Monday 26th of October 2020

searching for piss-weak beer-coaster solutions to a major problem....


It’s been pretty clear since at least the 2019 election that Labor under Anthony Albanese – who recognised conflict fatigue in the community and is searching for solutions not arguments – does not want to pick a fight with the Coalition on the dreaded climate and energy policy.

In fact, Labor has supported every Coalition attempt at an energy policy since the fateful abolition of the emissions trading scheme in 2014. It supported an emissions intensity scheme, a clean energy target and the national energy guarantee – all of which failed – and I reckon if the government wrote “climate action one day” on a beer coaster, Labor would support that too.

Spurred on by resources spokesperson Joel Fitzgibbon and other members of the pro-coal “Otis Group” in shadow cabinet, Albanese has duly written to the prime minister proposing bipartisan negotiations to develop a national energy investment framework. Albanese told the National Press Club today that Labor could work with a NEG, a CET, an EIS or any other model that provides investment certainty. “It must be flexible, and it must be enduring,” he said. “An enduring energy policy is one that can adjust to different emission targets.”

Albanese’s speech was billed in this morning’s papers as an attempt to end the decade-long carbon wars, which is true, but Labor has been trying to do that for a while. The Greens immediately accused Labor of trying to end the climate wars by surrendering, and there is an element of truth to that also. But if a bipartisan investment framework was to be somehow agreed on – one whose ambition could be scaled up – that would be a concrete achievement, so why not make the offer in the spirit of recovery from the COVID recession, even if it is likely to be refused? There is plenty of scope left for Labor and the Coalition to wage climate wars over levels of ambition, or small-scale nuclear power stations (but not in resources minister Keith Pitt’s backyard), or carbon capture and storage, which Labor is once again – amazingly – proposing to support. In reality there was more continuity than change in Albanese’s speech, which was pro-science, pro-jobs and pro-growth. Probed by Sky News, Albanese was commendably clear on the use of carry-over credits from the Kyoto Protocol towards our Paris Agreement targets, which would effectively halve Australia’s level of ambition. Albanese drew a hard line against it, describing carry-over credits as a “rort”. Beyond committing to a long-range target of net-zero emissions by 2050 – which is uncontentious and in line with most states and many businesses, including the Minerals Council – Albanese will not be pinned down on all-important 2030 targets this side of the Eden-Monaro byelection, the Queensland election or December’s national conference, except to say that they will be “based on science”.  It’s a fight for another day, in other words. 

A couple of questions from the press gallery focused on the tenth anniversary of the dumping of Kevin Rudd as prime minister after he shelved Labor’s original emissions trading scheme, but Albanese showed little appetite for the history wars. Asked whether Labor would revert to supporting a price on carbon, Albanese all but ruled it out, effectively arguing the price of renewables had dropped so much it was now unnecessary. “Renewables today are looking for a different framework. See if you ask, ‘Are we going back to the old system?’, the answer to that is no. We’re looking forward, not backwards.” It’s a disappointing answer: as Albanese knows, a carbon price is not meant only to support renewables, but to internalise the externalised costs of carbon pollution across the economy.  

Felicity Wade, national co-convenor of the Labor Environment Action Network, tells The Monthly Today that Albanese is trying to progress action on climate change by negotiating towards some form of mechanism in the electricity sector that provides investment certainty as well as emissions reduction. “Albo is saying, ‘Let’s sort out that mechanism and we can ramp it up when we’re in government.’ He has said nothing to suggest Labor won’t have its own interim targets, and LEAN will work hard to ensure they are ambitious,” says Wade.

“We have all got less purist about climate policy over the years. What we most need is a workable mechanism – policy elegance was ditched on this years ago! Getting a bipartisan emissions reduction mechanism in place would be a huge positive step in Australian climate politics. Today Albo has endorsed a whole bunch of things LEAN supports: initiatives to invest heavily into the renewable energy sector, restoring ARENA funding, banning nuclear power and having an ability to scale up our emission reduction targets when we can. We’re not huge fans of wasting taxpayer funds on carbon capture and storage but it’s not a ‘die in a ditch’ issue.”

Predictably, Labor’s offer was treated with some derision by the federal government, with Josh Frydenberg telling Sky News it reminded him of the Groucho Marx line: “These are my principles and if you don’t like them I have others.” The PM will use the offer to attack the Labor leader as “each-way Albo”. Meanwhile, LNP backbencher Matt Canavan is arguing[$] that Shine Energy, proponent of a new coal-fired power station in Queensland, should be given compensation for any change in climate policy; some 40 jobs in the energy division at CSIRO are going under reappointed chief Larry Marshall; and the Berejiklian government is planning a future for the Hunter Valley on the basis that demand for thermal coal exports will only drop by 10 per cent by 2050. With each passing day, it becomes clearer that the Coalition remains wedded to inaction – and energy minister Angus Taylor’s denial of his government’s climate denial only proves the point.


