Australia’s reactionary Prime Ministers ( 2013 – 2015 )

18 September 2013: Tony Abbot sworn in as Prime Minister

Day 1:

  • Tony Abbott puts broom through bureaucracy
    Ben Packham The Australian September 18, 2013 5:03PM

    TREASURY secretary Dr Martin Parkinson will voluntarily leave his post next year, avoiding the fate of three other department heads sacked by Tony Abbott in a major bureaucratic overhaul today.
    On his first official day as Prime Minister, Mr Abbott sent shockwaves through the public service, giving marching orders to long-serving mandarins Andrew Metcalfe, Blair Comley and Don Russell.
    He also axed two departments and created a new one as part of a streamlining of bureaucratic functions.
    Dr Parkinson, who was heavily criticised by the Coalition in opposition, will leave his post midway through next year, allowing Treasurer Joe Hockey to put out the budget and appoint his replacement before he departs.
    Mr Abbott said the government would have discussions with Dr Parkinson next year about “a further appointment”.
    Sources said there appeared to be an element of “payback” in the decisions.
    Dr Ian Watt will stay on as secretary of the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet, while David Tune remains as head of Finance.

  • The bureaucratic renovation includes the splitting of the old Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations into two stand-alone organisations – the Department of Employment and the Department of Education

    The Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport has been axed. Regional development and local government will fall under the Department of Infrastructure, Arts will go into the Attorney-General’s portfolio, and Sport will fall under Health.

    The Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism has also been axed, with its functions subsumed into the Department of Industry.

    In other changes, the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs becomes the Department of Social Services, which will also take responsibility for aged care and disabilities policies.

    Indigenous affairs policy will be run out of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

    Climate change policy will be run out of the new Department of Environment, while customs and border protection will be moved from the Attorney-General’s portfolio to Immigration.

    While climate change policies and programs shift from Industry into Environment, the responsibility for Australia’s participation in international climate change negotiations will be overseen by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

    The Coalition says the move is about “bringing the right expertise to bear on the management of these negotiations”.

    AusAID will also be integrated into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, rather than existing as a stand-alone agency, while DFAT will also take responsibility for international tourism promotion.

    AusAID is now bracing for cuts among its 1300-strong Canberra-based and 800 overseas staff.

    Mr Abbott says the “integration” of AusAID, which administers Australia’s $5 billion official aid program, will enable the aid and diplomatic arms of Australia’s international policy agenda “to be more closely aligned”.

    Dr Metcalfe was one of the architects of the offshore immigration zone excision under the Howard government, but was seen as having provided bureaucratic cover for Labor’s ill-fated Malaysia solution.

    Mr Comley was heavily linked to Labor’s carbon tax and Dr Russell was seen as a long-time Labor man.

    Two new secretaries have been appointed; Dr Gordon de Brouwer as secretary of the Department of the Environment, and Renee Leon as the secretary of the Department of Employment.

    Lisa Paul has been appointed secretary of the Department of Education. She was previously secretary of the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations and the Department of Education, Science and Training.

    Dr Paul Grimes has been appointed secretary of the Department of Agriculture. He was formerly secretary of the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.

    Glenys Beauchamp has been appointed as the secretary of the Department of Industry, after heading the Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sports.

    – See more at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/tony-abbott-puts-broom-through-bureaucracy/story-fn59niix-1226721922686#sthash.015DUP5F.dpuf

  • Abolishes Science ministry:

FOR the first time since the creation of a science portfolio in 1931, Australia does not have a science minister.

The Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott announced today during his cabinet unveiling that the science portfolio would be shared between the Industry and Education ministries.

“Science, as in the CSIRO, will be with industry,” Mr Abbott said during the press conference, which means the minister overseeing the sciences will be Ian McFarlane.

Laborite Jack Holloway was the first Australian minister to hold a science portfolio when he was appointed assistant minister for industry, council for scientific and industrial research in 1931.

  •  Tony Abbott appoints Angus Campbell to lead Operation Sovereign Borders policy
    By national security correspondent Michael Brissenden

    Updated Wed 18 Sep 2013, 7:30am AEST

    Deputy Chief of Army Angus Campbell will be put in charge of combating people smugglers and securing Australia’s borders under the incoming Coalition Government.The ABC understands the appointment will be confirmed by Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott later this week.

    Major General Campbell will be promoted to a three-star general and will coordinate the 16 departments and agencies that will come under the Operation Sovereign Borders policy.

    He will have the powers to bypass normal Defence Force command structures and will report directly to incoming Immigration Minister Scott Morrison.

    Major General Campbell has been the commander of Australian military operations in the Middle East and has served in East Timor.

    He has also served as deputy national security adviser.

    Mr Abbott has said Operation Sovereign Borders will have an immediate effect once it begins.

    “It will start to make a difference from day one. It will steadily be put into effect and I am confident we can stop the boats,” he told a press conference earlier this week.

    “This is one of those stand or fall issues. It really is.”

    Campbell labelled ‘a splendid choice’

    Peter Jennings from the Australia Strategic Policy Institute says General Campbell is a good choice for the role.

    “He’s an unusual person because he’s had not only senior military experience, but he’s been a senior public servant working in the departments of Prime Minister and Cabinet,” he said.

    “I think he’s a splendid choice for this job. It’s going to involve a pretty complex coordination task across the police, a number of Canberra public service agencies.

    “That takes a degree of sophistication, some skills in cat herding, which I know Angus has managed very effectively, not only in Defence, for example, as an operational commander in Afghanistan.

    “If anyone can make a real difference, it will be someone like General Campbell.”

    Since the September 7 election, seven asylum seeker boats have arrived, carrying 480 passengers.

    Indonesia voices criticism of plan

    The Coalition’s asylum seeker policy includes turning boats back to Indonesia, buying old boats from Indonesian fishermen and paying Indonesians to spy on people smuggling operations.

    On Monday, incoming Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said the Coalition would not ask for Indonesia’s permission to implement asylum seeker policies.

    “We’re not asking for Indonesia’s permission, we’re asking for their understanding,” she said.

     

    However, Indonesia has objected to Australia turning boats back and last week the country’s foreign minister said it would also reject the boat buying scheme.

    Marty Natelegawa said the Coalition’s policy was a “problem” that Indonesia had to manage.

    Dr Natelegawa also said Indonesia would have to differentiate between the election campaign and what the reality would be once Mr Abbott is sworn in.

    Today a spokesman for president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Dr Natelegawa’s comments made Indonesia’s position clear.

    The issue of asylum seekers is set to dominate discussions between Mr Abbott and Mr Yudhoyono during a meeting in Jakarta planned for September 30.

The science portfolio – though it took different forms – was held by more than 30 ministers both Labor and Liberal up until today when it was abolished by Mr Abbott.

Australian scientists say they are “confused and disappointed” by the fact that there is no science minister in the new cabinet.

Catriona Jackson, the CEO of Science and Technology Australia, told news.com.au that science and technology was central to everything government did “from industry, to health to creating the sort of jobs that are key to ensuring a prosperous future for the country”.

“It seems inconceivable that we do not have a minister of Parliament that is responsible for the sciences,” she said.

In its shake up of the public service heads, the Abbott government has not repeated John Howard’s day of the long knives. Rather it’s taken a short scalpel in a surgical operation.

Three secretaries have been flicked and the Treasury head, Martin Parkinson will be moved off mid next year. All these decisions are political.

Parkinson’s future under a Coalition government has been a matter of endless speculation, running into years.

The Coalition thought Treasury had been politicised by Labor. Parkinson got some marks for distancing himself from the ALP’s attempt in the campaign to use Treasury costings in trying to discredit the opposition’s savings numbers. But not enough.

Parkinson is well known for being assertive in his dealings, but Hockey did seem willing to have a trial marriage.

One of the strikes against Parkinson was that he headed the then Climate Change department and was at the centre of Labor’s work on a carbon price. This was particularly in the mind of some in the Abbott office.

The new government couldn’t conveniently turf Parkinson out immediately. It’s a difficult time economically; there is a budget to put together.

In his statement Tony Abbott said that the government would be discussing a “further appointment” with Parkinson next year, which is presumably an overseas post.

