Is it back to the future? Or is it déjà vu? The Coalition fails to win over its coal lobby to its Clayton’s National Energy Guarantee, (NEG) a huge defeat, this week, eclipsed only by the uproar of a pliant media when Bill Shorten rethinks his tax cut repeal.
Energy and Environment Minister Frydenberg ends up hinting at a NEG 2.0 due to the woeful ignorance and wilful obstruction of his government’s troublesome, Turnbull-hating, ruling, right wing.
Happily, Frydenberg is still able to help protect Abbott’s Booby, an endangered sea bird which breeds only on Christmas Island. Alarmingly, The Dept Of Environment and Energy notes “there is no adopted or made Recovery Plan for this species.”
The Booby’s habitat is threatened by phosphate mining, an attractive extractive industry which did so much to enrich, enhance and refine the Island of Nauru, essentially a mound of fossilised bird turd – before all royalties were squandered and the island reduced to a barren, rocky moonscape. It’s the perfect site for a prison for innocent men women and children who must be punished for having the audacity to seek us out by boat and throw themselves on our compassion.
And “pour encourager les autres” – as a deterrent to other smugglers whom a paranoid Dutton claims are poised to put boats into the water at the slightest hint of compassion. “Pour encourager les autres” is from Voltaire’s Candide whose eponymous hero notes that “in England, it is good, from time to time, to kill an Admiral to encourage the others.”
Frydenberg knocks back Phosphate Resources’ environmental approval application which promises, with a straight-face some “small-scale exploration clearing”. What a crack up. It hopes to clear 6.8 hectares to see if it’s worth digging up any more. A “fair and balanced” ABC quotes Shire President, Gordon Thomson, a stoic, master of understatement, who reports that the island community faces “economic and population collapse” without the approval.
|Incredibly, other flora and fauna including the island’s famous red crabs would be threatened by mining expansion.|
Also at risk are our endangered species on the cross bench of our house of review, the senate. Peter Georgiou, Rod Culleton’s brother in law, may find family comes first in his relationship with party supremo, Pauline Hanson.
Lucy Gichuhi, however, who was recruited from Family First into the Liberals, is now relegated to an unwinnable fourth on the SA Liberal Senate ticket. Despite being in the news for struggling with rates and water bills for her burgeoning Whyalla low-rent property portfolio – she’s clearly having “a red hot go” and she is a Kenyan-born woman; both of which should make her an ideal fit for SA Liberals’ vision of a multicultural, entrepreneurial, small business-led community.
The sniping of micro- party senator, David Leyonhjelm, this week, evokes Paul Keating’s jibe at senate minor parties – “unrepresentative swill“. Little did the former PM suspect in 1992, that the “unrepresentative swill” to whom he refused to expose John Dawkins, his treasurer, is now more of a badge of honour than an insult.
Even the Bankstown bovver-boy, would be shocked by the maverick mayhem of our senate cross-bench this week.
Sarah Hanson-Young should “stop shagging men” snorts failed Liberal candidate, now Liberal Democrat Senator, Tea-Party nut, David Leyonhjelm, who supports The Katter Party’s Queensland Senator Fraser Anning’s motion that state governments legalise and promote the carrying of pepper spray, mace and tasers by women for “personal protection”.
“Fuck Off” is Crazy Dave’s caring, Libertarian, free-speech-respecting response to Sarah Hanson-Young when she demands an apology. In defence, Dave blames Hanson. “She said all men are rapists”, he howls. Something like that. Seriously.
Women quickly, effortlessly get the better of Leyonhjelm. “The last thing that women in Australia need now is another man in power telling us that we are responsible for violence against us,” Greens senator Janet Rice responds.
Despite Leyonhjelm’s lewd contribution, which is overlooked by Clayton’s Senate Leader Scott Ryan, a perpetual cub-scout who, despite the size of his giant swearing-in Bible, is yet to exercise leadership or authority, the taser motion is defeated 46-5.
Senator Fraser Anning, One Nation’s WA ring-in, Peter Georgiou and reactionary homophobe, Cory Bernardi, loopy Leyonhjelm and Big Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party’s “senate leader” Brian Burston are the only supporters.
Who’s representing whom? And how? Isn’t this supposed to be a debate about protecting women? It’s surrealism at its finest. An antipodean William of Ockham, Leyonhjelm is God’s gift to a senate which ever in need of his razor-sharp capacity to simplify debate. His fabled metaphysical libertarianism will cut to the nub of any conundrum. Dave stars, for example, in a 2015 National Rifle Association film. Warns US viewers not to repeat Australia’s gun buy-back folly. OK, they did pay him.
“We are a nation of victims”, he says of a scheme which The Conversation fact check duly acknowledges is difficult to measure. The Conversation does concede last year, however, that “in the 15 years prior to the first gun buyback in 1996, there had been 13 mass shootings in Australia. In the 21 years since more restrictive firearm policies came into effect, there has been only one recent single mass shooting in the country.” (A grandfather killed himself and six family members at Margaret River in May.)
