Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Queensland's proposed Carmichael coalmine faces legal bid over climate change

Extract from The Guardian

Environmental groups say the $16.5bn mine will pose ‘unacceptable risks’ to the climate, the Great Barrier Reef and the region’s economy
great barrier reef
An aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of the Whitsunday Islands. Photograph: Sarah Lai/AFP/Getty Images
Environmental activists have begun a legal bid to prevent the creation in Queensland of Australia’s largest mine, citing its contribution to global climate change and potential impact on water and biodiversity.
Coast and Country, a Queensland environment group, opens its case against the $16.5bn Carmichael mine in the state land court on Tuesday morning.
The group argues that the mine, owned by Indian firm Adani, presents “unacceptable risks” to the climate, the region’s groundwater, biodiversity and economy.
Ten experts, including a Potsdam Institute climate scientist, Malte Meinshausen, and a scuba diver and tourism operator, Tony Fontes, will deliver fresh information on the mine’s impact on the economy and environment, including the Great Barrier Reef, over the next five weeks.
The Carmichael mine, 160km north-west of Clermont, is the largest of numerous proposed mines intended to open up the coal-rich Galilee Basin in central Queensland.
Covering 280 sq km, the mine would be Australia’s largest. It would use a new 300km rail line to transfer up to 60m tonnes of coal a year to an expanded port at Abbot Point, where it would be shipped to overseas markets, predominantly India.
The mine would release about 3bn tonnes of greenhouse gases over its 60-year lifespan due to “fugitive” emissions from mining processes, says Adani.
Adani’s project is facing two legal actions. The other, launched by the Mackay Conservation Group, is targeted at perceived deficiencies in the approval of the mine by the federal environment minister, Greg Hunt.
Coast and Country’s case is aimed at stopping the Queensland government handing Adani a mining lease. The group argues there has been insufficient analysis of the mine’s impact on water and endangered species, and of the knock-on effects of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef.
Rajesh Gupta, Adani’s group financial controller, will be questioned over the financial position of the mine in a closed hearing that forms part of the proceedings. In approving the project, the federal government has said the mine will add $2.97bn to the Queensland economy each year over 60 years, creating 2,475 construction jobs and a further 3,920 once the project is operating in 2017.
“This mine is too risky for the million-year-old underground springs, the Great Barrier Reef and its tourism industry and the world’s climate,” said Derec Davies, a spokesman for Coast and Country.
“The project got very special treatment from the previous Queensland government and we will seek to demonstrate the flaws and inadequacies of the environmental impact assessments.
“We have some of the most highly respected technical people in their fields covering off water, and threatened flora and fauna, such as the black-throated finch. This court will be the first Queensland assessment body to have all of the facts presented in front of it.”
Davies said he hoped the mine would be rejected outright and that it would prompt state and federal governments to reject mines based on their climate change ramifications.
Last week representatives from the Wangan and Jagalingou people said they wanted to reject the Carmichael mine due to its impact upon their ancestral lands, which are under native title application.
A number of banks, including Citi, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays, have ruled out funding the expansion of the Abbot Point port.
Adani was contacted for comment on the start of legal proceedings.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Queensland Premier maintains government is stable after MP Billy Gordon's resignation from ALP

Extract from ABC News

Updated about an hour ago
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has insisted her government is stable and hopes disgraced former Labor MP Billy Gordon will decide by tomorrow whether he will resign from Parliament.
Mr Gordon today quit the Labor Party after the Premier announced on Sunday she would expel him.
Ms Palaszczuk's move came after Mr Gordon revealed an extensive criminal history and allegations emerged that he had bashed his ex-partner.
Labor now controls just 44 seats with the support of independent Peter Wellington and would need Mr Gordon's vote, if he remains, or one of two Katter's Party MPs to pass laws.
"If he continues to remain in Parliament, his presence will be a distraction.
Independent MP Peter Wellington"
Mr Gordon has not yet revealed whether he will quit Parliament, which would spark a by-election in his far north Queensland seat of Cook.
"Over the next 24 hours we should let Mr Gordon make his decision," Ms Palaszczuk told 612 ABC Brisbane.
"He's undergoing an operation today, and as you can appreciate he is quite distressed at the moment.
"I believe we should let Mr Gordon make that decision.
"I conveyed to the state secretary that he should be expelled from the party.
"Today he has taken that first step and Billy Gordon has resigned from the Labor Party."
The Labor government is in Townsville for community cabinet, and Ms Palaszczuk said the government was running smoothly.
"Yes it is (stable)," she said.
"We are actually governing this state and we will continue to govern this state."
Mr Wellington is not withdrawing his support of Labor, and the Katter's Party has said it is not interested in tearing down governments.
Cook has traditionally been a Labor seat, but if it loses it to the LNP in a possible by-election both parties would then have 43 seats.
Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said if Mr Gordon were to stay in Parliament, the LNP would not accept his vote, and neither should Ms Palaszczuk.
"If the Government truly believes in integrity and is truly outraged, it should do the same thing," Mr Springborg told 612 ABC Brisbane.
Mr Springborg said Queensland did not have a functioning government.
"The Government is basically focused on itself and trying to sort this out; I don't think much has been done about around the issue of running the government effectively," Mr Springborg said.
"This is a whole failure of process in the Labor party and how they select their candidates."

Gordon cannot be forced to resign

Mr Gordon issued a statement last night saying that any attempt to remove him from Parliament and force him to resign was a denial of natural justice.
He said he has a serious eye operation today, and needs further time to consider his options and seek legal advice and counsel from his family and supporters.

Griffith University politics lecturer Dr Paul Williams said the Government could face the moral question of accepting a vote from someone it has expelled from the party.
"There's a real moral and ethical question – not a legal and constitutional one – and I think that the Labor Party would score more political kudos in the community if it didn't accept that vote and I think Annastacia Palaszczuk has already picked up on that," he said.
"So I think she's quite prepared for that to happen and I think that can only win plaudits from the community.
"Mr Gordon obviously has very strong views about representing the Indigenous community as well as the people of Cook.
"I think he makes a fair point about natural justice. If he's being asked to resign on ethical and moral reasons he might say well show me a legal and constitutional one and I might think about it."
University of Queensland Professor of Law Graeme Orr said Mr Gordon cannot be forced to resign as an MP, and any inducement or intimidation to do so could be in contempt of Parliament.
Mr Gordon was entitled to not declare his previous offences under the rehabilitation of offenders principles.