It is not surprising that Don Russell, who has headed the industry department, is gone. Russell was Paul Keating’s right hand man, and returned from his position as ambassador to the United States to help Keating before the 1996 election.

The story of Andrew Metcalfe, who is out of Agriculture, goes back quite a way. Metcalfe formerly headed Immigration. In 2011 he gave a background briefing to journalists (later attributed to him) in which he suggested that Abbott’s policy of turning back boats, while effective under Howard, would not work now, because the asylum seekers would scuttle the boats and Indonesia would not agree to the policy.

The two cardinal sins in Coalition eyes are believing in a carbon price and not believing in turning around boats.

Blair Comley, who went to Resources after Labor scrapped the Climate Change department, had a major hand in Labor’s carbon policy and was a stronger defender of it. Enough said.

For the rest, the switches are unexceptional, and the new heads are from within the bureaucracy.

Lisa Paul had been secretary of a department embracing education and workplace relations – these have been split and she will head Education.

Paul Grimes moves from Environment to Agriculture; Glenys Beauchamp from Regional Australia (which disappears) to Industry.

There are two new heads. Gordon de Brouwer becomes secretary of the Environment department and Renee Leon will head the Employment department. Both have been senior in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (de Brouwer an associate secretary); sources say de Brouwer has a strong advocate in business leader Maurice Newman.

Newman chairs Abbott’s Business Advisory Group and this week wrote in the Financial Review of climate change “myths”.

“The new Coalition government is faced with enormous structural issues that have been camouflaged by effective propaganda and supported by well-organised elements in the public service, the media, the universities, trade unions and the climate establishment,” Newman wrote.

“With a huge vested interest in the status quo, they will be vocal opponents of change. The CSIRO, for example, has 27 scientists dedicated to climate change. It and the Weather Bureau have become global warming advocates. They continue to propagate the myth of anthropological climate change and are likely to be background critics of the Coalition’s Direct Action policies.”

The CSIRO comes under the Industry department. The scientists working in the climate area might be getting a little nervous.

(http://theconversation.com/public-servants-victims-of-long-coalition-memories-18372)

 

DAY 4

Coalition delivers on promise to axe Climate Commission

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Chief climate commissioner Tim Flannery

Tim Flannery has lost his job as chief commissioner of the Climate Commission, which has been axed by the Abbott government. Source: AAP

THE Abbott government has moved swiftly to disband the Climate Commission and sack its commissioners, including controversial chief commissioner Tim Flannery.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt telephoned Professor Flannery today in what was described as a civil discussion delivering expected news.

The Coalition is fulfilling an election promise to dispense with the commission, saving taxpayers $580,000 this financial year and $1.6 million in following years.

The commission was axed as work also began to scrap the Climate Change Authority.

Mr Hunt said he had written to Professor Flannery and the other five commissioners, thanking them for their efforts and formally advising them of the decision, effective immediately.

“The Coalition believes it is the role of the Department of Environment to provide independent advice and analysis on climate change,” said Mr Hunt, “and that the role of the Climate Commission was duplicating the work of the department.”

The Climate Commission has been a controversial body. Established by the Gillard government in 2011, it was charged with providing Australians with “an independent and reliable source of information about the science of climate change, the international action being taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the economics of a carbon price”.

However it delivered reports with titles including the “angry summer” and “critical decade” which said climate change is already having a deleterious impact in Australia.

The reports were widely publicised and the commission was accused of running an agenda.

Macquarie University academics Ryan Crompton and John McAneney, for instance, responded to the “angry summer” report with a paper which said, in part; “any claim of a climate change influence on increasing disaster loss totals to date is simply unfounded and in contradiction to the international scientific evidence”.

However Professor Flannery said today there was a strong need for accurate information on climate change amid an increase in “propaganda” aimed at misinforming the public.

“I believe Australians have a right to know, a right to authoritative, independent and accurate information on climate change,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

He said Australia had endured the hottest 12 months on record, with last summer breaking more than 120 heat records across the country.

Professor Flannery said all commissioners would continue their work in one way or another, informing the Australian public that climate change is happening.

“We desperately need a well-informed public, especially in areas of complex policy,” he said.

Staff at the commission would be re-assigned.

Labor leadership contender Anthony Albanese said the government’s priorities were wrong and shutting down the climate body was a “step back in time”.

Professor Flannery’s part-time role as chief commissioner attracted an annual salary of $180,000.

Mr Hunt today also signed a departmental brief to close the Climate Change Authority, set up by Labor to provide advice on emissions targets. The move will require consultation with the authority and legislation to be passed by the parliament, which is due to return in late October or early November.

Additional reporting: AAP

28 October 2013

Abbott proves once again what an inane, small minded, ignorant man he is:
By Athena Yenko | October 28, 2013 11:47 AM EST

Prime Minister Tony Abbott called the Australian Labor Party previous governments – headed by Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard – “wacko” and “embarrassing” during a phone interview with Lally Weymouth from The Washington Post.

As how Mr Weymouth put it, Mr Abbott “did not mince words when it came to his opinion of the Labor government that preceded him.”

The interview went as far back as Mr Abbot’s victory speech where he said Australia is once again open for business, a statement which implied that the previous government was unfriendly to business.

“I said Australia is under new management and is once again open for business. The previous government would often say the right thing but it would invariably do the wrong thing when it came to business. There was an explosion in red tape and green tape. There was a whole thicket of new restrictions in the labor market. There were big new taxes. It was a government which thought that there was no problem that more public servants, higher taxes and further regulation couldn’t fix.”

Mr Abbott started his slew of words attack to the previous government when Mr Weymouth prodded him about the national broadband network.

Mr Weymouth clarified that Labor wanted to extend fiber to every household to which Mr Abbott said:

Welcome to the wonderful, wacko world of the former government.”

Mr Abbott went on saying that the Rudd government was “the most incompetent and untrustworthy government in modern Australian history.”

They made a whole lot of commitments, which they scandalously failed to honor. They did a lot of things that were scandalously wasteful and the actual conduct of government was a circus. They were untrustworthy in terms of the carbon tax. They were incompetent in terms of the national broadband network. They were a scandal when it came to their own internal disunity. They made a whole lot of grubby deals in order to try and perpetuate themselves in power.  It was an embarrassing spectacle, and I think Australians are relieved they are gone.”

Meanwhile, political scientist Norman Ornstein, said that Mr Abbott’s strong words against the Rudd and Gillard governments can affect his working relationship with the Obama Administration.

”It really does violate a basic principle of diplomacy to drag in your domestic politics when you go abroad. It certainly can’t help in building a bond of any sort with President Obama to rip into a party, government and – at least implicitly – leader, with whom Obama has worked so closely. Perhaps you can chalk it up to a rookie mistake. But it is a pretty big one,” Mr Ornstein told The Canberra Times.

He explained that politicians around the world avoid, as much as possible, scenarios where they speak of disdain against local political rivals when speaking to an overseas audience.

Mr Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and one of the Foreign Policy magazine’s 100 “top global thinkers” in 2012.


28 Oct 2013 – 11:09am

Comment: Abbott needs to become less tribal

By Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Tony Abbott hasn’t lost his opposition mentality yet. AAP/Matthew Newton

 

We used to wait 100 days to draw up an initial report card on a government but now we’re down to 50 days. Today is that milepost (since the election) and Tony Abbott made something of it at the weekend, telling the Tasmanian Liberal council on Saturday the government had made a “strong start” and listing what it has done.

The Coalition wants to appear to be operating in a more orderly fashion than Labor did, but also to give the impression of much activity.

It can point to producing draft legislation for the repeal of the carbon and mining taxes. Four weeks of parliament, starting mid November, have been scheduled.

The Audit Commission has been announced, with the task of recommending savings that would get the budget to a surplus of 1% of GDP before 2023-24. (A smaller surplus is being promised for earlier. Abbott said in an interview with Andrew Bolt last week: “We will get back to surplus at least as quickly as the former government claimed that it would get back”. That was 2016-17.)

The new government is seeking to re-energise the negotiations for a free trade agreement with China in particular. It has started to re-orient the NBN.

Abbott has been to Indonesia to discuss the boats issue (apparently the Indonesians were quite impressed with him, but less so with Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, who followed separately).

