Sunday, 29 June 2014

Queensland corruption fighter Tony Fitzgerald says Newman Government has "flaunted its disdain for democracy and good governance"

Extract from ABC News

Updated 3 hours 53 minutes ago
Former Queensland corruption fighter Tony Fitzgerald has launched another scathing attack against the Newman Government.
Mr Fitzgerald says constant requests for interviews about politics in Queensland have forced him to make a statement.
The former corruption fighter says the Newman Government is using its majority to dominate debate both inside and outside Parliament.
Mr Fitzgerald also hit out at News Corporation Australia, accusing them of publishing biased reports favouring the Liberal National Party (LNP).
"Queensland is extremely vulnerable to the misuse and abuse of power.
"There are almost no constitutional limits on the power of the State's single house of parliament.
"Unless there is an effective parliamentary opposition to advocate alternative policies, criticise government errors, denounce excesses of power and reflect, inform and influence public opinion, the checks and balances needed for democracy are entirely missing."
— Tony Fitzgerald
Mr Fitzgerald said it would be unlikely he would comment on the matter further, citing his wish for anonymity and privacy in retirement.
In the statement, he said the State Government has "flaunted its disdain for democracy and good governance" by attacking the independence of the judiciary and the state's Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC).
Premier Campbell Newman has been contacted for comment.
Last month, Mr Fitzgerald condemned the appointment of Tim Carmody as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, raising concerns about Judge Carmody's experience and questioning whether he has been too supportive of government policies.
Judge Carmody, 58, served as counsel assisting the Fitzgerald Inquiry into corruption in the late 1980s.
"People whose ambition exceeds their ability aren't all that unusual," Mr Fitzgerald said following the appointment.
"However, it's deeply troubling that the megalomaniacs currently holding power in Queensland are prepared to damage even fundamental institutions like the Supreme Court and cast doubt on fundamental principles like the independence of the judiciary."
Mr Fitzgerald also openly criticised changes to the CMC that allow the Government to appoint a chairperson without bipartisan approval.
"This debacle will adversely affect Queenslanders and ultimately end in tears for the Government, which has staked our future and its future on the whims of a few inexperienced, arrogant fools who seem unaware of the extent of their own ignorance," Mr Fitzgerald wrote in an email to the ABC in May.

Mr Fitzgerald ended his latest statement by saying Queenslanders have to decide at the next election which party will do the least long-term damage to the state.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Scientists in the world have something to tell you

Can this state of things last much longer?

Brisbane, March 16, 1895.

Open Column.

For the expression of social and economic opinions with which the “Worker” does not necessarily hold itself in complete accord.

The Blind Leading the Blind.

If the blind lead the blind both will fall into the ditch.
Woe to them that put darkness for light and light for darkness.
Ye that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please yourselves.
Bear ye one another's burden's, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
Be not as the hypocrites are, for they say and do not.

It seems almost incredible that the light of such plain, self-evident and homely truths, such good advice, and such profound wisdom, evidently designed, and so well adapted to raise humanity to a higher plane of intelligence, freedom, and happiness to reform and bless the world, should have been allowed for nearly twenty centuries to remain almost a dead letter, to become nearly obsolete, inoperative and obscured by men connected with so called Christian Churches who have received countless millions of pounds for the express purpose of removing that obscuration, to make a reality “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” and to bring about “Peace on earth and goodwill among men.”

* * *

These thoughts have suggested themselves to my mind from the fact that if many good and liberal-minded clergymen in aristocratic and plutocratic churches were to tell their purse proud, domineering masters from the pulpit that they were responsible for the social, commercial, and political corruption that is now cursing the world they would probably rise in a body and leave the church, and quickly inform them that unless they refrain from being political agitators their services would no longer be required, as there was no connection between preaching the Gospel and political agitation.

* * *

If it be right to expose commercial injustice and political wrongs stumbling blocks to the progress of that “righteousness which exalteth a nation”- which embrace political, social, legal and commercial reform, can it be wrong for the churches to use the lawful means to remove them? And what are the lawful means but political agitation in conjunction with preaching the Gospel. Politics are the tools or instrumentalities to make laws with, and without their strong arm of protection to-day no man's life or property would be worth one day's purchase, with all the increase of churches and their costly maintenance. What a blot on our boasted civilisation and a disgrace to Christianity? When darkness can expel darkness and Satan cast out Satan, then may we say there is no connection between political agitation and preaching the Gospel.

* * *

This long cherished conventional church lie, “no connection,” which many of the clergymen throughout Christendom appear to believe in, teach and practice, is the stronghold, the curtain on the stage that hides the inner lives of the dignitaries of the church and their wealthy supporters from the outside world, who make war on industry, plan, plot and contrive the best means to keep the poor and ignorant blind to their temporal welfare by directing their attention to the glories of a future state; form themselves into powerful monopolies and syndicates and commercial corner rings, become sleeping partners in questionable enterprises, throw the dust of deceit in the eyes of the toilers and keep them grinding at the mill of labour competition and slavery whilst the rich live in ease and luxury and make large fortunes.

* * *

Can this state of things last much longer? People starving in the midst of plenty. Whilst some of the leading lights of the churches and their rich supporters are engaged in the mad or blind race for the supremacy of creeds. Giving garden parties and feeding the rich whilst the unemployed outside the gates of the wealthy are wanting the common necessaries of life, and falling into the ditch of poverty, pauperism and misery. Is a foul cesspit thickly impregnated with the germs of typhoid less dangerous because it does not overflow and cause wholesale pestilence and death? Are our social, commercial, and political cesspits and sweating dens less dangerous because the unemployed starving millions do not break out in open revolt? Let the causes and the consequences of the French revolution answer. Can anyone for a moment think that if the principal actors in the churches were not blind to the fact that their lives in relation to the poverty and needless misery around them were a true picture of the parable of the “rich man and Lazarus,” that they would not remain one day longer in the false position of being the “Blind Leaders of the Blind.”

They are slaves who fear to speak
For the helpless and the weak,
They are slaves who dare not be
In the right with two or three.

                                                                                  W. GAISFORD, Warwick.

[N.B. - It must not be thought from the above that I condemn the whole of the clergy as indifferent to and neglectful of the sufferings of the poor. I am acquainted with several self-sacrificing and benevolent ministers of the gospel whose endeavours to sincerest admirations. W.G.]