Gordon's charges and convictions:

  • Breaking and entering and stealing in 1987 in Innisfail
  • Breaking and entering with intent, attempted breaking and entering and stealing in 1990 in Atherton
  • Breach of probation in 1992 in Atherton
  • Public nuisance in 1996 in Normanton and breach of bail conditions in 1999
  • Driver's licence suspended for unlicensed driving in 2004 and 2008
  • Served with an Apprehended Violence Order in 2008 after a complaint by his mother
The only way Mr Gordon would have to resign would be if he was convicted, for example, of an alleged domestic violence matter and he was sentenced to one year imprisonment and an appeal on the matter was unsuccessful.
"No-one is disqualified for having previous convictions," Mr Orr said.
"We had a president of the Senate back in the 40s and 50s who had been in Boggo Road Gaol on several occasions."
Independent MP and Speaker Peter Wellington said while Mr Gordon could stay on as an independent, he should resign.
"If he continues to remain in Parliament, his presence will be a distraction, I believe, no matter what is being debated in Parliament," Mr Wellington said.
Mr Wellington said Mr Gordon's revelations do not change his support for the Labor Government.
"My support hasn't changed. It remains that the Government has my support if a vote of no confidence is moved."
"I believe she (Ms Palaszczuk) has done the right thing, and it's now up to the Member for Cook to consider his position."

Queensland Parliament does not sit again until May 5.

Annastacia Palaszczuk sacks Labor MP Billy Gordon after criminal past revealed

Extract from The Guardian

Queensland premier’s one-seat majority looking shaky after Speaker calls on member for Cook to resign from parliament, which would trigger a byelection

Queensland MP Billy Gordon being sworn-in at parliament house in March – he is now under pressure to resign.
Queensland MP Billy Gordon being sworn-in at parliament house in March – he is now under pressure to resign. Photograph: Dan Peled/AAP
Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has sacked Labor MP Billy Gordon from the party after details emerged of his criminal past.
Palaszczuk said on Sunday she “felt sick in the stomach” after Gordon was forced to reveal that he had convictions for breaking and entering, theft, breaching probation, public nuisance, breaching bail conditions and driving offences dating back to the 1980s.
“I’m appalled, I’m shocked and I feel sick in the stomach,” she told reporters in Townsville.
The premier, who has a wafer-thin, one-seat working majority in parliament, also called on the MP for Cook to resign from parliament despite the fact that a possible by-election could lead to the fall of her government less than two months after the state election.
“This is one of the toughest calls I’ve had to make,” the premier said. “In the best interests of Queensland he should resign.”
Amid speculation about how the Palaszczuk government would survive the potential loss of one vote, Katter’s Australian Party, which has two seats in the lower house, said it was “not in the business of tearing governments down”.
Robbie Katter said the party was holding talks with the government about securing his party’s support in parliament.
“We are making progress with the ALP, at the moment we’re not there, where we could show them support,” Katter told AAP. “But we’d like to be optimistic about that because we don’t want to be in the business of tearing down governments every six months or every year.”

Police were already investigating allegations of domestic violence against Gordon.

Independent Speaker Peter Wellington – whose support allowed Labor to form government – has called for Gordon to resign from state parliament immediately, saying his position is untenable.
“He is the only person who can decide that – the parliament cannot sack him,” Wellington said.
“I believe the member for Cook should resign and there should be a byelection as soon as possible. It’s up to the member to choose himself, but the honourable thing is to resign.”
Gordon took to Facebook on Sunday morning to apologise for failing to disclose his criminal history.
“Over the last couple of days details of my personal life have been made public,” he wrote. “Issues ranging from failure to lodge tax returns, failure to pay appropriate child support and most significantly allegations of domestic violence.
“I have worked hard to rectify outstanding taxation and child support issues.”
The MP said the allegations of domestic violence had been referred by the premier to police.
“I welcome this investigation and will provide it with full cooperation,” Gordon said.
He then listed his past convictions for breaking and entering, breaking and entering with intent, stealing, breaching probation, public nuisance, breaching bail conditions and driving offences, including having his driver’s licence suspended twice.
Most convictions were in the 1980s and 90s, but his driver’s licence was suspended for unlicensed driving twice, in 2004 and 2008.
Gordon said he was also served with an apprehended violence order in 2008 after a complaint by his mother.
“I recognise that my own personal circumstances are no excuse for my non-disclosure, however from this troubled and fractured past I’ve managed to piece together a positive and constructive life,” he said.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Family support programs to close in June following funding cuts, prompting fears for children's safety

Extract from ABC News

Posted 11 minutes ago

Thousands of families are set to lose critical parenting and family crisis help because of federal government funding cuts.
A raft of programs across the country, some that have been running for decades, will cease in June, promoting fears for the safety of thousands of children.
One service, FamilyCare in Shepparton, Victoria, teaches new parents how to care for newborns.
It also plays a vital role for families in crisis.
The centre will close its doors in three months after having its grant terminated.
"I think without this service, where do these people go, what are they going to use?" said Rosemary Rutledge, who established the FamilyCare program 20 years ago.

Do you know more about this story? Email investigations@abc.net.au

Shepparton FamilyCare has proved to be a critical program in the region, which has a teenage pregnancy rate two and a half times higher than the Victorian state average.
It has just lost its grant of $120,000 a year, meaning it will be forced to close.
'What's happening when you're not coping as a mum impacts on the whole family.
Mandy Wallace, FamilyCare participant'

"The safety of children is going to be paramount ... I am really extremely worried and concerned and it's not just me it's other professionals out there," Ms Rutledge said.
"If we haven't got the parent-child program what are we going to do with these women?"
The free service is available to everyone, but is often used for families in crisis who would otherwise have to travel two hours to Melbourne.
Parents are referred to FamilyCare by local hospitals and the Victorian Department of Human Services, for issues including drug and alcohol addiction and family violence.

FamilyCare provided relief for struggling parents

Four mothers from around Shepparton have told the ABC they urgently needed help and were struggling with motherhood when they came to the FamilyCare program.
Mandy Wallace said she suffered from anxiety and received life changing support after having her first two children, and then again, after her third child was still born.
"What's happening when you're not coping as a mum impacts on the whole family," she said.
Kilmore mother Sara Kyte used the service after being hospitalised with mastitis.
Her son Tanner, who is now six moths old, was not sleeping for any longer than 40 minutes at a time.
"Me and my husband were almost at war by the time we got there," she said.
"So Brad [Ms Kyte's husband] came along to the day stay with me and heard it all, and it all made sense to him as well, and from then on we were a team."
FamilyCare chief executive David Tennant said he was extremely fearful of the impact the service closure would have on the region.
"There are estimates of in excess of 100 new child protection notifications in Shepparton which would be devastating if that were to occur," Mr Tennant said.

