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Turnbull government fails Australia on jobs and energy

Super Mal, our super-antihero PM, the down-under “wonder-gunner” blitzes Canberra’s political firmament this week, lighting up the sky with yet another dazzling flash of super-power in “Keeping The Lights on” – a love duet with the BCA and for history buffs an homage to the Liberal Party’s naff 1975 election slogan, “Turn On the Lights.”

In a week where our role in world affairs includes the shameful abandonment of our gulag on Manus Island to our ignominious failure to censure Myanmar over Rohingya genocide and where our embarrassments extend to our Foreign Minister having to eat her words about never being able to trust a Kiwi Labour government, the PM’s energy fix and Michaelia Cash’s jobs windfall are played for all they are worth. And then some.

First, to Turnbull who talks up his NEG, a National Energy Guarantee – a type of energy policy on steroids to judge by its promotion – which promises cheaper, reliable, cleaner electricity. Cheaper? NEG has a way with words:

“It is expected that following the guarantee could lead to a reduction in residential bills in the order of $100-115 per annum over the 2020-2030 period.”

NEG gets generators to clean up their act. No blackouts; keep costs and emissions down. Generators must meet two guarantees; one on reliability and one on emissions.

After that, the proposal gets hazy. Reliability is tricky because coal is “in the mix” along with other ready-to-use sources such as coal, gas, pumped hydro and batteries”. Yet coal is less and less reliable, given the age of Australia’s ageing power plants. Unless it’s running all the time, moreover, a coal-fired plant is inflexible.

Coal fired stations can’t rapidly ramp supply up and down and they are costly to start. Furthermore, high capital costs mean that the less often they operate, the higher the electricity price they need to obtain when they do.

The emissions guarantee, we are told, “will be set to contribute to Australia’s international commitments. The level of the guarantee will be determined by the Commonwealth and enforced by the AER.”

If, as seems likely, the new scheme allows for trading of credits liked to coal generation, the result will be a market in subsidies for dirty energy: “dirty energy credits”.

How it all works is anybody’s guess: no details are available. It’s a Turnbull big picture thing. But for an eight-page thought bubble, a document whipped up in two weeks by a government desperate for a plan B for a flagging Finkel Report, the NEG vibe is just incredible. Huge.

More than a few greenie nay-sayers may be throwing mung bean sandals or waving their Dakota dream-catchers, if we are to heed barking Barnaby Joyce whose tenuous grip on decorum and reality slackens every Question Time.

Won’t the NEG just protect the fossil fuel industry and slow the uptake of renewables? Experts such as Giles Parkinson have not been slow to voice their reservations. Giles mildly ventures that the proposal is:

” … the most ill-considered, poorly detailed and potentially useless policy that anyone can remember – the work of Australia’s so-called ‘energy mafia’ hungry to defend the power of the incumbent oligopoly, commercial interests and their ideology.”

Let yourself go, Parkinson. Tell us what you really think. The Opposition also has some major misgivings.

Labor’s Mark Butler worries: “For Turnbull’s plan to work there would be no new large-scale renewable energy projects and a cut of at least two-thirds to current rates of rooftop solar installation.”

The ESB proposes a piddling 28 per cent to 36 per cent renewable share by 2030 a means to pacify a Coalition right wing, which already has the scent of victory in its nostrils.

Isn’t the NEG just another back-down? Hasn’t the right wing forced the government to junk the carbon price, reduce the renewable energy target, reject an emissions trading scheme, and dump a clean energy target?

Our PM quickly calls out any such heresy as “ideological”. Reckless unbelief such as this caused the SA blackout, remember? Besides NEG’s been designed by experts. Turnbull savages ABC RN’s Sabra Lane, Wednesday. How dare she (or anyone else) “attack” the “distinguished and expert” Energy Security Board?

Ayatollah Turnbull’s always been a bit iffy about impertinent questions but COAG’s set up a flash new ESB to hide behind. The ESB amounts to five independent experts who know everything. Gold-plated poles ‘n wires R US.