Leyonhjelm’s reading from the same NRA script supplied to its other stooge, Donald J Trump whose response to school shootings is to arm the teachers. He repeats the NRA myth that the only protection against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
It’s puerile nonsense – which puts it on a par with much of Libertarian politics, Morrison’s justification of tax cuts to business and all of Trumpism.
Research into four decades of data in all fifty states reveals that “right to carry” laws have no public safety benefit. None. Zero. When “right to carry” laws were introduced, violent crime rates went up.
Also rising as steeply as a pithead over a mineshaft is coal. Coal is back. “Good for humanity”, lifter out of poverty, the sainted black rock will put paid to all those “reckless” and “aggressive” targets for renewable energy in Labor states run by union thugs, hell bent on wrecking the sacred National Grid (amen) with solar, wind and other unreliable, heretical, sources.
Baseload is back now thanks to equal parts of inertia, ignorance, indifference and a huge dollop of the enormous power of corporate vested interest with which our nation is blessed. Coal is in the mix, courtesy of the National Energy Guarantee which the backbench of the Liberal Party and most Nationals just don’t get. Fatuous Josh Frydenberg’s failure, as our hopelessly conflicted energy and environment minister has played a key role, too, but we mustn’t be too hard on him. He’s been set up to fail.
For a Liberal, there’s a natural conflict between meeting the demands of energy and environment. When the joint portfolio was announced, many welcomed the move as representing an enlightened acknowledgement – at last – of some interrelationship. But it didn’t take long before the combination was revealed for what it is, a cover for a party which has no real policy on energy and even less concern for the environment.
Today, Frydenberg is trying to peddle a last-ditch National Energy Guarantee which will appease his party’s implacable opponents of renewable energy and he never tires of saying be “technology neutral” – but we can’t burn coal and meet our Paris commitments.
Worse, the NEG in its latest incarnation involves a great big new subsidy on coal. Yet if the country’s greenhouse gas emissions continue on their current trajectory, Australia will fail to meet its Paris target by a billion tonnes of CO2. That’s about two years of Australia’s combined national emissions, according to Lisa Cox reporting in The Guardian, Monday, on new data released by NDEVR Environmental – data which excludes unreliable data from land use and forestry sectors.
Yet NDEVR projects that the Australian electricity sector would meet the proposed NEG target of a 26% cut on 2005 levels by 2030, five years ahead of schedule, without the NEG, because investment continues in renewable energy generation while large, aging coal-fired plants are rapidly approaching their use-by date.
But not if One Nation has a hand in it. A few senate cross-bench votes shy of a majority in its bid to include our richest corporations in its $140 billion of unfunded, unworkable, unnecessary tax cuts, Wednesday, the government suddenly backs former 1996 Oxley, Liberal candidate, Pauline Hanson’s new North Queensland state coal power plan.
Is Turnbull’s support a bizarre, late play for Pauline’s loyalty? Or is it also using Hanson as a stalking horse to officially return to centre stage the IPA, The Minerals Council of Australia, the Business Council and countless other members of the order of the black rock active among the 252 lobby groups currently registered with the department of Prime Minister and Cabinet that Rupert Murdoch’s press so obligingly helps to shape government energy policy?
Of course, not all lobbyists have to register, including religious groups and charities and non-government organisations. John Menadue estimates there are at least a thousand people, counting full-time and part-time lobbyists in Canberra helping to make Turnbull and his government’s mind up for them. But Wednesday looks like a big win for Big Coal.
Astonishingly, the entire Coalition senate team votes for Hanson’s 1950s Ming dynasty, Menzies era state socialist Senate bill for government to build new coal-fired power stations. But hang on. Her bill sounds so familiar it’s spooky.
And there’s more. Old clunkers will get a retro-fit. Now it makes sense. Pauline’s channelling The “Monash Forum”, a “ginger group” as Peta Credlin flatters them, which includes climate change deniers, Eric Abetz, Tony Abbott, Kevin Andrews and fellow holy coaler Craig Kelly whose identical call for a new taxpayer-funded coal fired power station is derided as “ludicrous” by energy analysts who calculate it would cost at least $3 billion, drive up energy prices and take eight years to build.
Apart from that, what could possibly go wrong? True. Coal subsidies are toxic; political poison. But so, too, increasingly is neoliberalism itself.
Is Hanson’s echo of the monkey pod boys, Abbott’s band of dissidents, out of left field? Or right? Or as daft as a chimney-sweeper’s brush? As the PM is quick to remind us – often, we must respect the fact the people voted for her. Yet he also said Hanson was “not the sort of person he wanted to see in politics”. Before she got elected.
Pauline’s latest power play, taken with her pattern of regularly voting with the government, suggests that The Red Queen is still a true blue aspirational Liberal even if the Libs had to disendorse her for disparaging Aboriginal people, leaving her to win the seat of Oxley as an independent. There is also a legacy of mutual help. In 1996, members of the Oxley branch of the Liberal Party distributed how to vote cards for Hanson after she was disendorsed as their candidate.