Programs for parents who abuse drugs, alcohol to close in June

Anglicare Western Australia's principal clinician, Jennie Hannan, told the ABC the organisation's Young Parents Support Unit, which helps vulnerable new parents in Perth, will also stop running in June after losing federal funding.
"It shows incredibly good outcomes, and yet there was no consultation and this program is going to be wound up, so it's a real tragedy," she said.
Two other national parenting programs run by Family Relationship Services Australia will also end in June after losing $2.5 million in combined funding.
Kids in Focus, for parents with drug and alcohol problems, and Family Relationship Services for Humanitarian Entrants have catered for 2,600 families.
In a statement, Social Services Minister Scott Morrison said: "The Government is investing over $110 million into children and parenting support programs nationwide.
"Last year the Government undertook a competitive tender for organisations seeking funding under an $800 million Department of Social Services grants round to support a broad range of vital frontline services that support communities.
"My first priority is ensuring there are no gaps in critical frontline services while we work through the transition of services to the new funding arrangements.

"My department is working with new and existing providers to ensure that clients are referred to new services where required, and to identify any critical service gaps."

Saturday, 28 March 2015

EDUCATE OR FAIL May 11, 1895.

BRISBANE, MAY 11, 1895.

Bystanders' Notebook.


It is to be sincerely regretted that want of space prevents the publication in full of the interview that took place at Rockhampton between representatives of the Democratic League and Tozer. The arguments of Kidston on behalf of electoral reform are indeed well worthy of perusal, and in answer to them Tozer could advance nothing. He indulged in the pettifogging trick so peculiar to his profession of twisting words. Kidston fought well the battle for manhood and womanhood. Tozer tried to defend the position of the Fat Man. Kidston pointed out that existing grievances were the causes which begat discontent. Tozer cried aloud, “Remove the agitators and there will be no grievances at all.” Kidston did his best to assist reform and Tozer did his worst to prevent it. But there was one thing in particular Kidston did at the interview in spite of Tozer's legal training. He dragged aside the polished veneer of the coercionist Minister and showed him in his true colours as a brutal politician. The extension of the franchise will never end, said Tozer. “Ever since the passing of the Reform Bill it has been going on, and I have no hesitation in saying that if the franchise was extended to the class of men for whom you are speaking the thing would not end. In fact, there will be no end until might gets the power over right. That is human nature. When right is the oppressor then it is the time for might: but I am not one of those who believe in giving an extension of the franchise to mere brute force. When brute force is associated with wisdom, then I will go with you; but when it is not associated with wisdom I will not.” Slaves first, then serfs, and now wage-slaves. History shows that the workers of the would have in the past been kept from their rights by the iron hand of the oppressor. It is impossible for bushmen, miners or seamen, under the present iniquitous electoral laws of Queensland, to obtain a vote. This Tozer clearly understands. His words on the question of electoral reform, which this journal italicises, are the most brutal that have ever been applied by an Australian politician to the wage-earning population.

* * *


The working class oftimes boast of their freedom. Where does it come in? Let us try to find it, and the more deeply we go into the problem the more we shall convince ourselves that we are slaves. Our fathers produced wealth in the old countries for capitalists who then sent us (the children) into new countries to produce more wealth, which makes as greater wage-slaves day by day, And so the process goes on from day, to day, building up a system which crushes us, forces all that is noble in us to wither, injuries the future race, and makes us-not what nature intended us to be-less than men.

* * *


Why are the workers so apathetic whilst those “who neither toil nor spin” are so active. The reason is not far to seek; the Fat Men acknowledge what they call their rights, therefore they fight for them.
Up to the present the worker does not know his rights, he seems contented so long as he gets bread and beer. He says, “give me a fair wage and I am content,” while he thinks not of the profit which comes out of his labour, such profit helping to enslave him more and more. The more wealth produced, the more interest demanded by the capitalist on that wealth, and if it cannot be got then there comes a fall of wages, and the wealth producer has to reduce his cost of living once more, such cost oftimes meaning an infliction upon the coming race, for by starving their stomachs they cannot develop a healthy mind, thereby falling an easy prey to the intriguers and helping to sustain the present system.

* * *


In Queensland to-day, even with our faulty electoral system, the workers are strong enough to return progressive men. Even if we have one man one vote, unless we are educated to know what to demand, reform will not come. The fault to-day is that we are led away by side issues and miss the end we would desire. Some workers say we are too extreme when we demand Socialism. Yes, “some go in for numbers, let us get in plenty of Labour members and we will be right.” No, my friends, you will not be right. You must first of all get right yourselves, then reform will follow. We must not depend too much at present upon Parliamentary action, but must be active in the cause of propaganda, either by voice or pen. Let each man make of himself an agitator, and as we make converts, so, step by step, we make advance; our footing shall be on firm ground; for if tomorrow we were to return a majority of Labour men, who introduced Socialistic measures, and the people outside are not educated up to Socialism, our movement would become reactionary. Educate the people first and success is ours. FERDINAND. Gympie. 


Mark Butler MP.

Shadow Minister for Environment
 Climate Change and Water

Date:  27 March 2015
The release of the Emissions Reduction Fund Safeguards Discussion Paper confirms the Abbott Government has no intention of meeting Australia’s existing emissions reduction target or any future targets that might be set in Paris at the end of the year. 
Under the Abbott Government’s discussion paper, the safeguards mechanism fails to provide any legal framework for companies to reduce their carbon pollution. 
In fact, it allows big polluters to set their own emissions baselines. 
If companies look like they might increase their pollution levels, they can simply apply for an increase in those baselines, penalty free. 
Worse still, electricity companies, which account for one-third of Australia’s carbon pollution, are exempt from the whole compliance process, but still eligible to apply for taxpayer funds under the ERF. 
In order to meet our emissions reduction target, and any others beyond 2020, Australia needs to have a legal cap on pollution that reduces over time in line with the best independent advice as well as our commitments and international action. 
That’s why Labor has committed to introducing an Emissions Trading Scheme which puts a legal cap in place and then lets business work out the cheapest and most effective way to operate. This is the model being adopted by Australia’s major trading partners. 
Tony Abbott has demonstrated yet again that he’s in the pocket of the big electricity companies, letting them tell him how much they want to pollute. 
This policy is nothing but a dressed up slush fund, wasting billions of taxpayers’ dollars while achieving no meaningful reduction in Australia’s pollution levels. 

It’s the most brazen capitulation to the big polluters since Tony Abbott reversed his election commitment to keep the Renewable Energy Target.