Dr Kerry Schott, former head of NSW and ACT network operator Transgrid fronts the gig, helped by deputy Claire Savage of the Business Council of Australia, a rent-seeking body dedicated to looking after the needs of some of our biggest polluters, a body which, in 2008, warned Rudd that a carbon price was “a company killer”.

Savage is highly regarded but has for the last decade worked as an advocate for big utility companies such as the industry association ESAA, then with EnergyAustralia before her work with the BCA.

Making up the rest of the impartial, independent, business brains trust are the heads of the Australian Energy Market Commission, the Australian Energy Regulator and Australian Energy Market Operator, or, as Sabra Lane puts it: “… bodies that oversaw the last ten years of disastrous energy policy in Australia”.

Lane’s thoughts are echoed by Parkinson:

The scheme will, ostensibly, be monitored by the same useless regulators that allowed the networks – and latterly the generators and retailers – to gouge consumers over the last 10 years, and enabled them, more recently, to ‘play’ the market for certificates in the renewable energy target.

Our PM’s a gunner from way back. In June, for example, he was still “gonna” introduce a Clean Energy Target. Until it became a test of his leadership. Still going to get water to run up hill in his Snowy Hydro 2.0 pipe dream, though.

Amazingly his Snowy Hydro 2.0, a feasibility study on a massively expensive project at least ten years away is spun as somehow coming on stream tomorrow. A mad, manic delusional optimism seizes the entire front bench.

Turnbull, the disruptor, promises an energy game changer. It’s a masterly performance with report of an Abbott Party Room slap-down. Josh Frydenberg intercedes. Abbott is a “conscientious objector”. The press gallery drools.

But Mal’s light on for detail. What is the plan? Is “coal in the mix” a sign that this is just another NBN-type hoax? Will coal play the role of copper in the PM’s disaster of an NBN project, devised solely to take down Labor’s?

Dave Donovan argues coal is to Turnbull’s new National Energy Guarantee what copper was to Turnbull’s major debacle; his underpowered, oversold, over-budget version of the National Broadband Network.

Yet, judging by the saturation press, the PM lays his NEG, a “national energy guarantee” upon a grateful nation. It will, he promises, speaking quickly, cut electricity bills, lower carbon emissions and boost reliability. And look. There’s no modelling. And … that’s not all. The new NEG comes with its own, in-built political point-scorer.

The PM vows without hint of a twitch of upper lip that he will take the politicking out of the energy debate. Born to silence the right wing and designed to wedge Labor, the NEG is as political as it gets. The rest is hypocrisy.

“How do we break out of these climate wars, of this dreadful cycle of ideological argument — and frankly idiocy or stupidity. There is no other way to describe it,” Turnbull pretends, invoking a thoroughly well-thrashed scapegoat for his own party’s paralysis on energy policy.

The lie that political squabbling is to blame for the Liberals’ own policy inertia, a result of its complete capture by the coal lobby, is repeated so often it is now gospel according to ABC Q&A, The Drum and others in MSM.

Yet, as Naomi Klein says, “It’s hard to tell where the Australian Government ends and the coal industry begins.” Increasingly we are fed the lie that somehow the Liberals’ purity of motive is thwarted by its political opponents’ treachery, especially Labor’s fetish for cheap, reliable, affordable clean energy that won’t destroy the planet.

Equally specious is the lament that squabbles deny our great god industry the certainty it is due; the certainty that is fundamental to investment. As Richard Denniss points out between 2009 and 2015, Santos and its international partners spent $10,000 a minute on a $25bn mistake when they hoped a massive gas export plant at Curtis Island, near Gladstone in Queensland would be profitable. So, too, did two other consortia, boosting cost to $80bn.

Denniss notes: “Australians have been told for decades that “businesses need certainty”, and that uncertainty is a barrier to investing in renewable energy. Unfortunately the gas industry’s inability to predict the future with any certainty didn’t prevent its managers from taking a massive risk with their own shareholders’ money.

Turnbull’s on the same tram. “We’ve got to stop this ideological, theological nonsense about energy,” he preaches to IAG business leaders in Canberra Thursday. This is a time for clear-eyed, hard-headed, businesslike leadership.”