Penny Wong, Senate Doors - Canberra Topic: SENATE




26 June 2014

WONG: Thanks, thank you very much. Can I first say again as Labor has said, how appalled I am as all Australians are at the sentence that Peter Greste has received. Our thoughts are with Peter and his family and as Tanya Plibersek has said we stand ready with the Government to work with the Government to do anything that can be done to assist Peter and his family at this time.
I also want to make some comments about Senate accountability and what we saw in Senate Question Time yesterday a fairly extraordinary sight of senior Ministers gagging themselves in Question Time. Senator Cormann and Senator Brandis refusing to answer questions about current controversies, questions that Senator Brandis for example was very happy to do media about earlier in the week.
It really demonstrates the Government’s approach to the Senate where it doesn’t view itself as having responsibility and accountability to the Australian people through the Parliament. Question Time is a time for answers as well as a time for questions.
Finally, I’d like to make some comments about the reports in relation to Senator Arthur Sinodinos. Let’s just recap, the reports today deal with one of two ICAC inquiries, Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiries, examining in part Senator Sinodinos’ conduct. Now obviously we all await ICAC’s decision but I’d make this point – Senator Sinodinos was an office holder of both Australian Water Holdings and the Liberal Party at a time where funds were being funneled to the Liberal Party. He told us he didn’t know about this. He has never provided a full, frank and clear explanation to the Senate about his conduct. If Mr Abbott is seriously considering returning Senator Sinodinos to the front bench, he needs to explain how his conduct makes him fit for high office. This will go to Mr Abbott’s judgment.
Senator Sinodinos, still has yet to make a full, frank and clear explanation to the Senate about his conduct. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Do you think even though, even if he’s cleared of any corruption or found guilty of any corruption that there’s still a question mark that hangs over Arthur Sinodinos?
WONG: Senator Sinodinos failed to give a full and clear explanationto the Senate about how he could be an office holder in both the Liberal Party and Australian Water Holdings but know nothing about the donations.
What he did tell Australians and the Senate was all would be revealed at ICAC. Let’s remember we got at ICAC, we got a lot of ‘I don’t recall’. I think that the Senate and the Australian people deserve a better explanation than the one that Senator Sinodinos gave the Senate. They deserve a proper explanation. That is the standard expected of Ministers.
JOURNALIST: Yesterday you, in Question Time, you were questioning the Attorney-General about the potential ramifications for the removal of the word ‘occupied’. You didn’t really get an answer on that. What do you think there are – economic ramifications for senator Brandis’ decision to change the policy.
WONG: What was noticeable in Question Time is that Senator Brandis refused to answer the question. Quite extraordinary – he gagged himself. Certainly there are reports that Minister Bishop has gagged Senator Brandis, well it appears he’s gagged himself, refusing to answer important questions about the consequences of his freelancing on foreign policy for Australia. He should have provided an explanation and he refused to.
JOURNALIST: So, why did Labor decide to change its support, I suppose, for the Chaplaincy program, to open it up to secular service providers?
WONG: That has always been Labor’s position. In Government we ensured that funds could be used by schools for a chaplain or a case worker, a secular case worker and that remains the position.
Thank you.

Penny Wong, Radio National Drive Topic: SENATE




24 June 2014

GREEN: Leader of the Opposition in the Upper House is Senator Penny Wong, she joins me now. Senator Wong good evening.
WONG: Good evening, good to speak with you.
GREEN: Now, you’ve accused the Government today, and we’ve talked a bit about this with the representative of the Motoring Enthusiasts’ Party, you’ve accused the Government of trying to bully the new Senators into passing its Budget measures.
How do you make that case?
WONG: We see that Senator Abetz is already out there threatening new Senators with sitting them longer hours and continuing to sit the Senate until they do what the Government wants.
I have to say if he really thought he had a sound argument for the Budget bills, various Budget bills, the various measures such as the tax on fuel or the GP Tax, if he thought he had a sound argument he might actually talk to them about the content of his Budget rather than simply telling them he is going to sit them until they vote.
GREEN: But at the same time the Senate doesn’t really have a mandate does it to filibuster, to delay, to endlessly re-refer, and should it not get on with passing the Government’s Budget?
WONG: The Senate is the chamber which has to hold the Government to account and it has a critical role in our system of government, in holding the government of the day to account. And from what we have seen a Government and a Prime Minister who has been quite happy to break promises, certainly needs the Senate to hold him to account.
But I would make this point – the fact that this Government has presented very little Budget legislation to the Senate. That is the reality. They have presented a couple of bills which have been dealt with, including one which was in fact opposed by members of their own party. They are obviously holding legislation back, taking the new Senate for granted, rather than presenting bills now.
Now that is a matter for them but they can hardly complain, as Senator Abetz is doing, about their legislation program if they don’t manage it well.
GREEN: Is there a bit of Brer Rabbit about it in that you have put a notice of motion today that you are wanting to strengthen the estimates process, and the committee process in the Senate; the government is saying well we are going to make you sit until these things are sorted. You would be quite happy with extending that process, wouldn’t you?
WONG: Well a couple of points I would make. The Government’s threat to extend hours is an empty threat because the Senate has to agree to extend the sitting beyond the program that the Government has already published. So that is the first point.
But the second point you raise is a really important one. We are looking for support from the chamber for changes to procedure which will hold the Government to account. We want to strengthen the Senate’s critical role of holding the Abbott Government to account. So what I am moving, are a range of motions to ensure that things like Senate Estimates and the accountability of the public service to the Parliament, scrutiny of Ministers, the processes that the Senate in our system of democracy has put in place, that we strengthen them.
GREEN: Should the Government give the cross bench senators more resources?
WONG: That’s up to the Government…
GREEN: But should it?
WONG: …that’s a matter for the Government. When we were in Government we did provide cross benchers with additional support. Ultimately that is a decision for the Prime Minister. What I would say is this, my job as Labor’s Leader in the Senate is to ensure that we seek to have a chamber where every Senator can do their job, every Senator has the resources they need and the tools they need to do their job to represent their interests and their state and that’s the approach we’re taking and that’s the approach these motions take. To try and ensure all Senators do have the capacity to do their job and hold the Government to account.
GREEN: And finally Penny Wong, what sort of work has the Opposition been putting inwith the cross bench Senators? Have you beeninforming them as best you can around the legislation?
WONG: I can tell you what I’m not doing, I’m not writing them letters telling them we’re going to make them sit until they do what we want.
GREEN: You’re not really in a position to make that threat.
WONG: We will take a more respectful approach. Obviously we accept that they won’t agree with us, each Senator, each of the cross benchers is not going to agree with the Labor Party in every matter but there are some principles which are important and accountability is one of them. We want their support to strengthen the Senate’s critical role – hold the Government to account.
GREEN: Senator Wong, thank you for your time.
WONG: Thank you.