Hanson wrote a letter to The Queensland Times claiming that reverse racism bred Aboriginal entitlement.
Amazingly, our media treats Queen Pauline very seriously. No-one even laughs – or at least not in public – at her absurd notion of retro-fitting toxic old coal-burning clunkers. With what? Filter tips? A kit of scrubbing brushes so they, too, can now burn clean fuel, to match the fabulous new clean coal we’ve all been hearing about? The idea that it is practical or economic to prolong the life of a station at the end of its life is simply another bit of coal lobby propaganda.
Coal-hauling, keel-hauling, Captain of One Nation’s two-man canoe, Pauline wants to “to facilitate the building of new coal-fired power stations and the retrofitting of existing base-load power stations”. Crew of one, Petro Georgiou claps madly. Pauline runs a tight ship. He doesn’t want to suffer the same fate as Rod Culleton, his brother-in-law.
Base-load power stations are the mythic invention of a coal industry under imminent threat of extinction.
Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel made it clear to a Senate Estimates Hearing, “The actual cost of bringing on new coal in this country per megawatt-hour is projected to be substantially more expensive than the cost of bringing on wind or solar.”
In the vexed case of Liddell, for example, for all Turnbull and Frydenberg’s bullying, extending its operation would be futile.
Delaying the closure of coal burning at Liddell would achieve precisely bugger all. Arguably, it would be worse than bugger all as it would delay the investment in the alternative generation that AGL is proposing. Unless you’re a weird little coal-hugger, or strained by internal political conflicts, it’s an absolute no-brainer writes John Menadue.
Will this week’s blast from the Stakhanovite Coalition’s State Socialist collective’s coal-huggers blow up Turnbull’s government? Is the Coalition’s backing of Pauline Hanson’s bill to build new coal-fired power stations an innovative, disruptive Googly, Facebook, coal-powered 2.0 type of thing?
(Soviet hero, Aleksei Grigorievich Stakhanov, mined 102 tons of coal, so the legend goes in less than 6 hours (14 times his quota) on 31 August 1935.)
No. It’s a sop to the right.
A split, big enough to drive a steam locomotive through, now divides Turnbull’s back bench bovver boys from their PM and his utterly ineffectual Energy and Environment Minister, the hopelessly conflicted, Josh Frydenberg over its rejection of Frydenberg’s mare’s nest of an energy policy.
A Coalition cave-in under a shower of black rock any moment seems imminent as Frydenberg fails utterly to corral the ugly right wing rump that runs the Turnbull government. He wants Abbott, Kelly and other climate change deniers to fall in behind the hoax that is the National Energy Guarantee. They won’t.
Ironically it’s their fear of emissions reduction from a NEG which could, in fact, lock in higher emissions, which proves a major stumbling block, as literary connoisseur Tony Abbott tells his mate, Alan Jones on Friday on his regular 2GB on-air rubdown.
“… there’s a few lines on reducing price, there’s a few pages on boosting reliability, and there’s page after impenetrable page of the most appalling prose you’ve ever read, which is all about reducing emissions.”
Josh Frydenberg’s hasty hand-ball of The Neg is a dud pass. Frydenberg gives the job of spruiking The national energy guarantee, to a few CEOs and minerals business shills. Turns out they’re the same people who sold Abbott on axing the carbon tax not so long ago. They have no credibility to sell anything new to Craig Kelly’s environment and energy committee.
It’s a brave new way to dodge all personal and ministerial responsibility, but the back- benchers do not budge from their conviction that there’s nothing wrong with reducing the globe to a smoking ruin. Others are doing it. And perish the thought that a government ought to be anything more than the thinly disguised political wing of the mining lobby.
But OMG, just as Turnbull is about to throw another dead cat terror alert on the table, Tuesday, Bill Shorten makes a captain’s call to repeal the tax break for businesses with a turnover of between $10 – 50 million, a simple bribe, which is undeserved, unnecessary, unworkable and unfunded. But that’s not how most media respond. They pounce. Kill Bill!
Just look at what Shorten’s gone and done now! The air fills with howls of derision, cat-calls and pages in The Australian about how it’s Shorten, not Turnbull now who is a dead man walking.
The week ends with all eyes on Shorten. Not to mention venom and scorn for the class traitor. Some on ABC Insiders Sunday even predict his demise if Labor should fail to win even one of the five by-elections slated for Super Saturday 28 July.
In the rush to crucify Shorten, Paul Bongiorno wryly observes, the government gets away with redefining small business as any enterprise with a turnover between $2 million and $10 million. In the end the government withdraws its bill but you can be sure that after 28 July, they’ll be lobbying again;
The NEG will be sold as better than nothing. In fact nothing is better. What is certain is that as far as members of the cross-bench of the senate are concerned, in the words only Mathias Corman can use to channel Arnie, “I’ll be back.”