It’s an alarmingly delusional affectation and a well-worn cliché of conservative government rhetoric that only businesses know how to make sound decisions in energy when the evidence from our own gas industry catastrophe alone, a major cause of our own disastrous energy bubble should give pause for thought.

Turnbull must take us for fools if he believes we will mistake his government’s impulsive decision-making (or as he flatters it a “plan”) a proposal whipped up in two weeks without any proper modelling for a clear-eyed or hard-headed policy. It’s another in a long line of capitulations dictated by the government’s industry sponsors.

Yet it is his trademark wild-eyed evasion, Turnbull models in his leadership when he appears on ABC RN.

“Will you guarantee those price reductions?” asks AM host Sabra Lane.

“Well, what I can guarantee” replies PM Turnbull, “is that we’ve got those price figures, those cost figures ‒ in fact, which is based on their estimate of a 20 to 25 per cent reduction in wholesale generation costs ‒ we’ve got that. I can guarantee that the people that are giving those figures are the best informed and the most knowledgeable in the industry.”

No modelling? Instantly, the Opposition pounces in Question Time. Happily, Speaker Tony Smith interprets relevance so broadly as to allow Coalition MPs free rein to indulge in yet another round of Labor-bashing.

The plan is to paint Labor as the party of higher prices in a reprise of Tony Abbott’s pernicious great big new tax on everything 2013 attack on a price of carbon, a stunt which minder, Peta Credlin, now freely concedes, was a hoax.

It’s a work of consummate con-artistry which will continue the “energy wars” on the Labor Party whose reckless pursuit of renewable energy targets, as everyone knows, got us into this mess. Yet Labor fires back.

“In just the last 12 months, the Prime Minister was for an emissions intensity scheme until the Member for Warringah came out against it and he supported a clean energy target until the Member for Warringah came out against that,” Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Mark Butler, says.

“Given reports that the Member for Warringah spoke against the Prime Minister’s latest energy policy in the party room today, when will the Prime Minister announce that he’s against this one too?”

Not only is the NEG a runaway success, the week ends on a high – at least for employment minister, Michaelia Cash and her groupies who swoon over the government’s latest fresh-baked batch of employment figures.

These confirm how hugely successfully it always is in “creating jobs”, the corollary of “growing the economy” provided no-one looks at population growth, hours worked, wages or any other meaningful measure.

“Employment has increased by 371,500 over the last year – more than four times the jobs growth in Labor’s last year in government …” claims Cash, shrewdly manipulating the time period. Over the Coalition’s four years, only an average of 206,400 jobs have been added per year.

Given, our adult population growth of 293,700 per year over the last four years, jobs have failed to keep up.

Jobs? ABS records reveal that Turnbull and Abbott are the worst economic managers since Menzies. Wages have languished for four years. Conditions decline steadily. A quarter of Australian workers now have no leave entitlements whatsoever.

A year ago, 716,600 Australians had no work at all but unemployment is no longer something the government mentions in public. Nor is it big on admitting a relentless decline in the quality of our working lives. The Coalition presides over record unemployment, underemployment, underpayment and the systematic casualisation of work.

But it’s on with the Cash Show. It’s all vital part of the pantomime theatre of work in which a neoliberal government can worship in the church of the free market, yet take credit for its own benign intervention.

12 months’ consecutive jobs growth – employment at a record high runs this month’s media massage.

Oh, my! 19,800 – in just four weeks! Just look how many JOBS our Magic Pudding policies have cooked up since our last sensational gingerbread bake-off. MSM reporters fall over themselves to toast another Coalition triumph.

An “extraordinary achievement” gurgles Malcolm Turnbull. Best run of monthly gains for nearly twenty-five years. A chum on The Drum obligingly beats up the myth of infrastructure spending the government keeps spinning and spinning as the cause of our workforce suddenly awash with well-paid, secure employment.

Getting in early, Judith Sloan posts a puff piece about how unassailable government employment statistics are. The former director of Santos a firm which deceived the nation about how much domestic gas it would sell off-shore, howls down “ABC talk-back hosts” for spreading doubt about official figures. It’s a dead giveaway.