So, 50 days and a reasonable amount started of its pre-election undertakings. But some uglier features are appearing too.

Abbott just after the election declared: “I am very conscious of the fact that opposition leaders are tribal chiefs but prime ministers have to be national leaders.”

Despite this fine sentiment he and his government are being very tribal.

It is not just that ministers spend much of their time harking back to Labor’s record when they are answering questions about the economy and the like. That’s standard operating practice for new administrations.

More unjustifiable is the sort of spray Abbott gave the former government in an interview with the Washington Post, published last week. The convention – and surely Abbott, who prides himself on being a conservative, would like to see himself as a man who recognises convention – is that politicians show a certain restraint in talking to an overseas audience about their opponents.

But Abbott was entirely off the leash. Asked about Labor wanting under its NBN to extend fibre to every household, he said “Welcome to the wonderful wacko world of the former government”.

When pressed he went on: “I thought it was the most incompetent and untrustworthy government in modern Australian history.

“They made a whole lot of commitments, which they scandalously failed to honour. They did a lot of things that were scandalously wasteful and the actual conduct of government was a circus.

“They were untrustworthy in terms of the carbon tax. They were incompetent in terms of the national broadband network. They were a scandal when it came to their own internal disunity. They made a whole lot of grubby deals in order to try and perpetuate themselves in power. It was an embarrassing spectacle.”

Tell us what you really think, Tony!

It is reported today that the government is drawing up terms of reference for an inquiry into the Rudd government’s home insulation scheme, which saw several deaths.

Obviously still grieving families would like further investigation. But inquiries have already been held, and it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this is a very political operation.

Even more political is the proposal raised before the election to have an inquiry into the old AWU scandal involving Julia Gillard’s former boyfriend, in which she gave legal advice (she has always maintained she did nothing wrong).

The Coalition moved heaven and earth last term to use this affair against Gillard. If there is anything more to be done, that should be left to the relevant authorities.

A new prime minister does well to avoid trying to hunt down his predecessor, in this case predecessors. The people have made their judgement on them – it is unfortunate Abbott is not willing to be satisfied with that.


1 November 2013

Abbott disbands AUSAID
AusAid abolished

 

 

 

2009 – SIgns of a truly ignorant politican

Transcript – Lateline, ABC TV – 19.11.2009

Abbott discusses climate change science

Australian Broadcasting Corporation Broadcast: 19/11/2009 Reporter: Tony Jones

Coalition frontbencher Tony Abbott joins Lateline to discuss the science of climate change as well as Australia’s and Indonesia’s ongoing immigration dilemmas.

TONY JONES, PRESENTER: Well now to tonight’s guest. Tony Abbott is the shadow minister for families, housing, community services and Indigenous affairs and he joined us just a short time ago here in the Sydney studio.

TONY JONES: Tony Abbott thanks for joining us.

TONY ABBOTT, OPPOSITION FRONTBENCHER: Evening Tony.

TONY JONES: Now Ian MacFarlane says Kevin Rudd has a mandate to introduce the emissions trading scheme. Is he right?

TONY ABBOTT: Not a bad scheme, and that’s why we have moved these amendments because we are trying to make a bad scheme better.

TONY JONES: But he’s got a mandate.

TONY ABBOTT: Well, not for a bad scheme.

TONY JONES: But he’s got a mandate for an emissions trading scheme per se.

TONY ABBOTT: Well, not for any emissions trading scheme. And this is a bad one as it stands. As it stands it’s going to make Australian agriculture uncomparative, it’s going to close lots of coal mines, and it’s going to add 40 per cent to electricity bills. And if the rest of the world doesn’t go down the same path it’s going to do all these things without helping the environment. So this is not the scheme for which the Government has a mandate.

TONY JONES: Okay, Ian MacFarlane is your chief negotiator. He’s expecting to have a deal stitched up with the Government on Sunday or by the latest on Monday. Will that make it a good Scheme when Ian MacFarlane says “we’ve got a deal”?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, it depends what the deal is.

TONY JONES: You don’t trust him?

TONY ABBOTT: Ian is a terrific bloke, and he’s doing a very good job, and I think it would be very trying sitting in a room with members of the Labor Government trying to come to some sensible arrangement, because I don’t think they understand just how far reaching a proposal they have.

TONY JONES: But Ian MacFarlane understands, so he’s the guy you trust…

TONY ABBOTT: He does, he does…

TONY JONES: You’re not saying he’s going to be captured by Penny Wong here?

TONY ABBOTT: No, I’m saying he’s doing a terrific job but in the end it is the quality of the deal which counts. It is just how far the Labor Party has gone towards accepting our eminently sensible amendments. And frankly, the amendments we put forward are the least that you would want in order to improve what is a bad scheme.

TONY JONES: Yes, you’ve said that. You’ve adopted a position on the negotiations that’s pretty hardline. It says you have to have all the amendments or you’ll walk on the deal.

TONY ABBOTT: Well, you see, this isn’t like your standard industrial negotiation where you split the difference. This is more like selling a house. Now if I’m selling a house, the buyer’s got to come very close to my price or there’s no deal.

TONY JONES: Well, presumably Ian MacFarlane wouldn’t reach a deal that he didn’t think was a good deal.

TONY ABBOTT: Well, I have confidence in Ian MacFarlane and if the Government wants to get this legislation through, it really does have to give us the amendments we want.

TONY JONES: You’re saying all the amendments – it’s non-negotiable outside of that. Ian Macfarlane clearly is not thinking the same way you are. Does that mean if he compromises at all with the Government, you’re going to reject it?

TONY ABBOTT: We are not giving up on our amendments. We think all of our amendments are important. We want the Government to accept them all.

TONY JONES: Macfarlane said the party room went a little ballistic with him when he set out the timetable by which he expected to have a deal. Why was that?

TONY ABBOTT: That’s not the phrase I’d use. Our party room is always constructive, usually lively, and constructive and lively discussion is what we’ve been having on this and many other subjects.

TONY JONES: Were people surprised he was so close to a deal?

TONY ABBOTT: I think people think that this is a bad ETS. It needs to be improved if it’s to be passed in any responsible way, and that is what Ian Macfarlane is trying to do.

TONY JONES: Let me confirm this – you won’t vote for it yourself unless the Government accepts every single one of your amendments without change. Is that right? Is that the hardline position you’ve adopted?

TONY ABBOTT: No, no, no… The thing is that there is a negotiation going on and I am not giving away our negotiating position. We put these amendments forward in good faith because all of them are important. All of them need to be made if this scheme is to be less bad. It is a bad scheme, as it stands.

TONY JONES: So this is your position now – not your position when you look at the deal that Ian Macfarlane has struck.

TONY ABBOTT: Well, the thing is that Ian Macfarlane is in there pitching for our amendments. They are all important – they are all necessary to improve what is a bad scheme.

TONY JONES: How often have you seen passions running so high within the Liberal Party on an issue of any kind.

TONY ABBOTT: Look, Tony, I think that there’s always passion in politics. I mean the boat people issue obviously arises a lot of passion. And I tell you what – there’s a lot of anger in the community about the Prime Minister’s failure in that area. I think the public are much more passionate about this than they are about the ETS.

TONY JONES: It’s hard to test that isn’t it? You wouldn’t really know the answer to that – you may instinctively think that.

Let me ask you this, do you agree with Nick Minchin when he says “the whole climate change issue is a left wing conspiracy to deindustrialise the western world”.

TONY ABBOTT: Well, you’ve got to understand just how far reaching an emissions trading scheme will ultimately be. It was Ken Henry himself who said that this was the biggest piece of financial restructuring that we have ever seen. I mean, what the advocates, what the Government wants to do, over time, is basically change the whole way we generate power – the whole way we transport ourselves. I mean this is a massive sweeping change that will affect the very way people live. It’s not just like the GST. It’s much bigger than that.

TONY JONES: Is it a left-wing conspiracy? The climate change debate, the linking of climate change and global warming – is it a left wing conspiracy as Nick Minchin says to deindustrialise the western world?

TONY ABBOTT: I think certainly there are some people whose agenda is not just environmental who’ve leapt on this particular bandwagon, and I don’t like the theological tone that so often creeps into this debate.