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carrot seams or coal stew...

We are going to track back to the week’s developments on energy policy, but I want to open this weekend in Eden-Monaro, with voters in the seat heading to the polls next Saturday.

The truisms of federal byelections are well known. Governments don’t normally win. Usually, voters use these contests as an opportunity to “send a message to Canberra” – often the message is “up yours”.

Conventional wisdom suggests Labor will more than likely hold the seat vacated by the popular Mike Kelly, particularly given the backlash in parts of the electorate about Scott Morrison’s handling of the bushfires. But here are a few counterfactuals to consider. This contest is happening in a seat that Labor has held by a wafer thin margin. It is happening at a time when Morrison is enjoying an approval rating north of 60%, and the country is battling a pandemic.

Because community anxiety is high, incumbency is a bankable commodity, and incumbency is the central pitch of the Liberal campaign to take the seat. Voters in the electorate are being invited in the Liberal party’s television advertising to decide whether they want their local member to be a member of a government who can deliver things – the clear inference being the local champion standing for Labor might look friendly and relatable, but she will lack influence and friends in the nation’s capital.


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At the gala dinner in March this year to celebrate the centenary of the Nationals, federal president Larry Anthony boasted that the party played a key role in twice removing Malcolm Turnbull because of his climate change policy.

The Coalition had won the 2019 election against the odds, but not the seat of Richmond on the north coast of New South Wales, which had voted three generations of the Anthony family into parliament, including Larry. The demography of this once predominantly agricultural area has shifted, with sea-changers and alternatives moving into the coastal towns, and the seat has been held by Labor since 2004 with substantial support from the Greens. To survive, the Nationals needed new supporters and they were finding them in the coalminers of central Queensland. Whatever the contribution Bill Shorten’s unpopularity, franking credits or negative gearing may have made to the Coalition winning in 2019, the brutal truth is that Labor lost the election in Queensland and it lost it in large part because of the Queensland Liberal National party’s successful weaponising of coal.


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fake news in eden-monaro...

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) is investigating a "disinformation" campaign about the Labor candidate for Eden Monaro, which falsely claimed she had quit the by-election race.

Key points:

  • The email claimed Kristy McBain had withdrawn from the race after contracting COVID-19
  • It also said she asked her supporters to redirect their vote to Liberal candidate Fiona Kotvojs
  • The Australian Federal Police confirmed it is investigating and described the emails as "spam"

Labor sources said the party became aware of an email on Wednesday morning which claimed its candidate Kristy McBain had COVID-19 and, as a result, had withdrawn from July 4 by-election.

The email claimed Ms McBain asked her supporters to redirect their support to Liberal candidate Fiona Kotvojs instead.

The Australian Federal Police confirmed it was investigating the matter and described the emails as "spam".

"The Australian Federal Police has commenced an investigation after receiving a report from the Electoral Integrity Network," a spokeswoman said.

Australian Labor Party national secretary Paul Erickson said the emails were malicious and incorrect.

"The spread of disinformation online is a threat to democracy," he said.

"We hope [the AFP] identify the culprit," he said.


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It's likely that "the police" will find as much evidence on this rotten case as in the Angus Taylor's attack on Clover Moore... that is it will find NOTHING. The police is inept or deliberately ignorant in these cases.  A hacker from Anonymous could find the culprit in 30 seconds. 


See also:  hitting morrison with a wet lettuce... in killing it in front of you... 

coal — not their amour....

Minister for coal is blinded by his misguided ideology


It is astounding federal Resources Minister Keith Pitt, in responding to First State Super’s plan to reduce its investments in coal miners, claims that decision is based on ‘‘misguided ideology’’ (‘‘Fund’s choice on ‘ideology’ criticised’’, July 10).

Is he the minister for all resources, including the sun and wind, or is he just the minister for coal, whose main aim seems to be to retain central Queensland votes? It is disturbing a key minister refuses to recognise the effect of fossil fuels on climate change is a scientific fact, not a ‘‘misguided ideology’’.

Jill Tuffley, Turramurra

International Energy Agency forecasts of a continued market for coal are a Coalition favourite, as though that makes selling coal OK.

Super funds are responding to other forecasts, such as those of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, NASA and every other reputable science academy. They also saw climate risk writ large during our black summer and breathed it. Regarding climate risk, it is the Coalition that acts from ‘‘ideology’’.