Of course there are more people in work. There are more of us. What the minister’s orgy of self-congratulation never acknowledges is how jobs are increasingly part-time, casual and insecure.

But you’ll never hear Cash stop to factor in population growth – or any other fact that would help us to contextualise her meaningless statistics. She breathlessly reels off her talking points oblivious to their nonsense. The population increases; the economy expands. Yet, as Alan Austin, notes, MSM is taken in by her spin.

JOBS announcements are what Ms Cash endlessly, dramatically, provides in her role as Employment Minister, a cameo role she effortlessly fits in with her day-job of growing her own property investment portfolio.

As with most Turnbull government roles, her duties are now chiefly theatrical. Cash applies her prodigious energy to being our national cheer-leader for all hardworking Australians in her indefatigable, virtue-signalling war on job-snobs, welfare-bludgers and other shirkers. It’s a ritual drawing of the battle lines between lifter and leaner.

For those viewers who don’t speak gush, ABC News 24 obligingly runs a synoptic ticker bearing the whopper: “jobs bonanza”, part of its lip-service to statutory fairness and balance.

As with so much else released by the government and especially with economics, the Employment Minister’s press release includes a Newspeak-style mission statement concocted entirely of false or misleading information.

“We are focussed on our plan to secure a stronger economy with more jobs, including lower taxes for small businesses, a record investment in infrastructure, reliable and affordable energy, new export agreements and an ongoing focus on ideas and innovation”.

More jobs? Alan Austin notes there were 711,500 people out of work in September, the eleventh consecutive month the total has been above 710,000, a figure not seen before the Coalition’s victory in 2013, since 1997.

Hours worked per month, the most reliable employment indicator, were 86.17. It has been below 86.5 for 48 consecutive month since the Coalition was elected. Under Labor it rarely fell below 87 even during the GFC.

Cash also delivers the obligatory attack on Labor. Yet under Labor, Australia ranked sixth in the developed world on the provision of jobs. We now rank 16th.

The Minister for Misleading Employment Statistics has an alarmingly over-expressive delivery easily mistaken for liar’s hype. While Cash is doubtless a boon to even visually impaired lip-readers everywhere – especially those who yearn for misleading disinformation, her performance demands closer critical scrutiny.

Turnbull’s all-singing, all dancing brand new energy policy, is an insult to the intelligence of the electorate. It lacks detail and any semblance of integrity. Beyond its function as a kowtow to the coal lobby which pulls the party’s strings, it is a desperate, flimsy attempt to wedge Labor whilst appeasing the party’s right wing.

Jobs and energy, the two big-ticket items of the week reveal a Turnbull government hooked on hype and spin, an embattled, incompetent and hopelessly corrupted regime whose sole response to its self-inflicted energy and employment crises is to turn up the loudspeaker on the propaganda machine.

It’s a frantic, futile bid for reassurance; as each Newspoll shows, fewer and fewer amongst us are taken in.

 

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35 comments

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  1. @RosemaryJ36

    This is both informative and timely but it is far too long to hold interest.

  2. Michael Taylor

    Outstanding, David. A great read … from start to finish.

  3. Glenn Barry

    Fabulous synopsis of the week as always

    One element you may have missed was the tour of the Ixom Plant which Turnbull made on Friday – the press conference is telling, and although I am unable to find the video – amusingly the transcript is on the PM’s website

    Check the quote from Dean Draper referring to the increase in his power

    http://www.pm.gov.au/media/2017-10-20/visit-and-tour-ixom-laverton-site-minister-environment-and-energy-hon-josh

    “When I come to work every day, I’m really focused on the competitiveness of our production assets and a key part of that, is our energy costs and those energy costs have increased threefold over the past two years.”

    The transcript does not carry the delivery, nor the look on Turnbull’s face when he said it – priceless

  4. Ballarat

    The photo above is one of scariest woman in politics and the dumbest.

  5. Ricardo29

    A good read, long yes but a great synopsis and the second last par is classic: turning up the volume on the propaganda machine.David I hope you are right in interpreting the poll numbers as increasing disbelief on the part of the punters yet I still wonder at how much support this dying, corrupt, ineffective government has.