Bill Shorten: Subject/s Chaos and dysfunction of the Liberal-National Government; Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget and broken promises; GST.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: This morning, the last day of Parliament before the Abbott Liberal-National Government returns in May to bring down whatever Budget they are going to bring down.  We finish on the last day with more chaos and dysfunction from the Abbott Liberal-National Government. Today we’ve got yet again another Joe Hockey thought bubble taking $200 million from New South Wales to Western Australia. This caps off a bad week for the Government. Yesterday we had Julie Bishop saying it’s an interesting idea to cap iron ore production, the formation of a cartel. We see chaos and dysfunction and we’ve seen Tony Abbott’s two top economic advisors Tony Shepherd and Maurice Newman come out and tell Tony Abbott that they’ve got to go even further than their unfair Budget last year. You’ve got the Treasurer going one way, the Foreign Minister going another way and the Prime Ministers’ key advisors going in a third direction. The Liberal National Government in Canberra, less than two months before the next Budget, is a bundle of chaos and confusion. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Why not re-look at GST distribution? WA’s been complaining about it for a while now.

SHORTEN: I understand that people from particular regions of Australia want to make sure they get a square deal. I can respect that. We have an independent grants commission process. What we’ve got to do in this country – and this is something which the Abbott Government really has failed the test of in the last 18 months, is we’ve got to get above the day-to-day political nonsense and get on with the future of this country. That’s why yesterday I said to the Government, they’ve got themselves in a horrible mess on submarines. This is a $20 billion initial build. Billions of dollars more over the life cycle of our future submarine fleet. This Government’s got itself in a horrible mess because they said before the election they’d build it in Australia, then there seems to have been some shady deal done by Tony Abbott and Japan, which they won’t tell people what’s actually happened.

We’ve offered them a way through that. If the Japanese submarines are the best deal, well then have a competitive tender with other large submarine-building countries like France, Sweden and Germany and make sure that it’s built, maintained and sustained in Australia. Labor is willing to work with the Government, that’s what Australians want to hear and I can say that here and now, we are. But when you get this chaos and confusion, we give them a rescue yesterday, or a life-line on the submarines and they just say “no” within about five seconds, no thought, all knee jerk.

And yet today we see Tony Abbott’s key economic advisers saying Maurice Newman and Tony Shepherd saying “get the axe out and go harder”. We’ve got Julie Bishop with her thought bubbles about capping iron ore production and then being slapped down by Joe Hockey and the Prime Minister. But then we’ve got the Treasurer himself, a man prone to thought bubbles, now again talking about interfering in a political way in the GST when there should be independent processes. The nation’s sick and tired of Tony Abbott’s broken promises.

JOURNALIST: Shouldn’t WA’s GST be calculated on a five-year average when it comes to iron ore prices?

SHORTEN: Well, we’ve got an independent process to evaluate how the GST is allocated. I’ve got no doubt there are legitimate arguments in Western Australia for them to demand reviewing what happens. But every state has, we’re a federation and what we should do here is not have the politics of the day determining the long-term future of  Federal-State relations. The Federal Government, the Abbott-Liberal-National Government, their Treasurer, should stop playing politics and start playing policy. That way this country would be a better place.

JOURNALIST: Your colleague Alannah MacTiernan thinks it is encouraging this idea and may result in more cash for her State. Will you have a chat to her?

SHORTEN: Well I think you probably heard my answer two questions ago where I said that it is important, I respect that politicians from particular regions in Australia insisting upon what they perceive to be a square deal. But it is not just raising the issue that matters, it is how we solve it. The chief economic officer of Australia is Joe Hockey. He doesn’t have plan for Australia. We know that he doesn’t have a Budget plan, he doesn’t have a clear view on what he wants to do with the GST. I think on the last day of Parliament before we rise and come back and reconvene to deal with the Budget, the Abbott Government desperately needs an economic plan and a vision for Australia. Less politics, more policy, Mr Abbott. That’s what Australia wants.

Thanks everyone, see you in Question Time.


Bill Shorten: Subject/s: Labor’s announcement on Australia’s Future Submarines; Leadership; Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget; Labor policies.


ABC 730

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: I’m joined now by the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten. Mr Shorten, welcome to the 7.30 Report.


TRIOLI: Well, today you announced a policy on building submarines in Australia that, if accepted, would’ve cost the budget billions more than if the subs were built overseas. Given the state of the budget deficit, how was that ever going to be paid for?

SHORTEN: Virginia, I have to just correct the proposition that building submarines in Australia in the long term is much more expensive than building them overseas. And remember, before the last election, both parties, both Liberal and Labor, said we’d build these submarines in Australia. What we announced today is that we’ve offered the government a way through the mess they’ve found themselves in, in the last 18 months with their broken promises and we’ve said straight up: let’s build, maintain and sustain the submarines in Australia. Let’s have a transparent bidding process which would see the four best submarine building nations in the world for our needs, Japan, Germany, Sweden and France, bid. And what we said to the Government is, let’s do this together, this can be done in a relatively short period of time and both the Government and ourselves recognise that this is the most significant procurement decision which will be made in a generation for our national security and our advanced manufacturing.

TRIOLI: But all the best analysis seems to suggest that around about $25 billion to get these subs done, if they were done overseas, between $50 to $80 billion here in Australia and further, Mark Binskin says, the Chief of the Defence Force, that where you actually get your return on your investment if you like, and your investment in people here in Australia, is maintaining them here over the 30-year life cycle. That’s surely enough, that’s actually the better spend of the money, isn’t it, when you have a budget deficit the way that it is?

SHORTEN: Well, again, just to give you a different set of numbers than the ones you were quoting, we think there’s been a lot of myth-making about the cost of building submarines in Australia. Two of the nations who are interested in building our submarines have indicated they could do it for about $20 billion in Australia. Now, at one level, a very human level for viewers listening to this, they might think, these numbers are so big. This is about 12 submarines over a 20 to 30-year life cycle, building the submarines. We think it can be done in Australia and the other thing is, some of the best submarine experts in Australia have said that it’s in our national security interests to build them here. They’ve also said it’s important for our advanced manufacturing and thousands of jobs, and remember, before the last election, Tony Abbott’s team said you could vote Liberal and we’ll build them in Australia, and we said the same thing. What we’ve done today and one of our key policy announcements is we’ve said that we stand for building, maintaining and sustaining these submarines in Australia and I don’t accept the cost blow-out argument which hasn’t been proven by other people.

TRIOLI: Well the costs are definitely and the figures are the ones that have been referred to again and again as it being more in Australia. To move on quickly from this, because we have a lot to get to today, you can guarantee that if they were built in Australia, they would come in at the same price as what was quoted overseas?

SHORTEN: I believe that we are capable in this country of providing, we’ve put three tests, the short answer is yes.

TRIOLI: Let’s just go to that specific question, the cost. The cost is the issue here and let’s just talk about that. It’d be the same, would it? It’d be just as cheap?

SHORTEN: We believe based on the information that’s been put forward in the public domain by other nations who build submarines that we can build these submarines for a very reasonable cost in Australia, we don’t buy the myth and the propaganda job which has been done on the Australian submarine building proposition by those who might want to rush a deal through for other reasons other than the ones we’ve stated.