I particularly dislike the way Kevin Rudd in Parliament was running around like Torquemada, looking for heresy, trying to create his own version of the Salem witch hunts against people that don’t share his particular view on this.

TONY JONES: Senator Minchin also says since the collapse of communism, the left has embraced environmentalism as their new religion. You seem to be hinting you think something similar – you’ve talked already about the evangelical fervour of scientists. You’ve warned this whole thing might be just a fad.

You’ve also poked fun at the idea of sea-level rises – you’ve suggested the world is cooling, not warming. You don’t sound that far away from the Minchin brand of scepticism.

TONY ABBOTT: Well Tony, I’m on the record on all of these things and I refuse to be terrified of the future. I think that humankind has been pretty good at coping with the challenges that we’ve been given.

If you look at Roman times, grapes grew up against Hadrian’s Wall – medieval times they grew crops in Greenland. In the 1700s they had ice fairs on the Thames. So the world has been significantly hotter, significantly colder than it is now. We’ve coped.

I don’t say there aren’t problems, haven’t been problems, might not be problems, but I refuse to be terrified of the court.

TONY JONES: Do you think it’s a conspiracy.

TONY ABBOTT: I’m not saying that. I’m just saying that I refuse to be terrified of the future.

TONY JONES: What’s going on here then, in your view. I mean, thousands of good men and women – scientists, engineers, experts, and politicians all around the world – appear to be intent on saving the planet from what they believe is actually happening, and you are sceptical about whether it’s happening or not.

Are they labouring under a terrible delusion from your point of view or are they right to be as concerned as they are to want to act in the way that they are?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, I think we’ve got to take the planet seriously. We only have one. But it’s also important, I think, to keep a sense of proportion about these things.

I am always reluctant to join bandwagons. I think there are fashions in science and in the academe, just as there are fashions in so many other things. But look, we should take reasonable precautions against credible threats.

I think it is perfectly reasonable to take action against climate change. The problem with the Rudd Government’s position is that Australia could end up impoverishing itself through this dramatic ETS, and not do anything for the environment if the rest of the world does not adopt an ETS or something like it. That’s why we have always said Tony…

TONY JONES: If Ian Macfarlane comes back with a deal.

TONY ABBOTT: We have always said better to wait until after Copenhagen.

TONY JONES: But if Ian Macfarlane comes back with a deal by the end of this weekend, as he’s expecting to do, you may be in a position where you are going to go ahead with a scheme of this nature, not radically different. You would have to imagine than the one the Government is proposing.

TONY ABBOTT: We have put forward some very substantial amendments that will significantly improve a bad scheme and if the Government wants us to accept their scheme, I think they should accept our amendments.

TONY JONES: I hear what you’re saying about the earth having been hotter in different periods in its entire global history, but let me ask you this. Have you read the science that we’re talking about here – for example, have you read the IPCC’s report?

TONY ABBOTT: No, I don’t claim to have immersed myself deeply in all of these documents. I’m a politician. I have to rely on briefings – I have to rely on what I pick up through the secondary sources.

But look, I think I am as well versed on these matters as your average politician needs to be.

TONY JONES: But you have read Ian Plimer’s book.

TONY ABBOTT: I haven’t yet finished Ian Plimer’s book. I have started Ian Plimer’s book.

TONY JONES: But you have quoted it from time to time.

TONY JONES: I’ve quoted a couple of passages, and I confess I’m probably more familiar with the book through people who’ve written about it than I am through having read it myself.

TONY JONES: What evidence do you have then for saying that the earth has cooled since the late 1990s.

TONY ABBOTT: Well, I am not setting myself up as the great expert here, but the Hadley Institute in Britain, which is apparently one of the most reputable of these measuring centres, according to press reports, has found that after heating up very significantly in the previous 25 years, there seems to have been a slight cooling, but at a high plateau I’ll accept that.

TONY JONES: That is Ian Plimer’s argument. So when you actually go…

TONY ABBOTT: This is the Hadley Centre – this is measurements.

TONY JONES: I’m about to tell you what the Hadley Centre actually says. When you go and look at what it says about global temperatures you’ll find that they say that the years 1998 to 2006 include the hottest, the second, the third, the fourth, the fifth and the sixth hottest years in recorded history.

TONY ABBOTT: And the hottest one was at the beginning and the less hot ones have been since.

TONY JONES: According to the Hadley Centre’s mean temperature data, 1998 was, as you say, the hottest year on record – 2005 was the second hottest year on record. The third hottest year on record since 1880 – since recorded temperatures were made – is 2003, the fourth 2002, the fifth 2004.

TONY ABBOTT: Okay, fair enough Tony, but the fact of the matter is what should we do about this? Now…

TONY JONES: You’re the one that quoted the Hadley Centre. And are you aware for example that the latest modelling of the Hadley Centre released only two months ago, warns that their scientists, using their data, and projecting it with computers are now saying…

TONY ABBOTT: The Hadley Centre are climate change believers. I didn’t’ say that they were climate change deniers. I didn’t want them hauled up before the witch hunt or the inquisition.

TONY JONES: Do you want to know what they’re now saying? What their latest study is saying – that by 2060 global temperatures could rise by 4 degrees. The implications for the world and for Australia, if that’s true, are catastrophic.

TONY ABBOTT: As I said, it is quite concerning but we have to remember that these are computer models and we also have to accept that there is… there are certainly some reputable scientists, Tony, who don’t accept that the most important element in climate change, to the extent that it’s occurring, is man-made carbon dioxide.

TONY JONES: And yet those same people quote the Hadley Centre as you did, suggesting that the earth has cooled. And yet when you look at it in detail, what you can see is, it has remained on a remarkably high plateau – higher than any recorded temperatures.

TONY ABBOTT: But since 1997, notwithstanding the continued increase in man-made CO2, there has not been a further increase.

TONY JONES: And you are happy with that.

TONY ABBOTT: Well, look, if man-made CO2 was quite the villain that many of these people say it is, why hasn’t there just been a steady increase starting in 1750, and moving in a linear way up the graph.

TONY JONES: There are very complex answers for that.

TONY ABBOTT: Exactly, it’s a complex issue – it is a very complex issue.

TONY JONES: And one needs to talk to scientists about it and yet…

TONY ABBOTT: And there’s no simple solution.

TONY JONES: And yet you haven’t talked to scientists about it.

TONY ABBOTT: I have spoken to many people who have many different perspectives on this, in the same way that you have.

TONY JONES: Let’s go to the question of asylum seekers, the other huge issue in Parliament this week.

TONY ABBOTT: The interesting thing about that is here is Kevin Rudd claiming to be able to solve problems that might happen in 50 or 100 years time and he can’t solve the problems that are happening now on Australia’s doorstep.

TONY JONES: Let’s go to the question of the special resettlement deal that’s been offered to the 78 Tamils from the Oceanic…

TONY ABBOTT: The non-extraordinary deal.

TONY JONES: You’d argue that other refugees in Indonesia have been denied that kind of deal?

TONY ABBOT: I would.

TONY JONES: Do you think they should be…

TONY ABBOT: Maybe the Hadley Institute has something different to say on that, but I would argue that they’ve been denied the same deal.

TONY JONES: Do you think they should be given the same opportunity as the 78.

TONY ABBOTT: I don’t believe the Government should give any boat people any special deal which will effectively outsource our migration program to the boat people – to the people smugglers.

TONY JONES: I’m talking about people that are in Indonesia classified as refugees – there are a number of thousands of them.

TONY ABBOTT: And many of them have arrived by boat. What’s happened with Kevin Rudd is that people smugglers now determine who comes to our country, and the circumstances under which they come.

That’s what this guy has done. John Howard stopped the flow – Kevin Rudd has started it up again.

TONY JONES: Well, these people are in Indonesia that I’m talking about – there are several thousand of them. And it appears the Federal Government is now talking about increasing the numbers of resettlements from among that group.

Wouldn’t that actually be a good idea in terms of getting long-term refugees out of Indonesia where they can’t settle and bringing them to other countries where they can settle?

TONY ABBOTT: It would be good for Indonesia. I don’t know that it would necessarily be good for Australia.

If the people smugglers and the boat people get the idea that if you get to Indonesia, you’ll eventually get to Australia, because Australia has a deal with Indonesia to take all of their displaced people, Indonesia becomes the open backdoor for immigration to Australia. And that’s no improvement – that’s going backwards, surely.