  6. Steve Matthews

    Problem is that whenever the ALP in question time asks her or turnbull about employment,they just start talking about the sweetheart deals the unions have done with the big food franchises allowing them to take away workers pay and conditions.Shortens bad negotiations whilst a union person for cleaners.methinks the ALP needs to take the mote from heir own eyes first

  7. Adrianne Haddow

    An excellent article, David.

    The only thing this parasitical government is good at is propaganda.
    How they hoodwink the electorate, with their lack lustre theatrics, is beyond me.

    While they dismantle all forms of social welfare for the people they are supposed to govern for…… dismantle manufacturing and energy supply to suit their ‘free’ trade agreements, sell off public assets, paid for by past and present taxpayers, to their corporate mates, the general public are treated like the gullible idiots they suppose us to be.

    I only hope your last sentence is true and the contempt many of us feel for this opportunistic crew lasts until the next election.

  8. OPPOSE THE MAJOUR PARTIES

    no legislation and no economic modelling. that means the neg is not a substantial plan at this stage but only an idea. no doubt the legislation and modelling when drafted and undertaken will create a very different picture of the proposed arrangments than what has hitherto been espoused but so far there is nothing of substance to actually oppose. so far its just more turnbull fluff and he has not proposed anything realistic for electricity price relief in the immediate future.

  9. Egalitarian

    Adrianne How they hoodwink the electorate, with their lack lustre theatrics, is beyond me.

    They do because the Sheeple are lack lustre and gullible.

  10. OPPOSE THE MAJOUR PARTIES

    NEG will likely lead to further price increases. when u make it compulsory that a certain product must be purchased, as the neg does for established energy sources, market power is handed to the supplier who can charge what they want for the thing that must be compulsorily purchased. In market economies, that usually leads to price increases not price decreases. but then i thought the LNP were supposed to know about market economies…seems thats not the case.

  11. OPPOSE THE MAJOUR PARTIES

    no legislation and no economic modelling. that means the neg is not a substatial plan at this stage but only an idea. no doubt the legislation and modelling when drafted and undertaken will create a very different picture of the proposed arrangments than what has hitherto been espoused but so far there is nothing of substance to actually oppose.

  12. helvityni

    Can someone here, please, list the achievements of the Turnbull Government…

  13. Glenn Barry

    @helvyitnyi – Here you go:
    1.
    2.
    3.
    4.
    5.
    6.

    1000.

  14. Möbius Ecko

    helvityni, I heard something the other day the government has done and thought, “now there’s a good thing.”

    To illustrate how unimportant this thing the government had done must have been, when I read your question for the life of me, I could not remember what it was.

  15. totaram

    Terry2: your link doesn’t work. I would love to see those 8 pages, thanks.

  16. totaram

    Helvyitnyi: Go to the IPA list of things that need to be done and see how many things they have ticked off or are in the process of doing. Simple.

  17. helvityni

    Möbius Ecko, same thing happened to me, I should remember it, because it was was so extremely rare…but I can’t….

    No thanks totaram, IPA lists/ people give me nightmares…

  18. Möbius Ecko

    Talking of this government’s failures, one of their biggest in the form of the NBN is currently been fully blamed on Labor. I knew Turnbull would come out fully blaming Labor for what is his own massive f#ck up, but this morning I saw an interview with Xenophon in which he opened by saying “both governments”, but then went on to mention three times that it was a Rudd government failure as apparently Rudd had been forewarned the current issues would occur but ignored them.

    Turnbull’s interview on this was worth a good laugh as yet again he stated the NBN he was handed over when winning government was a complete mess, and he’s still fixing that mess. In response to further massive cost blowouts for Turnbull’s NBN, as he absolutely owns it, the bullshit $90 billion cost of Labor’s NBN has been quoted several times. This is a fictional figure made up by Turnbull as a minister under Abbott and I wish someone pulls this government up on it. It has been debunked and the modelling it was based on had so many flaws and wild assumptions as to be not worth the printing costs paid to produce it.

  19. Aortic

    helvityni. I think it is or was called the Omnibus, but I think it just left.

  20. townsvilleblog

    David, a bit too long for me but I did enjoy what I did read, well done mate, and please keep up the good work.

