs for the poor; the rejection of environmental realities so that plutomaniacs can increase their pointless, unspendable fortunes and disturbingly little concern for the interests of future generations.
In the circumstances, community unrest and political instability are inevitable, as is the eruption of disruptive ultra-nationalist groups which promote sham nostalgia, foster prejudice, rebrand ignorance as common sense, encourage resentment toward an educated, progressive “elite” and mislead the gullible with crazy theories and empty promises.”
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