Thursday 29th of October 2020

raiding the funds...

coal and gas

The Federal Government wants to use Australia’s clean energy bank to fund dirty fossil fuel projects. Yes, you read that correctly.


Australia doesn’t need any new polluting fossil fuels. Coal and gas are expensive, polluting and a bad public investment. Our Clean Jobs Plan shows we can create 76,000 jobs in the short term, while setting Australia up for the future and tackling long-term problems like climate change (which seems like a much better idea). Learn more:


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advertising jingles and slogans...


Franklin D. Roosevelt was the President of the USA in the aftermath of the ‘Great Depression’ that commenced with the stock market crashes of 1929. Rather than riding out the Depression, promising business as usual at some point in the future, Roosevelt instituted a series of economic programs across the USA that focused on ‘the 3Rs’, relief for unemployed, recovery of the economy and reform of the financial system. Roosevelt also overcame the objections of a large isolationist campaign in the USA to provide help to the allied forces in World War 2, first of all through the ‘lend lease’ program where armaments were ‘given’ to the allied forces and subsequently through a direct involvement in both the European and Asian ‘theatres’ of war. Arguably, Roosevelt also set the USA up for its financial and political domination of the remainder of the 20th Century.

In short, Roosevelt was a leader. He didn’t do everything correctly and despite being the President that repealed the USA’s prohibition, you could argue that in terms of the norms of 2020, his actions left a lot to be desired. However, in the terms of the era, his actions were radical and met by significant opposition with the US political and legal systems of the day. Sadly Australia’s response to the ‘Great Depression’ was nowhere as near as successful. The economy in Australia remained generally depressed until the economic stimulus caused by additional expenditure on raising and outfitting the military at the commencement of World War 2. 

Conversely in the current malaise generated by COVID 19, Australians are certainly managing better than the Americans from a medical viewpoint. When compared on most measures, Australia is one of the world’s leaders in ‘flattening the curve’ and reducing deaths while managing to maintain some economic activity. Despite the marketing, the leadership we are seeing is not due to the actions of Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Sure, he is making the right noises and seems to be (generally) saying the right things, but there is a disconnect between Morrison’s actions and the marketing of the actions. 

Paul Bongiorno recently discussed Morrison’s leadership throughout the current pandemic in The Saturday Paper (paywalled). It is noted that

Scott Morrison keeps misreading the mood of a nation gripped by fear. Nowhere is this more obvious than his now-abandoned legal case against state border closures — or to be more precise, against the lockouts in the Labor-governed states of Western Australia and Queensland. The Liberal-governed states of Tasmania and South Australia escaped his censure.

If the ‘mood of the nation’ is represented by the survey conducted by The Australia Institute in May where 3 in 4 Australians surveyed supported state border closures, the misreading was not something that could be claimed to be within any reasonable margin of error.

However Morrison was still supporting failed politician and self-described ‘businessman’ Clive Palmer’s Court Case against the West Australian Government’s border restrictions during July and August, until a campaign was mounted by the (only) Perth newspaper. Morrison issued the instruction to federal Attorney-General (and Western Australian) Christian Porter to withdraw from the case. It was a rushed decision — the previous week, according to Bongiorno, Porter was texting WA Government’s Attorney-General, taunting him for being on the losing side. 

In March, the ACTU called for payment of two weeks ‘pandemic leave’ for all those who are required to self-isolate. Morrison ignored the request which has to an extent worsened Victoria’s recent ‘second wave’ as those that couldn’t afford to stay home and isolate went to work and assisted the pandemic to spread. Recently the Unions and the Business Council of Australia wrote a joint letter to the Coalition Government again requesting pandemic leave — which Morrison has since agreed to, initially as a Victoria only arrangement, a couple of days later the payment was extended if required across the country. 

Over at The Guardian, Greg Jericho has been looking at wages policy over recent years and — surprise, surprise — wages generally haven’t been growing at or better than inflation for about seven years (or 2013 — when the Coalition was elected to government). As Jericho suggests

As the pandemic crisis continues, we need to focus not just on the economic recovery but what kind of economy and society we want that recovery to lead to — because the government is using this crisis to push its agenda. 

Discovering this week that 2.5 million people are either out of work or underemployed is pretty scary, but add in record low wages growth and you can understand people being fearful of what the future holds.

Morrison is talking about flexibility for employers to enable them to employ more people, however as Jericho notes

Flexibility is always code for the ability to reduce employees’ hours. And with that comes lower wages growth because workers constantly feel pressure of a trade-off between better wages for fewer hours. 