Thea Ormerod, Kingsgrove

Will Pitt please explain how limiting investments in ‘‘thermal coal – the heaviest-polluting energy source’’ by First State Super is ‘‘misguided ideology’’?

Larry Woldenberg, Forest Lodge

Pitt either doesn’t understand the term ‘‘ideology’’, or he doesn’t understand climate science. In any case, it’s terrifying he is in a position to make decisions on behalf of current and future Australians.

Erin Remblance, Seaforth

Pitt clearly shows that if you operate on the basis of ideology, you can’t conceive of any other way of thinking: it’s not my ideology, it’s your ideology. First State Super has used the available evidence to make a considered decision, similar to other fund managers, about how to safeguard its members’ retirement savings into a changing future ... and it considers the future to be longer than three years.

Peter Geelan-Small, Glebe

What’s the point of having a healthy super balance if the world you retire into is uninhabitable?

Simon Pitts, Riverview

Quake in your boots

The news the combined output of the Central West Orana renewable energy zone and the planned New England zone will generate more power than the NSW fleet of coalfired power stations and the cost of solar farms is now ‘‘as little as half that of new coal-fired power plants’’ will have the rusted-on supporters of coal quaking in their boots (‘‘Green energy zone to near coal’s output’’, July 10).

This could – or should – also throw a large spanner into the works of the Nyngan coal seam gas project, which would deface the entire Pilliga Forest with a network of roads and dozens of drill rigs and well-heads.

Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin (ACT)

Congratulations to Matt Kean on the new Renewable Energy Zone in NSW. As the federal government squirms before the fossil fuel lobby, it’s reassuring to see in the states there is still strength and conviction to do what’s right. Imagine the opportunities and investment we could have, so desperately needed at the moment, if Canberra would commit to be a leader in the global transition to zero carbon emissions.

Emma Storey, Campsie



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moving on with renewables...


Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull likes to say that we must choose “engineering and economics” over “idiocy and ideology”. The New South Wales energy minister, Matt Kean, has been making the right choices.

In December 2018 I singled out NSW for its reckless lack of energy policy. The state, reliant on an ageing coal fleet for 80% of its power, had been shunned by energy investors.

NSW’s last coal power station was built in 1993, and on a per capita basis had the least utility-scale renewable energy both operational and under construction in the National Electricity Market. The state had no plans to reduce its heavy reliance on imported power from Queensland, and had suffered more significant “load shedding” blackouts than South Australia and Victoria put together.

NSW is blessed with high-quality wind and solar resources, but lacks transmission lines between the best wind and solar areas and the state’s major population and industrial centres. In 2018, only one-in-20 proposed renewable energy projects could be accommodated into the weak grids in the west of the state, and developers were forced to turn their attention to the other states.

In a landmark speech late last year, Kean, the newly minted energy minister, made it clear his government would respond to the climate science and embrace the opportunities presented by decarbonising the economy.

“To those vested interests and ideologues who want to stand in the way of this transition, I say enjoy your Kodak moment,” he said.

Undeterred by attacks from the Murdoch media and even the prime minister, Scott Morrison, over the following months, Kean set about turning the tables in NSW.

Renewable energy development often runs into a “chicken and egg” problem: developers won’t build projects until there are transmission lines to take the power to consumers, and transmission companies can’t justify building lines until there are generators to connect. Good projects can sit on the shelf for years waiting for this stalemate to resolve.

Kean is short-circuiting the problem with the Australia’s first two renewable energy zones, or Rezs.

Under Kean’s Rez plan, the state is stepping in to facilitate the development of infrastructure to support 11 gigawatts of new renewables – 3GW in the central west, near Dubbo, and 8GW in the New England region. Both Rezs have excellent wind and solar resources, and opportunities for pumped hydro energy storage.

It’s almost a “build it and they will come” strategy, except the state is only spending $119m of its own money on planning and engineering design and will use federal funding to underwrite the infrastructure.


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destroying the forests in india...

Over the past decade, Umeshwar Singh Amra has witnessed his homeland descend into a battleground. The war being waged in Hasdeo Arand, a rich and biodiverse Indian forest, has pitted indigenous people, ancient trees, elephants and sloths against the might of bulldozers, trucks and hydraulic jacks, fighting with a single purpose: the extraction of coal.

Yet under a new “self-reliant India” plan by the prime minister, Narendra Modi, to boost the economy post-Covid-19 and reduce costly imports, 40 new coalfields in some of India’s most ecologically sensitive forests are to be opened up for commercial mining.

Among them are four huge blocks of Hasdeo Arand’s 420,000 acres of forest in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, which sit above an estimated 5bn tonnes of coal.


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