TONY JONES: So, assuming that the Government does move to resettle or attempt to resettle a fair percentage of the refugees who are currently stranded in Indonesia, you wouldn’t support that?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, I would want to see exactly what’s proposed. But anything which says to desperate people, and there are millions of them in our region, that if you can get to Indonesia you’ve got to Australia, is obviously problematic – very problematic – because that means that our border protection effectively depends upon Indonesia’s border protection. And that is not a very good position for a sovereign country to have.

TONY JONES: Tony Abbott, we are out of time unfortunately – we have to leave you there. We thank you very much for taking the time once again to come and join us on Lateline.

TONY ABBOTT: Thanks Tony.


 

Five warning signs Tony Abbott is turning Australia into a reckless charco-state

Is Australia a risk of becoming the coal equivalent of a petro-state. Here are five warning signs.
Save the Reef supporters at the Climate Action Day rally in Melbourne, 17 November 2013.
Save the Reef supporters at the Climate Action Day rally in Melbourne, 17 November 2013. Photo by Alex White.

Today, tens of thousands of people around Australia rallied for action on climate change.

The rallies were organised by a coalition of environmental and social advocacy groups, including the Australian Conservation Foundation, the United Firefighters Union, and Get Up, in protest to the Abbott government’s moves to scrap the carbon price, abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, cut funding for the CSIRO, ignoring the Climate Change Authority on carbon pollution emissions, and much more besides.

This week, federal parliament sat. We finally were able to see the shape of the Abbott-led Liberal-National government. The extent of their climate denialism is becoming more evident.

It seems that Abbott is intent on turning Australia into a charco-state — a nation that pursues economic riches from coal, gas and other fossil fuels no matter the social or environmental cost. A charco-state is the coal equivalent of a petro-state, a country where the economy is dominated by oil interests and where the government is both highly dependent on oil tax revenues and deeply infiltrated by oil-industry interests.

Australia is at risk of becoming a charco-state. Here are five warning signs.

1. Ignoring the Climate Change Authority’s recommendation on carbon pollution reductions

The Climate Change Authority is an independent body created to advise the government on carbon pollution reduction targets and other mitigation initiatives. At the end of October, the Authority released its draft report into reduction targets. As Lenore Taylor reported at the time, the Authority’s report found at the existing 5% reduction target was “not a credible option”, and recommended increasing the targets to 15% or 25%.

In its draft report, the authority says the Coalition’s own agreed conditions for a tougher target have now been met. It says a 5% target leaves Australia “lagging behind” other countries, and sticking to the low target would leave Australia facing a near-impossible emissions reduction task after 2020.

A 5% target would “require implausibly rapid acceleration of effort beyond 2020”, the authority says. And, at least under the current emissions trading scheme, moving to a 15 or 25% target could be done at a “relatively small cost”.

Abbott’s response was to dismiss the report, and firmly stick to the inadequate 5% target. Fairfax reported that Abbott said: “We have made one commitment and one commitment only, which is to reduce our emissions by 5 per cent.”

However, the Liberal-National government’s only climate policy is the laughable “direct action” policy, which would see an increase in emissions and massive payments made to big polluters. The “direct action” climate policy could only have been created by people who don’t believe in climate change, and who do not want action taken to address it.

Abbott’s secondary comments on the CCA’s report was to refer to global binding targets — the only condition where he would consider a higher carbon pollution reduction target. However, Abbott is also committed to stymieing global action.

2. Australia “missing in action” at COP Warsaw climate negotiations

Abbott and his government have turned their back on supporting global action on climate change. This is best demonstrated by the decision not to send a minister to the United Nations climate negotiations in Warsaw. This decision was deemed “puzzling” by former executive secretary of the UNFCCC Yvo de Boer. The Guardian’s Adam Vaughan reported de Boer saying: “I cannot remember a previous occasion when a major player in this process has not been represented at ministerial level at the high level segment of the talks.”

The UK’s former top climate diplomat at the foreign office, John Ashton, told the Guardian that the decision by Australia was puzzling. “We are now in the phase of building momentum [towards a climate deal in Paris]. We are now in a critical two years, we won’t get another bite of the cherry.” Against that backdrop, he said that “for a major player not to send an elected representative is a pretty puzzling decision”.

He added: “If people draw the conclusion that that this is a country that would rather stick to a business a usual approach rather than building a low-carbon growth model compatible with [temperature rises of] 2C, no one should be surprised.”

Australia was also awarded the title of “Fossil of the Day” on the first day of the negotiations, by dint of Abbott’s decision to not put forward any new finance commitments.

Of course, if you understand that Abbott and his government do not accept the climate science, and that they want to keep Australia addicted to coal, then their decision becomes more understandable. Abbott does want to lock in a “business as usual approach”, where the coal and mining lobby runs his government by proxy. Which explains why Abbott is also dismantling support for Australia’s renewable energy sector.

3. Starving Australia’s renewable energy industries

Hidden in the bills to abolish the carbon price are provisions that are aimed at starving investment in renewable energy. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will have its funding cut by by $435 million over the next three years, putting at risk projects that use technologies like large-scale solar, marine, geothermal and energy storage.

Kane Thornton, the deputy CEO of the Clean Energy Council, an industry body with more than 600 members that includes AGL and Pacific Hydro (hardly left-wing activist organisations), said in a statement:

“ARENA has enjoyed bi-partisan support since its establishment, recognising the importance of developing new technologies in delivering a cleaner, smarter and lower-cost energy system – and the major benefits in jobs and investment that follow,” Mr Thornton said.

“The government gave repeated commitments on its support for ARENA prior to the election and it is disappointing that the agency is now facing a significant budget reduction…

This unstable policy environment has had a clear impact on major technology innovators, developers and financiers, who will understandably be questioning their future in Australia.”

The gutting of this funding serves to highlight whose interests this government really serves. Before the election, reported Tristan Edis, Greg Hunt “repeatedly reassured stakeholders and this publication that the Coalition ‘fully supports ARENA’.”

4. Handing over environmental powers to the states

Last month, Tony Abbott announced that he had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Liberal-National government in Queensland, that would “streamline” environmental approvals. What this means is that the Queensland government can approve projects that would normally require federal approval under environmental laws. You can read the MOU here (pdf), which states:

Consistent with the objects of the MoU, Queensland will become responsible for assessing projects for the purpose of the EPBC Act to reduce duplication between jurisdictions, and – within 12 months – approving projects, when an approval bilateral agreement has been signed.

Of course, the Newman government in Queensland has a terrible record on the environment. A report in 2012 by The Global Mail highlighted the deeply embedded climate skepticism, and the ideological commitment to coal mining and export. Since his election in March 2012, he has overseen the rapid dismantling of Queensland’s environmental laws.

Newman has offered a glimpse of how he, given greater control, would steward Queensland’s areas of natural beauty. For example, he has publicly lobbied for development in the fragile Great Barrier Reef area, for which there are about 45 development proposals in the pipeline. And dredging work in the Gladstone area, which has already led to changes in environmental standards, is supported by the state government.

Abbott has willingly handed over federal environmental assessment powers to a government who has openly stated that “we are in the coal business”. The other recently elected government that is in the coal business is the Abbott government.

A range of environment groups have condemned this decision. Australian Conservation Foundation CEO Don Henry said “There does not appear to be a veto power for the commonwealth in what has been proposed. We believe it is illegal for the commonwealth to wash its hands of its responsibilities.” The Guardian’s Lenore Taylor reported Henry again:

“Previous Queensland governments have tried to allow oil drilling on the Great Barrier Reef and major developments on Great Barrier Reef Islands. The Commonwealth Government has had to step in to protect the values of the reef on a number of occasions. The World Heritage provisions of Australia’s federal environmental laws provide these protections, ensure the national interest is pursued in decision-making, and make sure the national government is able to meet its obligations under the World Heritage Convention,” Henry wrote on the day the Queensland and federal governments signed the MOU.