The government is negotiating with employer groups and the ACTU for changes to the IR system, but has threatened to “go it alone” should no agreement be reached by the end of this month.

In addition to his lack of understanding of public opinion and lack of regard for the economic circumstances of those with insecure or low paid work, Morrison’s government is the responsible authority for aged care in Australia and there have been a number of COVID 19 clusters based in aged care homes. Morrison is attempting to duck shove responsibility back to the states, as demonstrated in Victoria where the state government were supplying staff to operate privately owned aged care homes as this article was being prepared. Greg Jericho also commented

This week as well, the head of Scott Morrison’s Covid advisory commission, former gas company director Nev Power, confirmed to a Senate committee that the commission was pushing for a gas-led recovery rather than one underpinned by a shift towards renewable energy. 

The government is clearly using the crisis to favour fossil-fuel energy and sideline renewables as it hopes people’s attention has shifted from the climate-change crisis. (By the way, the first half of this year was the second hottest on record.)

Roosevelt took advantage of a crisis to make a better USA. You would hope Morrison and those that support him can live with the realisation that they could have made a better Australia for the next 50 to 70 years — and blew it. 

What do you think?



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pandemic sports rorts and slush funds...

Now where were we before the pandemic interrupted? Ah yes, the Prime Minister and Sports Minister were up to their necks in the $100 million #sportsrorts scandal.

Events last week showed we’re still there.

The scandal, the institutionalised corruption, isn’t going away – but the attempted coverup is steadily unravelling.

Last week the Australian National Audit Office disclosed the smoking gun that made a nonsense of attempts by Mr Morrison and Senator McKenzie to claim they were not involved in defrauding sports clubs that thought they were taking part in an honest competition for infrastructure grants

And we have learned that, if you want to end a Scott Morrison media conference, you just have to ask a question about #sportsrorts.

The politically expeditious sacrificing of Bridget McKenzie on a technicality while avoiding the central issue has not solved Scott Morrison’s main problem: How to whitewash his involvement and that of his office and the Expenditure Review Committee?

Anyone who had been paying attention over the past eight months already knew the divvying up of $100 million in Community Sports Infrastructure Grants was a form of political corruption, that clubs were not treated on their merits but with an eye to the looming 2019 election, that deserving clubs were ripped off and applications of dubious merit were rewarded for being in targeted electorates.

The then Sports Minister, Senator McKenzie, and the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, have steadfastly claimed black was white in their attempts to deny that central reality of the abuse of taxpayers’ funds and sporting club volunteers’ hopes and time.

The ANAO has now revealed the fingerprints on the aforementioned smoking gun: The talking points prepared for Senator McKenzie ahead of her meeting with Mr Morrison to argue for a $70 million boost to the program in the lead up to the federal election so as to throw money at “marginal and target seats”.

As has previously been reported, the first $30 million worth of grants were not rorted.

It was the bigger second and third tranches where any pretence of considering applications purely on merit went out the window.

Such was the abuse of the government’s political slush fund in the second and third rounds that the overall allocation of funds was clearly skewed to where the Prime Minister’s office and the Liberal Party’s campaign headquarters (if there was any difference between those two entities) wanted them.

As the Guardian’s Paul Karp reported: “Officials from the Australian National Audit Office revealed to the Senate inquiry on Wednesday the talking points written by McKenzie’s senior adviser were the basis for its conclusion the community sport infrastructure grant program was skewed to target and marginal seats.

“Brian Boyd, the performance audit services group executive director, said that in November 2018 McKenzie’s office had provided the Prime Minister’s office with spreadsheets demonstrating how many more projects in marginal and targeted seats could be funded by expanding the program from $30m to $100m.

“In March 2019 the Prime Minister’s office had also asked McKenzie’s office for a list of unfunded projects and an indicative list of projects that might be funded in a third round, he said.”

Senator McKenzie, with all the credibility of Senator McKenzie, claimed on Thursday that she didn’t see those talking points and the talking points she hadn’t seen were not the basis of her pitch to the Prime Minister for an extra $70 million.

We’ll never know exactly what Senator McKenzie actually said to Mr Morrison, but we know that the $70 million flowed and were used as the talking points memo suggested and the Prime Minister’s Office took a great deal of interest in exactly where the money went, as evidenced by 136 emails back and force about them, never mind the infamous colour-coded spreadsheets.