TRIOLI: Bill Shorten, let’s talk a little bit tonight about management and about leadership. There’s been a lot of very fine words spoken recently about leadership, particularly with the deaths of Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser. You said last November that 2015 would be defined by the power of Labor’s ideas. It’s almost April. We’re entering a new budget cycle. Where are those ideas?

SHORTEN: Well, we’ve already started to articulate our ideas. Three or four weeks ago, Labor put forward a comprehensive costed policy for instance, to crack down on multinationals using legal loopholes, not to pay their fair share of tax in Australia. This is a down-payment on our approach. We think that people should pay their fair share of taxation. We also –

TRIOLI: I just want to move you on again because our time really is tight this evening. I don’t think anyone’s going to argue with the multinational one, but the idea of leadership, the big ideas –

SHORTEN: Well, the Federal Government, sorry, the Liberal Party are.

TRIOLI: The idea of the leadership that you were discussing was taking big and tough ideas out to the electorate and prosecuting those ideas. That one maybe not so much. Where are the bigger ideas when it comes to dealing with an economy where the model is just not working anymore?

SHORTEN: Well, we have been stating ideas. We’ve made it clear that on a range of difficult issues from family violence through to where we spend billions of dollars on our submarines, through to multinational taxation, which is a big issue, which is something which the Government hasn’t agreed with our initial proposition, we’re putting those ideas. To go to the longer-term bigger picture, which you’re asking for, the Labor Party that I lead has made it clear where we stand on a range of key policy issues. We’ve made it clear, for instance, that we support the constitutional recognition of our first Australians. We’ve made it clear that we support becoming a republic. We’ve made it clear that when it comes to standing up to outlaw hate speech, we didn’t support any watering-down of 18C. We’ve also got a view that to have a growing economy which is fundamental to our future, we’ve got to make sure that we don’t leave people behind. So when we talk about key issues like science and innovation, jobs, let’s look at the Renewable Energy Target. We’ve been standing firm to stop the Abbott Government, the Liberal National Government in Canberra from trashing renewable energy. These are big issues. On superannuation, the Government loves to talk about the crisis of growing old and the aged pension. Yet we’re the only mainstream political party who says that we shouldn’t freeze superannuation increases, that we should in fact, rather than cut pension increases, we should encourage Australians to save for themselves for the future. These are big ideas. These are big issues and we’re fighting hard.

TRIOLI: Bill Shorten, the issue of tax revenue is continuing to decline in this country though is the biggest one that faces any government. This one or you as an incoming one if you were lucky enough. What exactly is the fix for that?

SHORTEN: I don’t quite accept that the budget proposition that you’re saying is quite the crisis which the Government –

TRIOLI: I didn’t use the word crisis, Bill Shorten.

SHORTEN: No, I certainly did. What’s happened is we’ve had Tony Abbott since the last Budget justify the unfairness of the last Budget by saying that there was a crisis. We don’t accept that. The challenge for Australia’s economic growth, the challenge for the issues that you raise about taxation revenue, has to be supporting and encouraging growth, and has to be doing so through encouraging small business, through making sure that we have productive infrastructure, through making sure that our health care system is working at the primary care level, which is efficient for people being able to go to work. It’s about productivity and growth. It’s not about this government sort of flip-flopping about how hard they want to go to cut the incomes of the less well-off.

TRIOLI: It’s interesting to reflect on this idea of vision and leadership. I want to quote something to you that you said at the time of Gough Whitlam’s death. You said “it’s always time for courage in leadership and to create and seize opportunity.” Given that, why have you been take making yourself such a small target of late?

SHORTEN: I don’t accept that we have and I don’t accept that I have. When you’re in Opposition, people aren’t always rushing to your every view but you want to look at some of tough issues we’ve seen in the last 12 months, I touched upon them very briefly before. We’re not a small target when it comes to the recognition of first Australians in our constitution. I have stood up at the Australian Christian Lobby and supported marriage equality. On January 25th, the day before Australia Day, which Tony Abbott then famously took off kilter with his knighthood of Sir Phillip, I said it’s about time we have a debate about the Republic. None of these are easy issues. When we talk about courage, we’ve stood up alongside migrant groups and said that we shouldn’t be watering down 18C. When it came to metadata and national security which we think is very important, Labor put a peg in the ground and said we’ve got to have the ability of journalists to be able to protect their sources.

TRIOLI: Bill Shorten, on metadata, it’s clearly an issue where to quote the crossbenchers today you have vacated the field because there may be protection there for journalists but what about protection for ordinary citizens? This is where there’s been a complete about-face that one might be enormously critical of?

SHORTEN: That’s not a fair description of what’s happened since last October.

TRIOLI: It’s certainly the way the crossbenchers see and they’re presenting themselves as the real opposition on this one?

SHORTEN: Far be it from me to interfere with the crossbenchers promoting themselves –

TRIOLI: They may be the people you have to deal with if you’re lucky enough to secure government?

SHORTEN: We deal with them reasonably well. I think our record compares favourability compared to the Government’s, doesn’t it? But going to the heart of the matter which you’re saying, what’s Labor’s role in terms of protecting individual liberties? Labor is gravely conscious that we have to balance national security and also the personal liberties of Australians. It is Labor who’s made sure that the Commonwealth Ombudsman has the ability to investigate breaches of metadata requests if they were to occur in a way which hasn’t been able to be done before. Which goes to the heart of what you’ve said and also whilst I know that you personally are very committed to press freedom, I would just remind viewers that but for Labor standing up, the Government would’ve got through its changes without any of the scrutiny that we’ve put forward. We’ve changed three sets of national security laws, Mark Dreyfus, Jason Clare and my colleagues have been excellent on this. I believe that the laws we’ve got strike a better balance than they would’ve if we hadn’t stood up.

TRIOLI: We do have very short time available through, but I did just want to ask you – this Government has had so many troubles that an effective Opposition Leader surely could’ve scored very big political hits on him by now. It was clear that Tony Abbott certainly gave Julia Gillard a whole lot of grief. Why haven’t you been able to?

SHORTEN: I don’t think Tony Abbott’s going that well, actually, Virginia. I think if we talk to the people in the street, people are unhappy with his broken promises. I think it is not simply the case that Labor said no at the last Budget. It’s because we’ve won the argument in the community. And we are determined when Parliament rises this week to prosecute the case that pension indexation should not be cut in the manner in which the Liberal National Government is doing in Canberra. It was Labor who said no to the GP Tax, it was in my Budget reply speech. We’ve had a long fight but eventually we’ve won that argument. Labor has defeated on more than one occasion Christopher Pyne’s ideas about deregulating higher education and creating $100,000 degrees. Labor has been, I believe, quite strong and indeed, eminent journalist Paul Kelly has even criticised us for being the fiercest opposition since 1975. The real issue though isn’t how popular Tony Abbott is or whether or not people are happy with a particular statement or media interview that the Opposition do. The real issue is the future of this country.