“The Queensland Government will make decisions from a Queensland perspective. It is responsible to the population of Queensland, not Australia as a whole. We believe there is a very high danger that the Queensland government will undertake environmental approvals on the Commonwealth’s behalf that will threaten the universal values of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The Queensland government is not a party to the World Heritage Convention and as such its decision-making will not adequately reflect the responsibilities of the Australian government as a signatory to the World Heritage Convention.”

5. Demonising #climate action as “socialism”

Tony Abbott made international headlines when he brought up Cold War era rhetoric to attack the carbon price and climate action, describing it as “socialism”. The language was used in Cabinet document, according to a report by The Australian, decrying contributions to global aid funds to assist developing nations adapt to or mitigate the impact of climate change.

This is not the first time he has done this. In 2011, he described the carbon price as “socialism masquerading as environmentalism”, and he repeated this nonsense at the Tasmanian Liberal Party’s conference at the end of October, saying “Let’s be under no illusions the carbon tax was socialism masquerading as environmentalism.”

Statements like these are worrying, not just because they demonise legitimate action to reduce climate change or to adapt to it, but also because they reveal the extremist, fringe thinking of Tony Abbott and his cabinet. It uncovers the growing influence of the Tea Party, who denounce almost all government spending or activity as “socialism”.

Senior Liberal-National government ministers and influential backbenchers are cosy-ing up to senior Tea Party Republicans. Fairfax reported on the 14th of October that the finance minister, Mathias Cormann met with Tea Party leaders and organisations, including groups that fund anti-climate misinformation campaigns, when he was shadow finance minister:

Senator Cormann’s last meeting in Washington during a 2011 trip was with Grover Norquist, the prominent president of the Americans for Tax Reform, which asks political candidates to put in writing that they will oppose ”any and all tax increases”. Mr Norquist is also a board member of the National Rifle Association.

Senator Cormann also met six members of the Heritage Foundation, a tax-exempt think tank. The foundation’s political offshoot, Heritage Action for America, has guided efforts to withdraw funding on US President Barack Obama’s flagship healthcare policy, the Affordable Care Act.

Senator Cormann then met Matt Kibbe and Wayne Brough, of the Tea Party group Freedom Works.

One of the topics of conversation, according to Cormann’s parliamentary report on the tax-payer funded trip was to talk to these Republican and right-wing groups about “the likely approach in the US to emissions trading”.

Right-wing figures like Grover Norquist relish in shock-tactics, such as equating Nazism to socialism, and accusing President Obama of being a “European-style socialist”. Meanwhile, Jim deMint, the Heritage Foundation’s president, equated the Affordable Care Act (more commonly known as Obamacare) with “socialism”:

Heritage Foundation president and former Senator Jim DeMint suggested to a town hall audience in Wilmington, Delaware Thursday that health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid are “un-American” and built on the principles of “socialism and collectivism.”

“I cannot think of anything that’s more un-American than national government-run health care,” DeMint said. “Those who believe in those principles of socialism and collectivism we’ve seen over the centuries, they see as their holy grail taking control of the health care system.”

Though DeMint was referring specifically to the Affordable Care Act, a law the Heritage Foundation is urging Congress to defund in next month’s continuing resolution, his comments could also apply to existing programs that have more direct government involvement than the ACA.

Mathias Cormann isn’t the only Liberal senator visiting Tea Party extremists. Key Abbott supporter and outspoken climate skeptic Senator Cory Bernardi also went on a trip to the US, to meet with the Heartland Institute. Bernardi was a key player in the destabilisation campaign against Malcolm Turnbull in 2009 during the senate deliberations over the ill-fated carbon pollution reduction scheme.

This kind of language has only one purpose: to delegitimise and demonise supporters of the carbon price.

Since being elected only a few months ago, Abbott has started the systematic dismantling of scientific bodies and structures that would research or raise public awareness about the risks of run-away climate change.

He has spurned the recent United Nations multilateral climate negotiations by refusing to send a minister to represent Australia.

He has abolished or is seeking to abolish bodies that fund renewable energy projects and independent research into climate change.

He has handed over significant powers designed to protect the environment to a state government committed to fast-tracking the rapid expansion of coal and gas projects.

He has invoked extremist, Cold War rhetoric to demonise conservationists and environmentalists.

A petro-state is one where “the economy is dominated by oil and the government highly dependent on its revenues — so much that it distorts the rest of the economy as well as the political system. Petro-states typically have weak institutions, a high-concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few, and deep economic and political inequality.” A charco-state is the coal equivalent.

Are these signs that Australia is at risk of becoming a charco-state? Tell me what you think in the comments.

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page 2
Great Barrier Reef aerial view
The Great Barrier Reef has been put at risk by the approval of a coal export terminal at Abbot Point. Photograph: Grant V Faint/Getty Images

Who could forget, back in 2009, the launch of the “Best Job in the World”?

The campaign by Tourism Queensland generated global interest in the Sunshine State and the role of park ranger and “caretaker” of Hamilton Island in the Great Barrier Reef. Ben Southall was the inaugural winner, a Brit by birth and native of Hampshire, he beat 35,000 applicants for the coveted role.

Ben spent a year promoting the wonders of Queensland. In the first four days, he visited the pristine Whitehaven Beach, stopped for lunch at Hayman Island, went on a tour of the Coral Sea and Daydream Island and ended up at the Seaworld adventure park and a game of Aussie Rules (Richmond vs Adelaide – Go Crows!).

Four days into his year-long stint in the Best Job in the World, Ben said: “My stay on the Gold Coast has been nothing short of spectacular; there really is something for everybody.”

Unfortunately, soon a massively destructive coal port will be built just 50 km north of the magnificent Whitsunday Islands. The port expansion was approved by the Abbott Liberal National government on Wednesday 11 December, and it will become one of the world’s largest coal ports.

The coal export facility is ironically located on Abbot Point. The construction of this port will involve dredging 3 million cubic metres of seabed. The dredge spoil will be dumped into the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

To give you an idea of the scale of this dredging, if all of the spoil was put into dump trucks, there would be 150,000 of them lined up bumper to bumper from Brisbane to Melbourne.

This expansion is further proof that the Abbott government is hell-bent on turning Australia into a reckless charco-state that solely represents the interests of fossil fuel and coal companies.

Just around the corner from the port is a beach that is the nesting place for endangered green and flat back turtles. Fun facts about the flat back turtle: they’re officially classified as “vulnerable” by the Australian Government, and nest only in northern Australia. They have the smallest migratory range of any marine turtle, so when their home in Queensland is destroyed, they’ve really got nowhere else to go.

Also in the spoil-dumping area are sea-grass beds, which are the home to dugongs. The “sea cows” may not be the sexiest of marine animals, but they are at risk of extinction, and most of the world’s remaining population lives in the Great Barrier Reef. This is one of the reasons that the Reef has World Heritage listing.

An independent government report from August this year found that dredging sediment travelled a lot further than previously thought. The risks include sediment being disturbed by severe weather. Even a cursory look at Queensland’s weather patterns near the Reef over the past decade would show that severe weather, including tropical cyclones and flooding, is a regular occurrence, even if you disregard massively destructive events like Cyclone Yasi.

The Great Barrier Reef generated around 69,000 full-time equivalent jobs, and boosted our economy by 5.68 billion in 2011/12, according to recent research. Most of this is through tourism and reef-dependent industries like fishing.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt has mischievously claimed that “Some of the strictest conditions in Australian history have been placed on these projects”. This is mischievous because, obviously, massively increasing coal exports at this time will do irreparable damage to our climate.

Worryingly, Greg Hunt’s briefing and decision, released on the 11th of December, is based on the assurance of the North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation, the state-owned corporation that owns the project, that “the project area (dredging area) is not a notable or significant biodiversity site in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area” and “the potential impact area in the dumping ground (which is within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park) is considerably small”. The brief also says that the “habitats were recorded to recover from similar events”.

You are obviously free to come to your own views about Hunt’s strange cognitive dissonance, where on the one hand there are the “strictest conditions” on the dredging, but on the other hand the “dredging area is not a notable… site” in the Reef. Perhaps someone could leave a comment that explains why Hunt has required strict conditions if the area is not a significant site.

Unless of course, Hunt is simply trying to pull the wool over our eyes. You be the judge.

The very real problems are not just the vast and untold damage that dredging will do to the Great Barrier Reef, or the risk of damage to the reef by the substantial increase in shipping through the World Heritage Area.