And we already knew Mr Morrison was not telling the truth when he claimed at the National Press Club on January 29 that all his office did “was provide information based on the representations made to us”.

The weasel words employed by Mr Morrison and Senator McKenzie to duck and weave don’t work against the weight of evidence.

As The Canberra Times reported on May 11:

At 12.45pm (on April 10, 2019), the Prime Minister’s office emailed Senator McKenzie’s office to ask that a $500,000 grant in the seat of Kennedy – held by renegade independent MP Bob Katter – be dropped and the same amount instead be given to the Hawthorn Malvern Hockey Centre. The centre is in the electorate of Kooyong, held by Liberal frontbencher Josh Frydenberg. 

Senator McKenzie’s office resisted, claiming the Kennedy project was “a very important one for the region” and the sport minister was due to visit the seat with the Liberal National Party candidate who had been lobbying for the money.

The sport minister’s office relented after the Prime Minister’s office pointed out the project had already received $3 million in funding through a separate grants program.

Pull the other one that the PMO wasn’t brazenly pushing grants around to suit the Liberal Party campaign and to make mugs of those volunteers who applied for help on their clubs’ own merits.

What’s left to be fingered is the detail of Scott Morrison’s involvement in the rort and how much the rest of the Coalition leadership team in the Expenditure Review Committee knew.

It seems Mr Morrison and Senator McKenzie would have us believe their offices had gone rogue and were doing what they wanted for whatever reason they wanted with taxpayers’ money.

These were not departmental players, but Mr Morrison’s and Senator McKenzie’s own political hacks, the “political advisers” they are directly responsible for and who Mr Morrison has pointedly excluded from having any legislated “code of conduct”.

By reputation, Scott Morrison is a micromanager and the 2019 election campaign was very much his own.

But the corrupt use of Commonwealth money for political purposes isn’t limited to the offices of the Prime Minister and Sports Minister.

The extra money had to be ticked off by the Expenditure Review Committee whose key members, after the Prime Minister, were the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann.

We’re left to imagine:

“OK lads, next item, we’re blowing out the Community Sports Infrastructure Program from $30 million to $100 million.”

“Gee, PM, why are we doing that? It’s absolutely imperative we’re Back in Black, we’re already spending billions on various grants – why suddenly increase this program out of the blue?”

“Oh, it’s for a very good cause. Bridget McKenzie is going to use this extra money for – – – – -“ (you fill in the blanks)

“Well, in that case, of course, PM, have another $70 million – or would you like more?”

It’s not hard to imagine the ERC knew exactly what the extra dosh was for and was happy with it as the ERC approved much bigger political slush funds than #sportsrorts.

Most notably, the $2.5 billion (and counting) Community Development Grants program approved and blessed by the ERC was designed specifically to suit the Coalition’s electioneering without the troublesome involvement of public servants and their inconvenient testing of projects’ worthiness.

If you’ll approve $2.5 billion worth of rorting, who’ll think twice about another $70 million?


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coal comfort...



Queensland Liberal National MP paid for a pre-election Facebook advertisement calling renewable energy a “fantasy” and promoting the findings of a report commissioned by One Nation.

The advertisement – paid for by Callide MP Colin Boyce – has prompted concern within LNP ranks that the party’s outspoken climate sceptics could undermine attempts to boost its renewable energy credentials and regain an electoral foothold in Brisbane.

It comes as new analysis by Solar Citizens estimates 12,300 construction jobs would be delayed if the LNP ditches the state’s renewable energy target of 50% by 2030.

The complex political environment in Queensland, where the key seats expected to define the October state election include pro-coal regional areas and progressive parts of Brisbane, presents a policy challenge for both Labor and the LNP.

Both major parties have largely spelled out visions that are pro-renewables, pro-coal and pro-gas, while suggesting that any inherent conflicts in those positions should be dealt with in the longer term.

The Palaszczuk government has a 50% renewable generation target, but is not on track to achieve it.


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bank to drop carbon-heavy business customers...

ANZ boss Shayne Elliott says the bank will drop carbon-heavy business customers if they repeatedly refuse to develop a plan to deal with climate change risk.

The bank has asked its 100 biggest-emitting business customers, in sectors such as energy, transport, construction and agriculture, to provide a low-carbon transition plan by 2021.

Mr Elliott said so far the bank had engaged around 60 of those customers.