TRIOLI: And also the issue about whether they look at you and they see a viable alternative. Are you starting to fear that maybe you’ve played this all wrong?

SHORTEN: Virginia, for me it’s not about me or even Tony Abbott. It’s about what does this country look like in the next 10, 20 years? Today we announced we want to make an intergenerational decision on our major national security deterrent. We’ve said to the Abbott Government, build it here, maintain it here, sustain it here and do transparently. Yesterday, Jenny Macklin and I said we will fight against these pension cuts the Government is proposing. We’ve stood at the political barricades so to speak, in Parliament and stopped Christopher Pyne’s ruthless deregulation of higher education which would see cuts. Labor will as we approach the election, we’ll outline our ideas, I have done a bit of that tonight, but we’ll also do it with discipline of listening to people. I’m not like Tony Abbott; I don’t have a thought bubble then turn it into policy then if there is a vote for a spill on leadership, I might go a different way. I’m not capable, in the time which Tony Abbott’s done of dreaming up Knighthoods and Dames, the Labor Party I lead is out there listening and talking it to people and we’ll do it well and we’ll talk to the experts and we’ll talk to the people in the street.

TRIOLI: We’ll leave it there, thanks so much.

SHORTEN: Thanks, Virginia.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Top polluters to set own limits virtually penalty free, according to Direct Action policy paper

Extract from ABC News

Posted about 3 hours ago
Australia's 140 top polluters will set their own limits for future pollution virtually penalty free, according to the Government's latest Direct Action policy paper.
The Federal Government is building towards the launch of its flagship climate change initiative, the Emission Reduction Fund (ERF), in mid-April.
As part of that it has released a consultation paper outlining "safeguards" to ensure the big polluters do not offset emissions saved through the ERF.
Companies subject to the safeguards will select a baseline, or limit, for future pollution.
That baseline will be set according to the highest peak of emissions from the past five years.
Grattan Institute energy program director Tony Wood said the ideas proposed in the paper simply would not work.
"The safeguard mechanism was always a critical element of the Direct Action plan, but there is nothing in this safeguard mechanism that puts any absolute limit on a whole range of sectors," he said.
There is also significant wiggle room for companies, according to the paper.
Changes to the baselines can be made if there are changes to the company size or if the company has a "limited ability to control such emissions".
"All of the flexibility seems to be in the hands of the emitter and that runs counter to the fundamental principal of the paper," Mr Wood said.

System designed as a toothless tiger, economist says

Opposition environment spokesman Mark Butler slammed the policy paper as a waste of time.
"This policy is nothing but a dressed-up slush fund, wasting billions of taxpayers' dollars while achieving no meaningful reduction in Australia's pollution levels," he said.
The paper classifies the nation's biggest polluters as those who emit over 100,000 tonnes of carbon a year, covering around 140 companies.
Experts are concerned these companies will stay well below their baselines.
ANU economist Frank Jotzo said the system is designed so no-one gets caught by it.
"This is an entirely toothless tiger, but we hope it could grow some teeth down the track," he said.
"If this is legislated then it could lay the groundwork for a future government to ratchet down the baselines."
The electricity sector responsible for one third of Australia's carbon emissions was singled out for special treatment by the paper.
The Grattan Institute said it was likely the reduction in emissions across the electricity sector in the past five years will be undone.
"When you look at the Government's figures it shows that 2009 was the highest in the past five years in terms of emissions and they are projected to climb again, reaching 2009-10 levels by 2020," Mr Wood said.
"Therefore that will be allowed to happen without constraint."
If companies do exceed their baselines the paper suggests purchasing offsets as a penalty but Mr Wood does not think that is enough.
"For a penalty to work it has to be a deterrent, and for it to be a significant penalty for a big polluter fines would have to be in the tens of millions of dollars," he said.
The Energy Supply Association of Australia has not yet responded to requests for comment.

Businesses and the community are invited to make a submission on the safeguard mechanism public consultation paper by April 27.

Queensland Chief Justice Tim Carmody roundly condemned by retiring Supreme Court justice

Extract from ABC News

Updated 7 minutes ago
Retiring Queensland Justice Alan Wilson has condemned as a failed experiment the controversial appointment of Tim Carmody as Chief Justice, saying it had caused a "serious loss of morale" among judges.
In a speech delivered in the Banco Court in Brisbane on Thursday morning, Justice Wilson of the Supreme Court said he had agonised over making the remarks but felt driven to speak out.
"I hear judges at all levels of seniority, including quite young ones, speaking seriously of resignation. The problem is bad and, in my view, getting worse," Justice Wilson said.
"That is why I am driven to say something."
Former attorney-general Jarrod Bleijie appointed Justice Carmody to the position last year, controversially elevating him from his position as chief magistrate.
The move immediately prompted broad condemnation from within Queensland legal circles.
'He has withdrawn himself from all published court calendars, so nobody knows when or whether he intends sitting again.
Justice Alan Wilson'
On Thursday, Justice Wilson accused Justice Carmody of "hypocrisy" and cited several reasons for ongoing tensions among the Queensland judiciary.
He condemned Justice Carmody's decision to remove himself from all trial division sittings in Brisbane.
"Traditionally, what judges do is sit in courts and hear and decide cases. The Chief Justice has not sat in an actual hearing since 15 February this year," Justice Wilson said.
"He has withdrawn himself from all published court calendars, so nobody knows when or whether he intends sitting again.
"The notion that there is scope for some kind of full-time public relations role for a head of jurisdiction, and little more, is surprising.
"So is the idea that judge work takes second place, and must give way to these kinds of events – which other judges do almost every day, but outside court sitting hours."

Carmody rejects attack on his 'integrity and performance'

Chief Justice Carmody, in a statement issued on Thursday evening, rejected the "unfortunate remarks" made by Justice Wilson.
"I am disappointed that he would use such an occasion to embroil the court in more controversy," he said in the statement.

"I reject outright his attack on my integrity and performance as Chief Justice.
"His behaviour is the best argument yet for an independent judicial commission.
"I will not be making any further comment at this time."
Justice Wilson also criticised the recent sacking of Justice John Byrne as senior judge administrator.
"Finally it will be recalled that the Chief Justice, in his public remarks last Christmas, urged the judges to maintain civility and courtesy; but he has on different occasions referred to us collectively as 'snakes', and 'scum'," he said.
"Both the remarks, and this kind of hypocrisy, have a devastating effect on morale.
"They will strive to continue to serve with the sense of duty, the diligence, the high ability – and the independence – that they have maintained through the current troubles.
"But the natural feelings of discouragement created by things like these, and being publicly represented by a Chief Justice for whom most now lack all respect, is beginning to tell."