The Abbot Point development has been green-lit to funnel vast amounts of coal out of Australia. The coal ports currently proposed, including Abbot Point and new coal terminals proposed at Wiggins Island, Raglan Creek, Balaclava Island, Dudgeon Point, and Cape York, would increase total coal tonnage by more than six-fold, from 156 Mt in 2011 to a capacity of 944 Mt by the end of the decade.

Australia’s coal is one of the globe’s fourteen carbon bombs. Our coal export industry is the largest in the world, and results in 760m tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. The urgent goal of Tony Abbott’s government, and his environment minister Greg Hunt is to ship as much climate-devastating coal as possible, as quickly as possible.

Every day, this Liberal-National government, led by Tony Abbott, provides new examples of its nastiness, its short-sightedness, and its willingness to destroy livelihoods, communities and the environment to enrich coal barons.

You can do something.

 

George Brandis
Australian Attorney General George Brandis and Prime Minister Tony Abbott have cut federal funding a small group of non-profit environmental lawyers. Photograph: Alan Porritt/AAP

Stay with me on this one.

The joke started something like this: a cockatoo, a potoroo, a skink and a brown tree frog go into a bar…

Unfortunately, this isn’t’ a very funny joke, because the Glossy Black Cockatoo, the Long-nosed Potoroo, the Eastern She-oak Skink and the Large Brown Tree Frog are all threatened species.

The Glossy Black is a fussy eater, a bit like a vegan hipster. It only feeds on the seeds in cones of she-oaks, and even then, only from selected individual trees. Like someone who’s found their favourite barista and doesn’t want to risk getting a bad coffee somewhere else, the Glossy Black will return to eat at the same tree time and time again, even other trees are overflowing with oak-cones. We don’t really know why Glossy Blacks are so particular, but since each one can live up to thirty years, we should be able to take the time to get to know them properly. If we don’t wipe them out first.

If the Glossy Black Cockatoo is a hipster, the Long-nosed Potoroo is like a shy and lonely emo with a preference for eating fungi when the stars are out. Closely related to kangaroos, the Long-nose makes up for its shyness during its twice-yearly mating season, and is notorious in the Australian outback for having a prodigious number of sexual partners. A big threat to the Long-nose’s rutting, fungi-eating lifestyle is feral cats, foxes and human development.

The She-oak Skink and the Large Brown Tree Frog are less warm and fuzzy than the other two. In fact, they’re scaly and slimy. I’m not clear why it’s named after the She-oak, but the She-oak Skink lives the lizard equivalent of a ski-bum lifestyle in the alpine regions of Victoria around Mt Hotham and Falls Creek. (There’s also a Tasmanian She-oak Skink.) The Large Brown Tree Frog is actually pretty small, around 45 mm in length, and like a mad sports fan it looks like it has painted its face with dark stripes like war-stripes.

I said the joke was not very funny. Here’s why.

The Victorian government has a legal obligation to protect threatened species, but a remarkable loop-hole allows state-owned, loss-making corporations like VicForests to log their habitat so long as there was no conservation plan. This includes the picky-eater Glossy Black Cockatoo, and the war-painted Large Brown Tree Frog.

The ABC reported at the time:

A statement from the Department of Environment and Primary Industries confirmed there were 689 species, communities or processes (such as pollution of waterways or removal of species) that did require action statements. Of these, the department said 60 per cent had either been “drafted, published or were due for review”.

The implications of only 60 percent of these “species, communities or processes” having a conservation plan is ghastly; what does it say about the Victorian government’s attitude to the environment?

And the Glossy Black and his three friends? They’ve been without conservation plans for at least 10 years.

This sense of moral affrontry is no doubt what drove Environment East Gippsland and the EDO to go to court to demand the Victorian government follow its own laws.

Dick the Butcher may have once suggested that we “kill all the lawyers”, but there are some lawyers we should probably spare. The non-profit lawyers from the Environmental Defenders Office are definitely amongst them.

The EDO in Victoria recently took the Victorian government to court for breaking its own laws by not preparing conservation plans (called “action statements”) for the Glossy Black Cockatoo, the Long-nose Potoroo, the She-oak Skink and the Large Brown Tree Frog.

The Environmental Defenders Office is a small network of nine state-based non-profit community legal centres (they’re collectively the Australian Network of EDOs). They are a small but highly effective group of lawyers who make sure that Australia’s environmental laws are upheld. Since they were founded in the 1990s, they’ve held governments and big business accountable when their actions would threaten species like the fungi-eating potoroo.

While multi-national mining companies and cashed-up developers can plough nearly unlimited funds into running roughshod over our environmental laws, everyday communities rely on organisations like the EDO.

The punch-line to this joke was delivered by Tony Abbott on Tuesday 17 December.

That’s when he announced that federal funding for Environmental Defenders Offices would be removed. As a community legal centre, the EDO was until Tuesday funded through the Attorney General’s office. This was worth, nationally, about $10 million, to do priceless environmental protection work.

Why exactly would Prime Minister Abbott, and the Attorney General George Brandis do this?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Brandis himself says that:

the government was having to make savings across all portfolios in a “fiscally constrained environment”.

“The government has prioritised the funding of legal financial assistance to frontline services,” he said.

(Here’s what economist Stephen Koukoulas says about the LNP’s recent mid-year economic forecast, and Greg Jericho on the fraud that is their “fiscally constrained environment”.)

But another reason may be something that NSW Mineral Council boss, Stephen Galilee, said in October. The Australian reported:

Mr Galilee said it was “ridiculous” that taxpayer funds were being used to appeal and reject approved projects.

“We will be seeking to take up the issue of commonwealth funding of the NSW EDO with the new Attorney-General and the new government,” he said.

“We were dismayed when former attorney-general Mark Dreyfus decided in June to provide a $300,000 grant (per year) of taxpayer funds to the NSW EDO.

(And since we’re on the topic of use of taxpayer funds, is it worth raising the $10 billion in fossil fuel subsidies that may financially benefit some members of the NSW Minerals Council? More about that here.)

This funding cut really is just yet another example of the Abbott government’s ideologically driven war against the environment, and their Nixonian hatred of an enemies hit-list which includes anyone who cares about the environment.

Senior ecologist for the Australian Conservation Foundation, Dugald Murray put it well when he said:

The cost of the government’s decision to cut federal funding for EDOs will be borne by Australian communities and by our unique and fragile environment.

Glen Klatovski, from The Wilderness Society, echoed those views: “For thousands of people around the country one of their only avenues to protect their community, often against illegal activity, has been seriously cut,” he said.

Driven by climate change denial, and by the far right in the Liberal-National party, Tony Abbott and George Brandis are engaging in a dangerous first-hundred-day fantasy romp against environmentalists.

The abolition of the Climate Commission, the snub at CHOGM and the UN climate talks, the attacks on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the scare campaign against the carbon price, the review of the renewable energy target, the obsession with building a nuclear power plant, and the building of one of the world’s largest coal ports on top of the Great Barrier Reef. The defunding of the Environmental Defenders Office.

This is yet another morbid symptom of Abbott’s climate denial-driven war, and his agenda of handing over Australia to global mining companies and billionaire coal barons.

Humble, harmless native Australian animals deserve to treated better than a joke; Abbott’s actions this week show precisely what he thinks of them.

If you feel, like I do, that the Australian government should re-fund the Environmental Defenders Offices, please share your support.

Proud to support Environmental Defenders Office. Re-fund the #edo @EDO_Vic @EDONSW #auspol @TonyAbbottMHR pic.twitter.com/hYwqfnzXeu

— Alexander White (@alexanderwhite) December 18, 2013

You can also support the EDO in Victoria and in NSW to run cases that protect animals like the potoroo and cockatoo.

Postscript: And those threatened animals, the potoroo, cockatoo, frog and skink? Well, the EDO won. In a settlement, the Victorian government agreed to finalise conservation plans by 30 June 2014.

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On Tuesday, various news outlets, including Fairfax and The Guardian, reported on the extremist climate change denying comments made by Maurice Newman.

Maurice Newman is chairman of the prime minister’s new Business Advisory Council. He is also a director of the Queensland Investment Corporation, a government owned investment body.