Greste case overshadow persecution of Egypt's own journalists, exile says

Extract from The Guardian

Five journalists have been killed, at least 125 jailed and many more face harassment under military controlled regime since July 2013, according to Reporters Without Borders

Mohammed Fahmy, Peter Greste, Baher Mohamed
Jailed journalists Mohammed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed during their trial in Cairo. Photograph: Hamada Elrasam/AP
The imprisonment of Australian journalist Peter Greste has overshadowed Egypt’s active persecution of at least 100 of its own journalists, according to an exile who has fled to the US.
Yehia Ghanem, a journalist who edited the leading Egyptian newspaper, al-Ahram, said reporters in the country risked imprisonment and physical attack if they fell foul of an establishment heavily controlled by the military.
Ghanem fled Egypt last year after being sentenced to two years in prison with hard labour for setting up a journalism training school with $900,000 of funding from the US state department.
Ghanem was one of 43 workers convicted for what the court alleged was a conspiracy to divide Egypt.
The journalist, who left his wife and three children behind to flee to the US, said the imprisonment of Greste and his al-Jazeera English colleagues is just the latest in a string of such convictions.
“With Peter Greste, I feel his pain because the day when the sentence came down it brought back all of the bad memories and nightmares I went through,” Ghanem told the ABC.
“I have to draw attention to at least 100 Egyptian journalists that nobody talks about. My heart goes out to them because I know what they are going through. I understand the injustice that has been inflicted upon them.”
Ghanem said his son was attacked by other children, resulting in two broken arms, after he attempted to defend his father’s name.
“That was one of the toughest moments because I felt so helpless,” he said. “I thought I should report the children but I backed off because they are not criminals. It’s the media in my country (which is to blame), which is unfortunately controlled by the military.”
According to Reporters Without Borders, five journalists have been killed at least 125 have been arbitrarily arrested in Egypt since July 2013.
Greste was one of 20 al-Jazeera journalists – 16 of them Egyptians – who were arrested for “broadcasting false information” and aiding a terrorist organisation.
Greste was jailed for seven years earlier this week, with his and his colleagues’ imprisonment provoking outrage among overseas governments, including Australia’s.
In a statement posted on Facebook in the wake of the verdict, Greste said he was devastated by the sentence, adding: "The verdict confirms that our trial was never simply about the charges against us. It has been an attempt to use the court to intimidate and silence critical voices in the media."

Labor appears intent upon hanging Tony Abbott with his own words

Extract from The Guardian

The schadenfreude is obvious: the prime minister will have to make his own dirty deals with independents and minor parties to get his bills through
Two moments in the house of representatives last week neatly summed up the highs and lows of the Abbott government’s current situation.
On Thursday evening the House of Representatives voted to repeal the carbon tax, for the third time, and the Coalition was elated. Prime minister Tony Abbott was away at a meeting, but Christopher Pyne, Greg Hunt and Peter Dutton had a kind of back-slappy group hug by the dispatch box after the vote went through, such was their excitement that this time the repeal bills would almost certainly also make it through the Senate with the votes of the Palmer United party.
But earlier in the day, during question time the leader of opposition business, Tony Burke, had risen to ask this.
“In question time earlier today, the prime minister told us how he was looking forward to working with the member for Fairfax [Clive Palmer]. But before the election the prime minister said “There will be no deals done with independents and minor parties under any political movement that I lead.” Prime minister, how is that one working out for you?”

Abbott rose and tersely replied, “In case members opposite missed it, the member for Fairfax has agreed to support the government’s legislation to repeal the carbon tax. That is what he has done …. When it comes to supporting government policy, I am very happy to work with people.”

In this instance the prime minister is right, with the slight proviso that we haven’t yet seen the fine print of the single amendment Clive Palmer is demanding regarding power pricing.
But the list of legislation which appears unlikely to pass the Senate, or likely to pass only after substantial modification, is long and growing – including the Medicare co-payment, the changes to unemployment benefits, many of the other welfare changes, the re-indexation of fuel excise, the proposed repeal of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the proposed repeal of the Climate Change Authority.
Abbott very successfully painted Julia Gillard’s concessions to the Greens, particularly her concession to achieve an emissions trading scheme (the fixed-price carbon tax she said she would never have) as dirty deals that completely de-legitimised her government.

Now he will have to make his own concessions or see large parts of his legislative program fail.

With the opinion polls ruling out a double-dissolution election as an option, the Coalition is briefing that it is playing a “long game” and that some policies might not make it through parliament until after the next election. Some might swallow that line now, but it will get less tenable if defeated bills start stacking up.

And despite Clive Palmer’s extraordinary talent for drama, he is not the only crossbench actor who will decide whether this Senate plays out as suspense, tragicomedy or farce.

Advisers to the Motoring Enthusiast party senator Ricky Muir have been carefully positioning him as his own man, “co-operating” with Palmer but not bound to always vote with the PUPs.
They are keenly aware that the three votes needed to block bills opposed by Labor and the Greens could also be provided by Independent senator Nick Xenophon, Democratic Labor party senator John Madigan and Muir.
Reports on Friday that the three were considering demands for additional car industry assistance in return for their votes on the carbon tax repeal lost momentum when Madigan said clearly he didn’t intend to impose conditions on his repeal vote.

But the possibility of the three joining forces on issues is there and Xenophon is a past master at dealing himself into legislation-deciding positions.

The Coalition is also talking up the prospect of “peeling off” some PUP senators, which may or may not be possible, but certainly would not be without some kind of price being paid in legislation or electoral largesse.

Of course governments do not usually control both houses. The last prime minister who did was John Howard after the election in 2004. So prime ministers almost always have to negotiate and make concessions to get bills through, at least in the upper house.

But having been demolished for doing what was necessary to form a functioning government in 2010, Labor appears intent upon hanging Abbott with his own words about the weak and illegitimate nature of governments that do deals.
The schadenfreude is obvious. The irony is that because voters are increasingly disillusioned with both major parties, the consequence of constant criticism of the negotiations that are almost always necessary to run a government could be an increase in the number of smaller party MPs and senators – and that would make the deal-making all the more necessary. Whichever major party forms government.