'Judges worried' about dealings with Court of Disputed Returns

Justice Wilson also questioned Justice Carmody's dealings with the Court of Disputed Returns amid a possible legal challenge to the result in the Brisbane seat of Ferny Grove shortly after the January 31 state election.
"The Supreme Court has for many years had a very sensible protocol which annually appoints judges to that court in strict order of seniority, to ensure there can never be any suggestion of political influence or motive in the appointment," Justice Wilson said.
'Sadly, the arrogance extremism and betrayal of the LNP still has ramifications in the legal profession today.
Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath'
"In the teeth of a possible contest about the outcome of the election in Ferny Grove, the Chief Justice's initial attempt to contest the automatic operation of that protocol and, then, his attempts to speak privately with the next nominated judge to that position about what he described in a memorandum as 'unresolved concerns' was rightly resisted by the judge, and unanimously condemned by the judges.
"The Chief Justice did, eventually, appoint the judge nominated under the protocol. It was the preceding events which caused the judges so much worry."
State Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath said Justice Wilson's comments showed the former government's decisions had an ongoing impact.

"Sadly, the arrogance extremism and betrayal of the LNP still has ramifications in the legal profession today," she said.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Science and mathematics boost Australia's economy by $145bn a year

Extract from The Guardian

Study commissioned by the chief scientist, Ian Chubb, also found that advanced physical sciences and maths employ 760,000 people
scientist stock
About 7% of the workforce is employed in advanced physical sciences and mathematics. Photograph: David Crosling/AAP
Science and mathematics directly contributes $145bn a year to the Australian economy, a report to be released on Wednesday shows.
The study, commissioned by Australia’s chief scientist, Ian Chubb, and carried out by the Centre of International Economics, found that advanced physical sciences and mathematics employ 760,000 workers, or about 7% of the total workforce.
Discoveries and innovations in the fields of physics, chemistry, earth sciences and mathematics have directly contributed $145bn to the economy. That figure rises to just under $300bn if flow-on impacts are considered, the report said.
“For the first time we now have the numbers on the table showing the importance of these sciences to the Australian economy,” Chubb said.
“It is too easy to take the benefits of science and innovation for granted, and this report shows that the knowledge from these disciplines supports and enhances economic activity which benefits all Australians.”
The report did not take into account the impact of biology or life sciences, which will be examined in future studies.
The report breaks down the value of science and maths by industry. Resource management, mining and general insurance industries are the big winners of discoveries and innovations in the science and mathematics fields.
“The results reported here almost certainly understate the true impact of the advanced physical and mathematical (APM) sciences,” the study said.
“The APM sciences are very important (if not critical) to key parts of Australia’s trade-exposed industries: agriculture, mining and manufacturing,” the report said.
“Useful knowledge from the APM sciences allows those industries to use our natural resources and our capital to respond to growth in global demand, and to create exports that foreigners want to buy. It also provides the technology that supports competitiveness in those industries.”
The report stressed the importance of having Australian-born or -based scientists conducting their own research.
The opposition leader, Bill Shorten, speaking at the gala dinner of the annual Science Meets Parliament event on Tuesday night, said Australia was the only OECD country not to have a national strategy on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem).
“This must change. Australia must act now to develop a national Stem strategy,” he said.
“We must redefine the way we look at the role of science, innovation and evidence in our community. Science cannot be shunted away in one department or viewed as a boutique industry for a niche market.
“Science needs a minister and a government that understands it as the engine of productivity and jobs growth across all existing and future industries,” Shorten said.
The Coalition government has been criticised for not having a minister responsible for science in its original cabinet. The industry minister, Ian Macfarlane, now has control of the portfolio.
He also spoke at the gala dinner, highlighting the need for greater collaboration between scientists and business.
“We [Australia] come last – 33rd out of 33 – in an OECD survey on the rate of collaboration between business and research organisations. Last in the OECD in working together,” he said on Tuesday night.
“Our research institutions and the business sector must collaborate. We must translate our ideas and research into real goods and services, technologies and life improvements.”
He flagged a review of commonwealth-funded programs to meet the federal government’s funding priorities and achieve more tangible outcomes.
“It also includes reviews of the R&D tax incentive, and the cooperative research centres program to ensure they are operating as effectively as they should be to deliver outcomes to the benefit of the Australian economy,” Macfarlane said.
“The government’s $188.5m industry growth centres initiative will foster better use of research by industry, and deliver increased commercial returns from the investment in research in the identified sectors.”
The commonwealth science council, which reports directly to the prime minister, Tony Abbott, is yet to outline its funding priorities, or respond to the recommendations of a Stem report delivered by Chubb in September.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Higher home support fees may force elderly Australians into nursing homes, advocates say

Extract from ABC News

Posted 54 minutes ago
Meals On Wheels, the volunteer service that delivers 15 million meals a year to 53,000 elderly Australians, is about to become more expensive under a Federal Government proposal.
The Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association (CPSA) said if the Government's plan went ahead, it could be cheaper for pensioners to order takeaway from a restaurant.
The proposed changes are part of the Government's consolidation plan for state-based home support schemes, set to be launched in July.
CPSA spokeswoman Charmaine Crowe believed the new fee structure would raise the cost of home support services, including Meals On Wheels.
She warned that rather than supporting older Australians in their homes, the federal scheme could force them into nursing homes earlier than necessary.
For many older Australians, a little bit of help around the house can be the difference between maintaining an independent life in their own homes and the upheaval of moving into a residential care facility.
It can take the form of domestic help or personal care, home nursing or a hot cooked meal brought to their door.
Ms Crowe said the cost of home care services could double under the Government's proposal.
"We think that the department needs to go back to the drawing board," she said.
"For instance at the moment they are going to charge a full rate pensioner $9 per meal, plus the cost of the ingredients.
"Now for that pensioner it may well be cheaper to order food through Lite n' Easy rather than get a Meals On Wheels meal, which is just outrageous."
Meals On Wheels has been helping Australians for about 60 years. It provides food at production cost and currently charges between $4.50 and $12 per meal.
About 80,000 volunteers deliver the meals to people all over Australia.

Worries older people might drop home care services

The chief executive of Aged and Community Services Australia, John Kelly, said the Government's proposed changes were difficult to understand.
"They're also significant in costs on consumers, from a co-contribution perspective," he said.
Mr Kelly said older Australians would have to pay more to receive the level of in-home services they had become used to.
"And they will continue to increase as we move further in time, it's inevitable," he said.