"The vast, vast bulk of those have actually welcomed the engagement as a way for them to learn as well. They see it as a mutually beneficial engagement.

"But if we get to a point – and we haven’t yet I’m glad to say – but if we get to a point with a customer where we just don’t think they are taking it seriously, we don’t think they get it, that to us is a massive red flag," he said.

"We would have to sit down at a relationship level and say, ‘Is this the kind of customer that we really want to bank for the long term?’ If we really don’t see an alignment of values, we would move to exit that customer over time."


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a gassy petulant scomo...

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is promising to build a gas power plant in the NSW Hunter Valley if the private sector does not step in.

The prime minister is giving power giants seven months to come up with a plan to replace 1000 megawatts of power once the Liddell coal-fired station closes in 2023.

The government-owned Snowy Hydro would build the NSW gas project.

“The Commonwealth government would prefer not to step in. That is not our plan A,” Mr Morrison told a business forum in Newcastle on Tuesday.

“But nor will we shy away from taking action to protect consumers and support jobs.”

Liddell’s owner AGL told AAP it was leading investment in energy, including building the only gas generation on the east coast in the past seven years, at Barker Inlet.

“Our proposed Newcastle gas-fired power station has strategic, economic, efficiency and environmental benefits for AGL and the National Energy Market,” AGL chief Brett Redman said.

“We’ve made good progress on this proposed development at Newcastle with the environment approval process under way and a final investment decision expected by early 2021.”

AGL plans to retire the first Liddell unit on April 1, 2022, and the remaining three units in April 2023.

Mr Morrison said coal would continue to have a place in the Australian electricity market for “decades”.

“I don’t care what source power comes from,” he said.

He recognised renewables would also play a key role, as the government sought to boost the economy through cheaper and more reliable energy and meet its emissions targets under the Paris Agreement.

“More than $30 billion was invested in renewables between 2017 and mid-2020,” he said.

The prime minister plans to expand a small gas hub in Queensland, which could link five gas fields, as part of a $53 million package announced in the lead-up to the October 6 budget.


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So the friends of private enterprise, who have sold off nearly everything the government (you) owned to privateers is now telling the privateers to sod off... Meanwhile the privateers who turn to renewables are more attuned to the future, while scomo lives in the gassy past...

Did we say he is a petulant idiot?... He did not say who invested $30 billions in renewables... It was not him...


Former PM Malcolm Turnbull has again weighed into the perennial climate wars, launching a social media broadside and calling his former colleagues “bats–t crazy” just as Energy Minister Angus Taylor was unveiling another piece in the nation’s power roadmap.

Mr Taylor made his third major energy announcement in the past week, sharing a Low Emissions Technology Statement, which commits Australia to looking at more efficient hydrogen power, better energy storage for renewables, carbon capture and storage, and soil carbon.

Butm despite an avalanche of policy documents and announcements, clean energy advocates say the plans are short on details of how the government plans to meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“There’s a lot of hype and spin and marketing, but very little to reduce emissions over the next critical decade,” Richie Merzian, director of The Australia Institute’s climate and energy program, told The New Daily.

“There’s so many questions left.”



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scomo blimps on the landscape...

True, the gas-filled balloons have their drawbacks; the explosion of the Hindenburg was a bit of a setback. But surely they would be cheaper and more reliable than those new-fangled heavier-than-air machines.

Some of his colleagues would find even zeppelins a step too far and would prefer to stick to good old coal fired steamships. So Morrison would find room for them too. But those so-called aeroplanes would have to rise or fall without government assistance.

And of course it helps that, by pure coincidence, blimps are the preference of many of his hand-picked backers on his COVID Commission who have a financial interest in the industry. So gas is obviously the go. A sensible middle course, obviously the best option, even if it is the wrong one.

And the same applies to Morrison’s most recent attempt to devise an energy policy that he can trundle towards the next election. A gas–led recovery may not make sense to the scientists and economists, who regard  gas as having become obsolete even before ScoMo’s latest thought bubble, but what would they know?

And industry has made its own position clear by refusing to invest in gas, ready to transition straight from coal to wind and solar, which it sees as the real future, on the cusp of overcoming the final problems of storage which would provide the base load the country needs

And confusingly, Morrison boasts that renewables are now commercially viable, so there is no longer a need  for taxpayers to continue to subsidise them, And to prove the point, Mike Cannon-Brookes has offered to build a renewable plant to fill any gaps which appear when the worn-out Liddell coal fired station is finally closes – if in fact there are any gaps, which many doubt there will be.