Friday, 27 June 2014


Shadow Minister for Environment

Climate Change and Water

Date:  26 June 2014
Mr BUTLER (Port Adelaide) (09:17):  I am happy to rise to speak on the package of bills that are before the parliament, which are presented by the government as bills to abolish the carbon tax. The bills do do that—consistent with the position taken to the election by the Labor Party as well—but the bills do much, much more than that. If passed by the parliament the bills will also abolish any chance of Australia having a formal legal cap on carbon pollution and any chance to move to an emissions trading scheme, which I will address in some detail.
The bills also abolish the Climate Change Authority—an independent, strong voice set up to advise the parliament, the government and, perhaps most importantly, the Australian community about the very difficult and highly contested issues associated with climate change. This continues an emerging theme with this government to abolish strong, independent voices and make sure that all advice to the Australian community and all advice to the parliament is filtered through ministerial offices or, more often, the Prime Minister's office.
The bills also abolish tax cuts, or changes to the tax free threshold established for the future, completely contrary to a promise made by the Prime Minister to keep the household assistance package put in place by Labor in full. And, as the House knows, the bills also seek to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
These bills represent the culmination of the most hysterical and mendacious campaign in modern Australian political history. It is a campaign that rests on 10 whopping falsehoods about climate change that have been peddled across this country by the Prime Minister and his fellow travellers. In the time I have to deal with these bills I want to deal with those 10 whoppers.
Whopper No. 1 is that the jury is still out on the science of climate change. That is a whopper peddled by the Prime Minister right across this land over the last four years. As we know, the Prime Minister famously described the science of climate change as 'absolute crap'. He only said that once; his usual formula is that the science—he calls it the 'so-called science'—is not yet settled. The member for Dawson, I read recently, said that this view represents the view of many in the coalition party room. Many in the coalition party room simply do not accept the science of climate change. To use the language of the member for Dawson, and many on the other side of the parliament, they do not 'believe in climate change', as if this were a question of faith rather than a question of science.
This is not a new perspective from those opposite. After his defenestration from the leadership of the Liberal Party, the member for Wentworth famously wrote, in a Fairfax newspaper, about the now Prime Minister's attitude to climate change but also the attitude of the majority of the coalition party room. In that article, the member for Wentworth reflected on the views of Nick Minchin. Nick Minchin is the man who collected the numbers to do over the Liberal Party's policy on emissions trading that had been taken to the election in 2007 by then Prime Minister John Howard. He dangled those numbers in front of any candidate for the leadership willing to go with his views.
The now Treasurer, apparently, to his credit resisted that temptation and stuck to his then principles of supporting an emissions trading scheme—unfortunately he has since discarded those principles—but the member for Warringah, now the Prime Minister, happily took the temptation. The member for Wentworth wrote in the Fairfax papers, immediately after that, that it was Nick Minchin's view, expressed to all of the candidates, that the majority of the coalition party room simply did not believe—again using the language of faith rather than science—in 'human induced global warming', to use the term of the member for Wentworth.
It is simply misleading to say that the science on this question is not settled. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its latest report—its fifth report—in September last year, and in that the 209 lead authors, supported by more than 600 contributing authors, lifted their level of certainty about the existence of climate change and its cause by human activity to 95 per cent. The member for Dawson complains that that is not 100 per cent. If, in coming to this place, the check-in staff at the Adelaide airport had said that you have a 95 per cent chance of making it from Adelaide to Canberra on your flight, then I might have declined to get onto the aeroplane. But, in scientific terms, 95 per cent certainty is seen as a gold standard. It is equivalent to the level of certainty that relevant scientists ascribe to the link between tobacco and lung cancer. Even at its highest, if it is only a 95 per cent risk—and the member for Dawson is right to complain that it is not a 100 per cent risk—what sensible person or member of parliament would not take reasonable action to hedge against a 95 per cent risk, which scientists have been telling us for years, if found out, would have such significant and serious consequences.
Morris Newman, the Prime Minister's senior business adviser, tells us in regular op-eds in The Australian newspaper that the IPCC—those several hundred leading climate scientists who authored the fifth report—are a fringe group that do not represent the mainstream of scientific opinion. He is simply not right about that either. This is a view that the Prime Minister has peddled as well. That hotbed of left-wing conspiracy, NASA, told us last year that some 97 per cent of climate scientists who regularly publish in this area agree with the IPCC—97 per cent agree that the climate is changing because of human activity. Our own institutions, such as the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO—very widely respected institutions—have expressed the same view on many occasions.
Whopper number two that is peddled by the Prime Minister is that, if there was any global warming over the course of the 20th century, it has stopped. There is nothing to worry about here, it has stopped. Even the Prime Minister has once said that the world has actually slightly cooled since the 1990's, so if there was anything to worry about, do not worry anymore. This is something, again, peddled by Morris Newman—the PM's leading business adviser—who wrote earlier this week in The Australian newspaper that it is actually since September 1996 that the warming has stopped. Again, that is just not true.
The World Meteorological Organization told us only some months ago that the decade of the 2000's was warmer than the 1990's, which was again warmer than the decade before it, and so it goes on as you go decade by decade back into history. NASA, over the course of the southern summer, told us that the 20 hottest years in the world on record are all since 1990 and that 13 of the 14 hottest years on record are all since 2000. The CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology have said time and time again exactly the same thing—that global warming continues to impact the world and continues to impact the world's oceans. In their latest State of the Climate report, the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO remind us that calendar 2013 was the hottest year ever in Australia, in spite of not being an el Nino year, which will usually see the hottest temperatures in Australia. In spite of not being an el Nino year, 2013 was the hottest calendar year ever in Australia, and there were 28 days in that calendar year that were among the 1 per cent hottest days ever in Australia—28 of them out of 365. That is the same number of days to get into that top 1 per cent band in temperature for the whole 30 years between 1910 and 1940. The world is continuing to get warmer.
Whopper number three by this Prime Minister and his fellow travellers is that the Prime Minister consistently refuses to acknowledge any link between climate change and an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events such as droughts, heatwaves, fires, storms and more. There are countless examples of the Prime Minister talking about this lack of any evidence or of any link between these things, but perhaps the most unseemly example of it was the slinging match into which the Prime Minister entered with the senior official in climate change from the United Nations about the Blue Mountains bushfires which afflicted so many communities in New South Wales last year. The Prime Minister said that there was no evidence of any link between extreme weather events and climate change, and I have said—as many others on our side have said—of course you cannot draw a link between climate change and any single event. But that is not what the Prime Minister said. The Prime Minister said that you cannot draw a link between climate change and an increase in extreme weather events generally, and that is what conflicts with very clear scientific evidence.
I remember the minister resorted to some advice from Wikipedia—I am sure he remembers this as well—to point out that Australia has had bushfires for as long as records go back and as long as our Indigenous memory goes back, and we all know that to be the case. That is not the question. The question is whether there is an increase in risk, whether there is an increase in the frequency and the severity of this type of extreme weather event, and you do not need to go to Wikipedia to find out about this. You can go to our own advice from the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO. You can go to the ministers own Country Fire Authority from Victoria that talks about an increase in risk, severity and frequency of bushfires associated with climate change. The minister could have gone to his own departmental website, which talks about a quite clearly established increase in risk of this type of extreme weather event. You could have gone to the Climate Commission's report before the government abolished it.
The CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, again in their latest State of the Climate report published earlier this year, tracked the forest fire danger index—an index which has been tracked for many years here in Australia—and very clearly found that the risk of forest fires since 1970 has risen markedly associated with climate change. It is up by 50 per cent in the area around Melbourne Airport. The Bureau of Meteorology provides similar advice about the risk associated with climate change with Australia experiencing more frequent and more severe heatwaves. All of this advice is quite clear—another whopper from the Prime Minister.
Whopper number four from this Prime Minister and his fellow travellers is that world leaders need not trouble themselves with this issue; that they should focus on the important things like economics and security. They should leave these things to environment ministers, because it is not an economic issue; it is simply a fringe environmental issue. Well, shortly before the Prime Minister's visit to the United States, President Obama said that this is 'one of the most significant, if not the most significant, long-term challenges that the United States and the planet faces'. The Tory Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, said climate changes is 'one of the most serious threats the United Kingdom and the world face'. Asked about this, our Prime Minister simply said, 'I don't think so.'
Blocking this from the G20 agenda has been a consistent position that the Prime Minister has taken in his position as chair—again, as if this is not a matter for world leaders but simply a matter that the Minister for Environment and his colleagues around the world should deal with, a fringe issue. Well, that is not the view taken by the rest of the world. In March, the United States and the European Union, together responsible for about half of the world's nominal GDP, signed a joint statement saying that 'sustainable economic growth will only be possible if we tackle climate change. This is a central economic challenge for the world's future'. In February, just a few weeks before that statement, the Premier of China, Li Keqiang, and the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, signed an expansive memorandum of understanding about the view of those two nations—the two largest economies in the world, the two largest emitters of carbon pollution in the world—that recognised 'the urgent need for action' leading in particular to 2015. This month Premier Li of China and UK Prime Minister David Cameron signed a joint statement recognising that 'climate change is one of the greatest global challenges that we face'.
And it is not just an economic challenge. President Obama has talked about the quadrennial US force posture review conducted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff there. In particular, he remarked on the fact that the Joint Chiefs had identified climate change as one of America's greatest threats to national security. Of course, why should any of that concern the members of the G20? We will just leave it to the environment ministers!