About 750,000 Australians use home support programs.
Ms Crowe said in many cases a lot of people paid a very low fee or no fee at all for some services.
"But the proposed policy is making the cost of home care for many disadvantaged old people prohibitive," she said.
"Our concern is that if it gets through, a lot of people are going to drop their services or stop receiving home care services altogether."
She said she was worried that if older Australians cut back on home care services due to increased costs, it could have adverse consequences for their health and wellbeing.
And that could meant many older Australians giving up their independence and moving into a nursing home.
"The Government has been wanting to put together a unified fee structure for home care services across the country," Ms Crowe said.
"At the moment it's state-based, the fees, and depending on which state you live in you may well pay a different fee for the same service.
"Our concern though is that what they've proposed really increases the cost of these services, even though the consultation paper says that they reflect the average fees charged on a national basis."

Government says fees remain subject of consultation

The Federal Government said it wanted to make the financing of aged care arrangements fairer and more sustainable, and that fees for home support services remained the subject of consultation.
Assistant Social Services Minister Mitch Fifield pointed out that the aged care industry had until the middle of April to comment on the changes.
Ms Crowe said some of that feedback had already been delivered to the Assistant Minister's door.
Those who rely on home care services are also able to provide feedback.
"Well, the department's got a single decision to make, and that decision is based on whether they want older people to continue using these critical services, which we know keep older people out of hospitals and keep them out of the nursing home, which is far more expensive to provide in terms of care than what homecare is," Ms Crowe said.
"The average cost of the nursing home per year, per person, is now $56,000.
"When we look at the cost of the services being provided to people in received home care, that's only around $2,300.
"So it's pretty clear that this is a very cost-effective service and we cannot see any reason to increase the cost of the service for the care recipients, particularly if it means that they're going to drop the service altogether."
Mr Kelly said price increases were inevitable but he urged the Government to delay its full roll-out.
"The Government have already said they'll transition fees in between now and November, even though the scheme will start in July," Mr Kelly said.
"We might find that that has to be extended and that the feedback from consumers is that one, that one they don't understand any of this, two, they don't think they can afford it, and three, that it's inequitable in the one hit.

"There may be some feedback from consumers that this has to be transitioned in a different way."

Climate change: Coalition accused of politicising greenhouse gas target

Extract from The Guardian

Greg Hunt says figures exaggerated under Labor but former Liberal leader John Hewson says both parties use same projections and that such interference is ‘damaging to the national interest’
solar panels
The take-up of household solar panels contributed to the fall in the required emissions cuts. Photograph: Tim Wimborne / Reuters/Reuters
The Abbott government has been accused of politicising the release of official greenhouse gas projections that confirm Australia’s international climate change pledge for 2020 is becoming easier to reach, but which will also increase pressure for Australia to adopt a more ambitious post-2020 target.
The official figures have shown that the total greenhouse gas reduction required to meet Australia’s bipartisan minimum target of a 5% cut by 2020 is now 236m tonnes, a decrease on previous estimates.
The environment minister, Greg Hunt, said the previous projections had been “Labor’s numbers” and that the lower projections were “because Labor’s numbers exaggerated the abatement task by more than a billion tonnes of emissions”.
“Labor used these figures in an attempt to justify the world’s largest carbon tax that hurt families and businesses by pushing up electricity prices,” Hunt said.
The former Liberal leader John Hewson said the official projections were, and always had been, produced by the environment department based on the best available evidence at the time.
“Both parties have always based their policies on these projections. To try to politicise them in this way is enormously counterproductive and damaging to the national interest,” Hewson said.
Professor Ross Garnaut, Labor’s former climate change adviser, said there was “nothing at all political in the change in trajectory … these figures have been produced in the same way since the Howard years”.
The official figures attributed the decrease to “lower electricity demand … due to the uptake of household solar, energy efficiency and increased retail prices; worse-than-expected agricultural conditions due to drought; lower manufacturing output due to industrial closures and weaker growth expectations for local coal production due to a fall in international coal prices”.
The latest forecasts are very close to private estimates, including those from Frontier Economics, published by Guardian Australia in September 2014, which calculated Australia’s task to 2020 would be about 225m tonnes.
The revised figures mean the task of reducing emissions by 5% requires less than a third of the effort envisaged when both major parties signed up to the 2020 target.
In 2012 the promise to reduce emissions by 5% of 2000 levels by 2020 was calculated to require the cumulative reduction of 755m tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In 2014 new government calculations reduced that figure to 421m tonnes.
The new figures were based on the assumption that the renewable energy target is reduced to a “real 20%” – something the government has yet to agree with Labor. If it is unable to achieve this reduction and the existing RET remains, additional renewable energy is likely to take greenhouse emissions even lower.
The figures explain why the government remains confident it can meet the target even though it has repealed the carbon tax and has not yet begun auctions under its $2.55bn “Direct Action” scheme. The first auction will be held in April.
Hunt said the new figures meant the Coalition would “easily meet our commitment to reduce Australia’s emissions by 5% from 2000 levels by 2020”. But modelling by Sinclair Knight Merz, released during the 2013 election campaign, which found the Coalition would need to find at least another $4bn to meet its target, was based on broadly similar projections.
Energy market analyst RepuTex said it still believed the $2.55bn Emissions Reduction Fund, on its own, would fail to meet the 2020 target – even taking the new projections into account.
“We forecast that the ERF will purchase between 80m and 120m tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions abatement. This is equivalent to around half of Australia’s new 2020 abatement task,” RepuTex said.
RepuTex said that to meet the target the government would have to establish a “baseline and credit” emissions trading scheme, using so-called safeguards mechanisms that have been legislated but not yet explained in detail.
The government is soon to release a discussion paper on how it will set its post-2020 emissions reduction target. It will announce this target mid-year, ahead of the United Nations conference in Paris in December.
The Climate Institute thinktank said the new figures did not explain how the government would meet its 2020 emissions reduction targets, let alone deeper cuts after 2020.
Its chief executive, John Connor, said: “It’s not much use to say that the job has got easier when you still don’t have the tools to do it properly.”
“Without a plan to modernise and decarbonise our economy, Australia’s ballooning pollution through 2020 and beyond will require massive dollops of taxpayer funds if the primary policy tool remains the Emissions Reduction Fund.”
“These new projections are consistent with independent modelling that shows the government’s policies still aren’t up to the task of cutting Australian emissions even by the minimum amount we’ve committed to, let alone match comparable countries’ efforts or drive the deeper decarbonisation we will need over coming decades. The government has provided no modelling to argue otherwise.”
Garnaut said the government’s optimism was also based on a continuation of recent reductions in electricity emissions, which “were helped by a carbon price and have been hindered by recent policy developments”.
The total task of reducing emissions by 236m tonnes takes into account a “carryover” because Australia exceeded its 2012 reduction target, which actually allowed a small increase in emissions and was easily achieved through calculating the impact of reduced land clearing.