But apparently gas and coal still need propping up, hence last week announcement that the new package of handouts to the lucky winners will include yet more government aid for the chimera of clean coal carbon capture, and the promise that if the private sector won’t stump up for a new gas-powered plant, the public sector will.

This outstanding example of free enterprise in action is more than just another tweak in another flawed policy. It is a declaration that the line has been crossed: science, engineering and logic cannot get in the way of politics and self interest.

Even words are to lose their meaning if they get in the way of the coalition’s agenda. Thus ARENA, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, is to bring the clearly non-renewable resources of gas and coal into its arena Similarly the CEFC. the Clean Energy Finance Corporation,  will not necessarily finance clean projects.

There will be resistance: legislation will be needed for the changes. The opposition is unhappy, although it is not clear how hard the invariably cautious leadership of Anthony Albanese will push back, And the crossbench, as always, will dither and dicker. Like coal and gas, the Morrison plan may become a stranded asset.

But as announceables go, it has been generally well received by the mainstream media and the business community is willing to give it a tick, if only because it gets them off the hook. After all, if Morrison is really so eager to pickup the tab, it will save them a lot of time and money.

And while private industry may not be prepared to do the heavy lifting – the funding, building and running of the contentious planned new gas and/or coal fired power stations — it can see a role in developing the infrastructure which will be required, whether the electricity comes from fossil fuels or renewables. So what’s not to like?

Well, mainly the planet. As mentioned last week, gas is not an emission-free fuel – it may be even dirtier than coal. It is certainly not the saviour,  the fig-leaf Morrison can hide behind when he eventually has to confront the reality of his promises to honour the Paris agreement on climate change and the tougher goals that will inevitably follow.

The more sensible conservatives realize that even if gas can be brought on line it will take a while and will be a public cost – and it will probably result in higher charges to consumers as the greedy industry will set the benchmark against international price to raise it on the local market.

And given that Morrison is now quite open that this is all about driving down prices – reducing emissions is barely an afterthought – it is at best a short term fix and more likely little more than another distraction. Many more battles will be fought before a final solution to the long-running dilemma will be resolved, if it ever is.

So even the Colonel Blimps within the government will be looking for more and better announcements before, during and after the forthcoming budget. The party room is mollified – well, most of it. But the majority are still suspending judgment.

Any enthusiasm has come from the reactionary fringe, also known as the Murdoch press. Its propagandists have dropped any pretence of serious debate – the current line is to dismiss the very idea of putting wind and solar above gas and coal. Fossils are the past, present and future – at least for the moment.

The Energy Minister, Angus Taylor, says that renewables are booming anyway – and they are. But the increase is coming overwhelmingly from the domestic market. The large scale investment needed for industry has stalled, principally because the government cannot provide certainty about its long term policies.

But apparently determined to display his commitment to the environment, Morrison was photographed molesting a reluctant wombat. He did not actually extinguish the marsupial, but it was obvious that it was apprehensive – as we all should be.

However, Morrison was unfazed as he climbed back behind the wheel of his chosen Leyland P76 automobile to hurry home and review the footage on his video cassette recorder. It need hardly be said that he selected Beta over VHS.


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a tailored road map to atlantis...

It is hard to take Australia’s Technology Investment Roadmap seriously when it comes from this minister for energy and emissions reduction, Angus Taylor, who by now really should not have a job. It’s difficult to think of a less credible member of the Morrison government – or any government in living memory – given the succession of scandals that he or his office have been involved in, from selling inflated water rights to poisoning native grasslands to peddling doctored documents. But perhaps the biggest scandal of all is that, in the wake of Australia’s Black Summer bushfires, this ridiculous minister for energy has come up with a policy that cannot even be clear about decarbonising the economy by 2050 – a goal endorsed by state and territory governments of both major political parties, as well as a plethora of industry and environment groups. In this, Taylor has the full support of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who dissembled like a demon on Insiders on Sunday, saying: “Our policy is to achieve that in the second half of this century, and we’ll certainly achieve that.” That could mean the year 2099 for all we know. According to experts interviewed by Guardian Australia, failing to endorse a target of net-zero emissions by 2050 puts Australia in breach of the Paris Agreement. Without the 2050 target, or the intermediate 2035 target that we are promised is coming soon, Taylor’s plan is – as has been widely observed today ­– a roadmap to nowhere.



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