Wopper No. 5 by our Prime Minister and his fellow travellers was enunciated in his famous trip to Canada. There the Prime Minister said, 'There is no sign that trading schemes are increasingly being adopted'—carbon trading schemes. 'If anything, trading schemes are being discarded, not adopted.' Again, that is not right. The only nation that is seeking to discard a carbon trading scheme is this one, under this government. It is simply not right to say that others are doing it. I will talk a little more in my remarks about the position of China. But South Korea, our third largest export partner, introduced a few weeks ago a tax of about $20 a tonne on thermal coal imports. South Korea is our third largest market for thermal coal. They are introducing a very broad emissions trading scheme on 1 January 2015. This adds to the long list of emissions trading schemes in place among many of our oldest trading partners—the United Kingdom, Germany, France and many others—and also many states and provinces in North America.
After the warm embrace of the Canadian Prime Minister, who shares the Australian Prime Minister's views on this matter, we know that the Australian Prime Minister let it be known to Australian journalists that he was going to set about building a 'coalition of the unwilling' who would fight the Americans, the Chinese, the Europeans and the Koreans—all of those other leaders who were intent upon taking real action on climate change. He said he would build that coalition in partnership with the Canadian Prime Minister and he even named the other members of the coalition—the New Zealand Prime Minister and the United Kingdom Prime Minister. But the problem was that he did not actually consult with those other members of this so-called coalition of the unwilling. And we know what then happened: to the great embarrassment of the Australian Prime Minister, the New Zealand Prime Minister was forced to say at a press conference some hours later that he was caught completely unaware by the Australian Prime Minister's announcement about his apparent membership of this coalition of the unwilling. And he restated New Zealand's commitment to taking strong action domestically on climate change but also to being a responsible, constructive part of international progress. And I have stated a number of times the position of the UK Prime Minister. Suffice it to say that the UK government came out very quickly to confirm that they had no intention of being a part of the Australian Prime Minister's coalition of the unwilling.
Wopper no. 6 that the Prime Minister and, frankly, also the environment minister have repeated time and time again over the last several years is that China will never take a serious action on climate change and certainly would never introduce carbon trading.
Mr Hunt:  No, that's not what we've said.
Mr BUTLER:  Perhaps the environment minister has not gone to the extent of saying China would never introduce carbon trading but certainly the Prime Minister has; this has been repeated by him and many others. I will concede that that is an important point because China has quickly become the largest emitter of carbon dioxide, the largest polluter in terms of carbon dioxide pollution. Despite the fact that China still only emits about a quarter of the carbon pollution per head of population that Australia does, in aggregate terms, being a very large country, it is now by far the biggest carbon dioxide polluter. It has been responsible for about two-thirds of all the growth in carbon pollution that has occurred since 2000. So I will concede that the Prime Minister is right to be focused on what is happening in China because it is such a significant part of what is, after all, a global problem. But again he is just wrong. Maybe it was a reasonable position to take a few years ago, but he should admit now that he has been wrong and China has changed. Anyone who takes an interest in this area of policy will have noticed an extraordinarily significant change in policy from the Chinese leadership in the last 18 months, particularly because of the awful air quality in the northern part of that country.
I have talked about a number of the bilateral agreements, statements and memoranda of understanding that at a leadership level, particularly with Premier Li Keqiang, China has engaged in with the United Kingdom, the European Union and the United States. These are incredibly important statements of intent by China not just to do a whole lot of things domestically—which they are doing—but also, following the disappointment of Copenhagen, to be a leader, along with the United States, as one of the two largest economies and powers in the world leading into the very important conference that will take place in Paris next year.
Last week the seventh emissions trading scheme started in China—some of them are at the provincial level, for example, in Guangdong, and some of them are starting up at the city level, for example in Shenzhen—with the expectation that the Chinese leadership will try to move to a national carbon trading scheme in the second half of this decade.
The Minister for the Environment often says that these permits are given away for free. Such may be the case in some of the different markets, but what is clear is that in all of those six markets that have been operating for a while there is now a burgeoning carbon trading market. If you look at Shenzhen, for example, which I think was the first emissions trading scheme introduced in China, a permit was trading last week—and I have not looked at this week's price—at the equivalent of about 8.5 euros, so higher than the price at which the permits would trade, on Treasury advice, under Labor's emissions trading scheme with a linkage to the EU scheme, higher than the price at which permits would trade under the amendments that I will be moving later in this debate.
Whopper No. 7 is that the carbon price mechanism, the framework that the government seeks to demolish entirely, would be a wrecking ball through the Australian economy. The Prime Minister used a whole range of different colourful epithets for this. He said it would be a cobra strike at the economy. He said that the South Australian town of Whyalla would simply disappear off the map. I think he made the same prediction about Gladstone and some other parts of Australia as well. Again, the truth is entirely different. The truth of the impact was exactly as Labor predicted. The economy did keep growing. More than 160,000 additional jobs were created in the first 12 months of this carbon price mechanism that, according to the now Prime Minister, was going to have a wrecking ball impact on the national economy.
Also what it started to do, along with our renewable energy policies, is drive down carbon pollution, particularly in the electricity market, which is the largest source of carbon pollution in Australia. We saw a reduction in carbon pollution of around seven per cent in the National Electricity Market in the first 12 months and, as we predicted, there was simply a modest impact on prices. That impact was more than covered through our household assistance package, particular for low-income and fixed-income households, like pensioners, and for middle-income households. The impact on power prices again was exactly as we predicted and again was covered by our household assistance package, particularly for low- and middle-income households.
Taking my own state of South Australia for example, power prices went up by about 4.6 per cent as a result of the introduction of a carbon tax. If our amendments are passed to move to an emissions trading scheme, Treasury's advice to us in government is that that impact would be reduced by about three-quarters. So the ETS impact on South Australian power bills would be in the order of 1.1 per cent and that is way more than covered by the household assistance package. To put that into context we should compare it to the increase over the last four years in SA power bills of 43 per cent because of investment in poles and wires—the network investment that has bedevilled electricity systems all around the country. That very significant gold plating of network infrastructure has led to very significant increases in power prices, which again the Prime Minister mendaciously tried to attach to the carbon price on many occasions.
Whopper No. 8 was the Prime Minister's statement to Alan Jones earlier this year that the renewable energy targets 'are significantly driving up power prices right now'. Again, that is simply wrong. Report after report released recently has put the untruth—I was going to use some other word—to that statement. The renewable energy policies that the Labor Party put in place over the last several years have been an unambiguous success. They have seen renewable energy capacity expand significantly. Wind power tripled under our time in government. When we came to government we saw the number of households that had PV solar panels go from 7,500 to more than 1.1 million households. They are getting out of the power bill race, getting out of the power bill trap, creating their own power and relieving enormous pressure on the grid, particularly in those parts of Australia that are impacted by heatwaves.
We saw the tripling of the number of jobs in the renewable energy sector. We saw billions of dollars come into this sector in investment to the point where by the middle of last year Australia was rated, along with the powerhouses in this area—China, Germany and the US—as one of the four most attractive places in the world to invest in renewable energy. It is no surprise that, since the election of the new government, Australia has slipped in that index a couple of places every quarter. I think it is now about eighth in the world when it was fourth.
This has been an extraordinary success. As every renewable energy program in the world does—and there are dozens and dozens—it does have modest up-front costs but it also has swings and roundabouts benefits in the sense that it is suppressing wholesale power prices, particularly at the peak times for power during heatwaves when power might be sold for thousands of dollars, particularly in the south-east of Australia. Those prices have diminished by as much as 90 per cent in those peak times and that flows through to consumers.
I mentioned some reports that have been clear about this. The ROAM Consulting report that was released I think a month or two ago, the Bloomberg New Energy Finance report that was released a few weeks after that and even ACIL Allen's report, the consultancy engaged by the government as part of its renewable energy target review, have confirmed that prices will go up if the renewable energy target is removed because that suppression effect on wholesale power prices will be removed and consumers will be exposed to the almost certain increase in gas prices that we are going to see as the LNG capacity comes on in Gladstone.
Whopper No. 9 is that the government's direct action policy will achieve the bipartisan minimum target to reduce carbon pollution by five per cent by 2020.
There is not one serious commentator that agrees with this whopper—not one serious commentator. It is a whopper that has been repeated by the now Prime Minister and by the now Minister for the Environment for four straight years with a straight face. I commend them for that, because there is not a serious commentator that agrees with them.
I had the opportunity to address this at length in a debate yesterday, and I do not propose to go through that again, except to say that in the most recent report about this, from RepuTex, a very expert modelling firm that works in this area, it reported that the direct action policy would fall about 70 per cent short of the target. Ken Henry, the former Secretary to the Treasury, confirmed earlier this year that, for the direct action policy to achieve the target, the government would have to spend between $4 billion and $5 billion of taxpayer dollars every single year to pay polluters to start to reduce their carbon pollution—rather than having an emissions trading scheme that has the polluters pay.
Whopper No. 10 was a whopper that the Prime Minister engaged in, again in his overseas trip. It was after President Obama released his Clean Power Plan, a very significant plan to start to reduce carbon pollution in existing power plants. This follows on from the President's plan to impose emissions standards or pollution standards on motor vehicles and on new power plants. This was about existing power plants, a reduction of 30 per cent in that pollution by 2030. The Prime Minister said—again with a straight face—that President Obama's plan was 'very similar to the actions that my government proposes to take'.
Once one gets through the laughter about that statement, one goes back to the member for Wentworth because the member for Wentworth expressed it better, I think, than anyone else has when he said about Direct Action that it is simply a 'fig leaf to cover a determination to do nothing'—and, for that matter, 'a recipe for fiscal recklessness on a grand scale' was the statement that the member for Wentworth made in the debate in this place. The direct action policy has no discipline on pollution whatsoever. The so-called safeguards mechanism has been discarded by this minister, so all you have is a dressed-up slush fund to pay taxpayers' dollars to big polluters to start to reduce their pollution.
Labor's position on these bills will be no surprise. It will be the position we enunciated clearly to the electorate in September, a position we have been advocating ever since, and that is to terminate the carbon tax now and to move to an emissions trading scheme that has a formal, legal cap on carbon pollution for the first time ever in this country, a cap that reduces over time and then lets business work out the cheapest, most effective way to operate. I foreshadow that, in the consideration in detail stage, I will be moving amendments to that effect.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Vasta):  Is the amendment seconded?
Mr Clare:  Yes.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER:  I thank the member for Blaxland.