  21. townsvilleblog

    The LNPs answer to Kath&Kim the screeching banshee that is Senator Cash in my humble opinion.

  22. townsvilleblog

    On the NBN I was connected 6 months ago and thanks to the LNP adding copper to the system to slow it down instead of fibre to the premises we get copper to the premises and so the NBN I have is just a fraction slower than the ADSL it replaced, thanks to Turbull the Communications Minister.

  23. townsvilleblog

    helvityni, a list of the things the LNP have done….the greatest achievement has been to increase unemployment to 1.1 million people, therefore ensuring that in excess of 3 million Australians are living below the poverty line, but of course the Australia Beareu of Statistics figure is only 5.5% unemployed when the “real” figure is in excess of 10% according to Roy Morgan Research corporation, and if interest rates rise we will see homelessness on a scale never before witnessed in this country, in other words, the conservatives have done and are continuing to do what they have always done which is to crucify the working class.

  24. townsvilleblog

    Egalitarian, never a truer word spoken mate. They have the workers rushing off their feet and so busy that they can’t concentrate on anything after a full day’s work except sleep, glorious sleep. They are being driven by hard task masters when I was working there were constant threats of “your job is on the line” so I worked as hard as anyone could until I had a nervous breakdown and haven’t been the same since, tory bastards!

  25. townsvilleblog

    Adrianne Haddow, your post was beautifully put and I enjoyed very much reading it.

  26. townsvilleblog

    Steve Matthews, unfortunately I have to agree with you, the ALP is domineered by its right wing union base, the AWU and the SDA dominate internally to a huge extent, which is precisely why Labor voting people can’t understand why they don’t do something for them when they gain power. We need a workers party to begin in Australia and it needs to be supported, which the combination of exhaustion and apathy would probably prevent.

  27. ace Jones

    helvityni ; achievement of TG is written down on a cigarette paper , somewhere

    Mobius Ecko ; “We have a strong and credible broadband policy because the man who has devised it, the man who will implement it, virtually invented the internet in this country. Thank you so much Malcolm Turnbull,” …. Tony Abbott Opposition Leader quote 28/6/13.

  28. OPPOSE THE MAJOUR PARTIES

    Egalitarian. ‘How they hoodwink the electorate, with their lack lustre theatrics, is beyond me’. The average IQ of an Australian is about 95 – which is lower than the English but on par with USA. The average IQ of a Souh Korean or Choinese is 104. Does that explain anything?

  29. Max Gross

    Does the LNP have a subterranean crypt somewhere full of vats of fermenting bile where its breeds incompetent, demented women???

  30. Shutterbug

    Max Gross.

    I would say that vat of fermenting bile does a pretty good job of vomiting up incompetent, demented men as well. Just take a look at Abbott, Abetz, Dutton, Pyne, Morrison, Truffles our lowly esteemed leader, and drilling down further into the congealed slag we find The Lying Rodent and War Criminal JoHo Howard, happily glugging away, occasionally bobbing up like the un-flushable turd that he is.

  31. Glenn Barry

    Ozemail – Turnbull’s acheivement – I think NOT!!

    Malcolm Turnbull, Chapter and Verse

    The jackpot came with Ozemail, the innovative ISP Turnbull and others helped to prop up with an injection of capital, and went on to yield him $40 million. He was a joint investor and chairman. Ozemail’s founder and visionary, Sean Howard, found it necessary in 2010 to clarify Turnbull’s role.

    I do wish Malcolm Turnbull would stop claiming, as he did on the ABC yesterday, that ‘I’ve been involved in the internet since 1994 when we started Ozemail.’ The corporate entity which ran Ozemail changed in 1994 when Trevor Kennedy and Turnbull invested in it, but Ozemail itself began two years earlier, in 1992…..Malcolm initially passed on the opportunity, but on Kennedy’s second approach he decided to invest in what was by then already Australia’s largest ISP.

    It was I who, in 1992, two years before Malcolm’s investment, thought up the name Ozemail while taking a shower. I recall being rather tickled with myself for conceiving that name. And I recall showering alone.

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