Peter Greste says he is devastated and outraged by seven-year jail sentence

Extract from The Guardian 

The Australian al-Jazeera journalist says he will consider all possible measures to have his conviction in Egypt overturned
  • Australian Associated Press
Yemenis stage a pro-journalism protest in Sanaa.
Yemenis stage a pro-journalism protest in Sanaa. Photograph: Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty Images
The Australian al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste says he is devastated and outraged by the seven-year jail sentence handed down to him by an Egyptian court.
In a message posted on Facebook by his brothers Mike and Andrew after a prison visit, Greste says he will consider all possible measures to have the conviction overturned.
"Throughout this trial, the prosecutor has consistently failed to present a single piece of concrete evidence to support the outrageous allegations against us," he says in the statement.
"The verdict confirms that our trial was never simply about the charges against us. It has been an attempt to use the court to intimidate and silence critical voices in the media."
Greste, and his al-Jazeera colleagues Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, were found guilty on Monday of reporting false news in the wake of the 2013 coup that ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
They were also convicted of supporting Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, which was declared a terrorist organisation after the coup.
Their jailing has sparked worldwide outrage, with US secretary of state John Kerry labelling the verdict "chilling and draconian" and prime minister Tony Abbott saying he was bewildered by the decision.
The Australian government hopes Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will issue a pardon to the Australian journalist, but he has said he won't interfere in judicial matters.
Greste says he and his colleagues are grateful for the "extraordinary and unprecedented public support" they have received.
"It has kept us strong and continues to do so," he said.
"We must all remain committed to fight this gross injustice for as long as necessary."

Thursday, 26 June 2014

CSIRO funding cuts driven by 'pure ignorance', says staff association

Extract from The Guardian

$111m four-year budget cut to science agency will entail redundancies of nearly 20% of workforce over two years
Funding cuts to the CSIRO are driven by “pure ignorance” and will result in significant damage to Australia’s economy, the organisation’s staff body has claimed.
On Thursday hundreds of CSIRO workers took part in a national day of protest against the government’s decision to cut the national science agency’s budget by $111m over four years.
The CSIRO staff association said the organisation is set to suffer an “unprecedented” round of redundancies – nearly 20% of the workforce would depart over two years.
These redundancies comprise 700 people in 2014-15, made up of direct job losses and an organisational restructure. A further 80 jobs are forecast to be lost in 2015-16.
CSIRO workers predict the public will be aghast at the programs that will be lost as a result of the cuts, including research into neuroscience and colorectal cancer, water safety and advanced manufacturing.
The CSIRO has already moved to close eight research sites across the country. Research areas such as climate change moved to different premises to save funds.
A senior scientist within the CSIRO told Guardian Australia the organisation had been “crippled” by uncertainty over job cuts. “Everyone is holding their breath to see where the axe will fall,” he said.
The CSIRO staff association said the cuts would have a detrimental impact in several areas.
“When you look at the areas which will be cut, the anger and disbelief only increases,” Dr Michael Borgas, acting secretary of the staff association, told Guardian Australia. “Why would you cut research into water resources or climate at a time like this?
“There is also work into manufacturing opportunities which we need to invest more – not less – in if we are to create jobs and diversify the economy. Cutting in this area will hurt the economy in the long term.”
Borgas said the cuts were the result of the government’s “pure ignorance” over the value of science.
“These cuts are very large and we don’t think there is an informed debate over the value of science,” he said. “There is simply no rational basis for cutting the range of science areas we are currently seeing. We are really disturbed to see the commentary the government has come out with, a lot of spin about money for Antarctica but no accountability.
“We don’t even know who we have to influence because there is no minister. Should it be [industry minister] Ian Macfarlane or [finance minister] Mathias Cormann? The lack of transparency and accountability is disturbing.
“We hope we can start a conversation about the value of science because there is a deep ignorance we need to address. The public is generally supportive of science, but if you look at areas like the Murdoch press there are some anti-science characteristics.”
The government, which insists budget savings must be made across the board to reduce debt, has previously rebuffed suggestions that it is anti-science.
In a speech made last year, the prime minister, Tony Abbott, said science was “absolutely critical” for the progress of humanity and downplayed the fact he didn’t appoint a science minister by stating: “Please, judge us by our performance, not by our titles.”


Media Release

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has again confirmed the dark days of paper bag democracy are making a return to the state.

Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said Campbell Newman again confirmed on talkback radio today that big LNP donors could make secret donations at electorate offices across the state and they will never be declared to the public.

“What happened to the Premier who was going to be open and accountable?” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“We now have an arrogant Campbell Newman with a massive majority who is shameless in his promotion of laws that mean big donors can make big donations and keep them secret."

“Queensland democracy should not be for sale and Queenslanders have a right to know who is making big donations to politicians.”

Premier Campbell Newman on 4BC, June 28, 2014

Patrick Condren: This is something we canvassed yesterday with Scott Emerson…in terms of Jackie Trad raised the issue…It was about can people go in and give $10,000, up to $10,000 and not have it recorded?

Campbell Newman: Well that’s under the rules as they stand now yes, that’s the case.

Auditor-General’s clouds block out Newman’s bright future

Media Release

Campbell Newman’s plans for a bright future in Queensland are under a cloud following release of the Auditor-General’s report, Shadow Treasurer Curtis Pitt said today.
Mr Pitt said the report once again highlighted that the Newman Government was all talk and no substance when it came to financial management with no means of measuring efficiency and effectiveness.
Campbell Newman’s addiction to asset sales and outsourcing will lead to more job cuts and higher cost of living for Queensland families,” Mr Pitt said.
“The Premier and his Treasurer must be very embarrassed that $27 billion of annual expenditure in the budget service delivery statements has no efficiency and effectiveness measures."
“As the Auditor-General has clearly stated, such lax fiscal management makes it extremely difficult to hold the Government to account for its spending."
“Further, the report puts a big question mark over Campbell Newman’s plans to privatise and outsource services."
“The Government won’t be able to justify if services can be delivered more efficiently or effectively by the private sector if there is no way of measuring it."
“Shockingly, the report also states that of the 61 service areas not reporting publically on efficiency, 59 of them also don’t report on efficiency standards internally."
“This is an embarrassing report for the Government and the Premier and the Treasurer must immediately explain what justification they will use for arrogantly privatising and outsourcing services to Queensland taxpayers.”

The report follows on from:

  • The 2014-15 Budget Papers which confirmed no savings from contestability had been delivered
  • Auditor-General reports 11 and 12 in 2013-2014 which detailed that the Newman Government had wasted $2.6 billion on the Premier’s tower of indulgence
  • Auditor-General’s report number 10 for 2013-14 which questioned whether Departments had the resources to deliver savings from ‘contestability’.

Key excerpts from Auditor-General’s report number 18 for 2013-14
“… efficiency and effectiveness standards for 72 per cent of the budget makes it difficult for the Parliament to hold departments fully to account.”
“Not knowing whether major government services are cost-efficient hampers effective decision making, particularly from the viewpoint of contestable service provision and being able to quantity reliably whether there are any significant potential savings from outsourcing services.”

“With the present sharp focus and debate on the ways and means to achieve fiscal neutrality and to reduce public debt… Not knowing whether services being delivered are cost-effective hampers effective decision making and weakens accountability.”

Labor rejects LNP's sale of Townsville Port

Media Release

Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said today the Labor Opposition stood side by side with the people of Townsville in opposing Campbell Newman's arrogant plan to sell-off of the city’s Port after refusing to listen to locals.
"Campbell Newman's asset sales will lead to more job cuts and higher electricity costs," Ms Palaszczuk said.
"Here in Townsville, just like Gladstone, their Port is an integral part of their local community. I was proud to stand in support of the community, with my Shadow Cabinet and with our three outstanding Townsville region candidates, to deliver that message today."
"The Port supports job growth and it supports economic growth, but it also delivers strong financial returns to the people of Queensland."
"Those jobs and those profits will help strengthen the Queensland economy for decades to come."
"At the last election Mr Newman said he had a plan for jobs and the economy, and he said it wouldn't involve asset sales. Why is he arrogantly going back on his word?"
"Combined with his sale of huge chunks of the electricity sector, it's just going to heap more pressure on families already reeling from his broken promises on the cost of living, especially when it comes to electricity prices."
“Labor knows Queenslanders do not want asset sales but the Newman Government is just not listening."
“It is still wasting millions of dollars on its ‘Strong Choices’ ad campaign that included a bogus consultation program when its mind was already made up to sell assets."
"Labor supports long-term ownership of these assets because we know they will deliver long-term benefits to our state."
"We want to strengthen our budget in a way that won't cost jobs and won't hurt the economy like the LNP's asset sales will."

"For the people of Townsville, and the people of Queensland, there will be a stark choice at the next election: the LNP will sell your assets, Labor won't."

PUP senators will vote to repeal carbon price but back emissions trading

Extract from The Guardian

Clive Palmer announces new policy at press conference with former US vice president Al Gore

Clive Palmer, right, with former US vice president Al Gore at their Canberra press conference.
Clive Palmer, right, with former US vice president Al Gore at their Canberra press conference. Photograph: Mike Bowers for The Guardian
Clive Palmer’s three senators will vote for repeal of the carbon price but legislate for a floating price emissions trading scheme sometime in the future, announcing the new policy at a bizarre press conference with former US vice president and climate change campaigner Al Gore.
Palmer appears to be saying that a temporarily “frozen” emissions trading scheme – with a price set at zero until trading partners developed similar schemes – is a condition of his support for the carbon tax repeal.
Environment minister Greg Hunt said that any kind of emissions trading scheme “has not been and is not our policy” but the government would nonetheless negotiate with Palmer over his precondition for carbon tax repeal.
“This is a vindication for the government...the news that the new Senate will now support repeal in its first two weeks is unambiguously good news for Australian families,” Hunt said.
Hunt said the government had been unaware that Gore was in Canberra. Prime minister Tony Abbott will meet Palmer on Thursday morning.
Palmer announced PUP will also vote against the abolition of the $10bn “green bank”, the independent Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the independent climate change authority, meaning the government does not have the numbers to axe either body.

Clive Palmer says he will vote to repeal carbon tax – video:

And PUP will not support any changes to the renewable energy target, which is also likely to thwart government plans to dramatically wind back that program. Palmer said his senators would also vote against Abbott’s alternative “Direct Action” scheme because it was a waste of money.
Palmer said his senators would vote to “abolish the carbon tax” but then said they would also move an amendment to separate legislation to “provide for the establishment, by parliament, of an emissions trading scheme, which will only become effective once Australia’s main trading partners also take action to establish such a scheme”.
It appeared it could mean the legislative architecture for emissions trading stayed in place, but with the price set at zero.
PUP went to the election strongly backing the repeal and arguing it should be made retrospective. More recently PUP has said it would back the repeal providing there were unspecified “guarantees” power price reductions were passed on to households, in addition to the legislated powers the government is proposing to give to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to make sure the benefit of the tax repeal is passed through.
On Wednesday Palmer said his senators would be moving amendments to “insert provisions to ensure the full savings power companies receive … are handed to everyday Australians”.
Hunt said the government was convinced it had already ensured benefits would be passed through, but added said he was “happy to go further” and had discussed “other legislative options” with the ACCC.
As recently as April Palmer indicated he did not accept the findings of the latest intergovernmental panel on climate change report and thought countries should be concentrating on reducing “the 97% of carbon dioxide emissions that come from nature”.
On Wednesday Palmer said his discussions with Gore “enabled me to reconsider important issues facing Australia and the rest of the world”.
Gore, who is in Australia for a Climate Reality Leadership Corps training program in Melbourne, said the Palmer announcement was “an extraordinary moment in which Australia, the US and the rest of the world is finally beginning to confront the climate crisis in a meaningful way”, saying many countries were beginning to take significant action to reduce emissions.
He said “all these developments add up to the world moving to solve the climate crisis and that is why it is so significant that Clive Palmer has announced his party will support a continuation of the renewable energy target and Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the climate change authority and that he has announced he and his party will fight to re-implement an emissions trading scheme under the conditions he has described to you”.
The policies now likely to be retained are:
  • The $10bn Clean Energy Finance Corporation, or “green bank”, which supports renewable energy and energy efficiency projects through commercial loans and generates a return on the government investment while reducing emissions. The Senate has already twice rejected the government’s attempts to axe it. It is backed by Labor, the Greens, independent senator Nick Xenophon and DLP senator John Madigan, so the PUP stance means it will also survive the new Senate.
The clean energy industry was ecstatic that Palmer would keep the RET. The clean energy council welcomed the move and the solar industry peak body, the Solar Council “called on the Abbott government to put a halt to its ideologically driven review of the RET, and accept that its work to abolish the RET is doomed to fail in the Senate.”
But Greens leader Christine Milne said “when it comes to pricing pollution, Mr Palmer appears to be having it both ways. The fact is, we already have an emissions trading scheme. Mr Palmer’s proposal is extremely vague. I’m not sure if that is intentional or if he doesn’t understand that we already have an emissions trading scheme”.
And a spokesman for Labor said “whether or not Clive Palmer’s proposal delivers an effective scheme remains to be seen”.
The Coalition has 33 votes in the new Senate, Labor has 25 and the Greens have 10. If Labor and the Greens oppose a bill they need another three votes to get the requisite 38 votes to block it. The Coalition needs six crossbench votes to achieve 39 votes to pass a bill that is opposed by Labor and the Greens.
The independent senator Nick Xenophon, told Guardian Australia this week he wanted a vote on the carbon repeal delayed until the government provided more information about its alternative Direct Action scheme. Also, the Motoring Enthusiast senator, Ricky Muir, has signed a memorandum of understanding with the PUP, but has also indicated he will vote independently on some issues. Muir’s advisers have also indicated he could support the retention of the CEFC.
Palmer wholly owns a nickel refinery in Queensland that is liable to pay the carbon tax. He has now paid its outstanding carbon tax bill in full, and abstained from the vote on the carbon tax repeal in the lower house because of his conflict of interest.
The government has been ramping up pressure to get the carbon tax repeal through the new Senate within two weeks of its first sitting day on 7 July.
Speaking during question time Abbott said Labor had to take responsibility for “the world’s biggest carbon tax which just goes up next Tuesday by 5%, unless of course it is repealed in the meantime”.
Under existing law, the fixed carbon price is set to rise to $25.40 next week. A floating price would mirror the international price which is about $8.