He made his comments in an interview with The Australian, a conservative campaigning newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch, and well known as a biased promoter of climate change denialist views and news articles.

The views that Newman articulated are not in line with the government’s supposed policy of accepting the scientific validity of climate change, and the need for public policy action (even if that policy is the discredited “direct action” policy).

He is also out of line with Tony Abbott himself, who conceded in a radio interview in 2011 that “climate change is real” and “humanity is making a contribution”.

Maurice Newman stated in the interview that he believes that climate change is a “scientific delusion” and that climate change science is a “religion”. He also accused the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of resorting to “dishonesty and deceit”.

These are views that are on the extreme right-wing fringe of Australian society. They reflect a profound and willful ideological blindness about the risks that climate change will have globally and locally in Australia.

The CSIRO, Australia’s most respected scientific research organisation warned:

The impacts of climate change are already clearly visible in Australia. Further impacts predicted to occur in the future will be experienced across all sectors of the economy and in all ecosystems.

Maurice Newman’s extremist right-wing views on climate change are deep-seated. He helped establish, and was a member of the board of the ultra-conservative Centre for Independent Studies, a right-wing think tank  that promotes free-market ideology and “limited” government. His other fringe views include that Australia’s wages are “very high”, that the previous Labor government’s education Gonski reforms and the national disability insurance scheme were “reckless”.

He also advocates the economically-discredited austerity ideology, urging prime minister Tony Abbott “to ‘disturb the comfort zones of many’ in order to ‘repair’ the budget”. Cutting education spending, disability support and reducing wages are a carbon copy from the austerity fanatics’ playbook.

Tony Abbott is going into 2014 as a deeply unpopular prime minister, with rock-bottom levels of support for his policy agenda. More people disapprove of Tony Abbott’s performance as prime minister than approve.

January 1st is a day to make new year’s resolutions.

If Tony Abbott wants to be trusted when he says “climate change is real”, his new year’s resolution in 2014 must be to disavow the dangerous climate change denialism of Maurice Newman.


 

Tony Abbott will doom future generations if he ditches #carbon #tax

A quarter of a century ago, I asked Canada’s bright, new environment minister Lucien Bouchard what he felt was the most important environment issue facing Canadians. ”Global warming,” he immediately replied. ”It threatens the survival of our species. We have to act now.”

Back then his views echoed those of politicians around the world. George H.W. Bush, who didn’t have an environmental bone in his body, promised to be an ”environmental president” when he ran in 1988 because Americans had put it at the top of their concerns. Even Margaret Thatcher, when she was filmed picking up litter, turned to the camera to say, ”I’m a greenie too”.

'This unprecedented event is unlike anything recorded in North American history.'“This event is unlike anything recorded in North American history.” Photo: Nicolas Walker

But now, Bouchard and politicians around the world continue to retreat from the battle to protect the environment. Your new prime minister Tony Abbott is just another who finds it easier and more politically rewarding to focus on the next election cycle rather than the mountain of evidence that continues to grow and show we are trashing the biosphere and must reduce carbon emissions.

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I used to think some cataclysmic, climate-related event would shock the world into taking the steps needed to preserve the future of the human species. But after seeing what’s happened this past decade, I’m no longer sure any event or set of circumstances will be enough to jolt governments into action. (The 2008 bank-induced economic meltdown spurred politicians to spend hundreds of billions just to get the defective economy back up and running again!)

Just look at Canada.

"Your new prime minister Tony Abbott is just another who finds it easier and more politically rewarding to focus on the next election cycle".“Your new prime minister Tony Abbott is just another who finds it easier and more politically rewarding to focus on the next election cycle.” Photo: AFP

In British Columbia, where I live, a warming climate has allowed insects the size of grains of rice to destroy $65 billion worth of pine trees in just a bit over a decade. For millennia the mountain pine beetle, a native of Canada, has been kept in check by our winter temperatures which reach minus 35 degrees for several days.

Not anymore. The British Columbia Ministry of Forests says that, thanks to global warming, we have not had one of these widespread weather events in the British Columbia interior since the winter of 1995-96.

With no more killing freezes, pine beetle numbers have exploded, destroying 710 million cubic metres of commercially valuable pine timber. That’s more than half of all such pine in the province. As the climate warms, the beetles have been blown over the Rocky Mountains where pine trees of the boreal forest extend across Canada.

This unprecedented event is unlike anything recorded in North American history, but it’s not been enough to galvanise our government to get serious about acting on climate change.

I’m at a loss to understand why. But if the melting polar ice cap, and the devastation wrought by hurricanes Katrina and Sandy was not enough to force governments into serious action, I guess I can hardly expect a little mountain pine beetle to do it.

From what I can see, it’s a similar story in Australia. Half the coral on the Great Barrier Reef has disappeared in the past 27 years and its size could halve again in the next decade with degradation of the environment and the increasing frequency of cyclones.

Bushfires in Australia are getting more severe and more frequent. I see in Sydney you have already had your first fires barely a week into spring. And what has your new government done in response? As soon as Mr Abbott won power, he promised to wind back Australia’s recent efforts to combat global warming.

His promise to scrap the carbon tax, a tax which had been a timid step in the right direction, to close down your green energy bank and to reduce the rebates for buying solar panels, all send a terrible signal to your entrepreneurs and to the community.

And all of it is being done in the name of saving the economy.

But for more than 20 years the insurance industry has been telling us we have all been paying more for changes in the climate. Why aren’t we listening to the insurers, the hardest business heads of all?

I would have thought Australia would be leading the world in developing a new economy because climate change is going to devastate Australia.

Instead, mining magnates are manipulating the debate in Australia just like they are doing elsewhere. Like the tobacco industry before them, they have known for years that climate change is happening and that burning fossil fuels is at the heart of it. But to maximise their profits they have continued to sow misunderstanding and confusion, funding the sceptics to perpetrate the myth that global warming is junk science.

They should be ignored because there is no confusion in the scientific community about what’s happening to our planet and what the future holds unless we change the way we live.

A carbon tax is just one small step to encourage companies and individuals to reduce dumping rubbish into the atmosphere.

Don’t Australians pay to put their junk into landfill?

The consequences of dumping our junk in the atmosphere are far greater than leaving garbage in the streets so why don’t we limit it by making people pay to dump it?

It’s the most basic lesson of economics. Anyone who understands and cares about the environment and economics will know ditching the carbon tax is not only crazy, it is absolutely suicidal.


 

TRACKING ABBOTT’S WRECKAGE

Tony Abbott has been in power since 7 September 2013. From that moment, he and his government have broken promises and hurt Australians. This post will be regularly updated to keep track of the Abbott Government’s broken promises and everything his Government does to hurt Australians. Each separate item will have a link to a source. Broken promises appear in bold and in a separate list at the end.

THE LIST

249. Cuts funding to the peak refugee organisation the Refugee Council of Australia – 30 May 2014

248. Takes money from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and gives it to the Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Scheme – 28 May 2014

247. Breaks promise that no public servants will be forced into redundancy after revelations that public servants in the Department of Industry have been made involuntarily redundant – 19 May 2014

246. Scraps the National Water Commission – 13 May, 2014

245. Abolishes funding for Building Australia’s Future Workforce — Connection Interviews and Job Seeker Workshops and the Experience+ Career Advice initiative – 13 May, 2014

244. Abolishes the Get Reading Programme – 13 May, 2014

243. Scraps the annual subsidy to local ethanol producers – 13 May 2014

242. Slashes the Biodiversity Fund – 13 May, 2014

241. Cuts the Education Department’s Online Diagnostic Tools Programme – 13 May, 2014

240. Abolishes the Australian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Authority which was established to encourage organ donation – 13 May, 2014

239 Introduces annual reviews for veterans receiving military compensation payments due to illness or injury – 13 May, 2014

238. Terminates the Office of Water Science research programme – 13 May, 2014

237. Abolishes the Commonwealth Human Rights Education Grant – 13 May 2014

236. Abolishes funding to the Exotic Disease Preparedness Programme – 13 May 2014

235. Slashes funding from the Indigenous Health Budget – 13 May 2014

234. Cuts funding for Indigenous language support – 13 May 2014

233. Cuts funding to the Torres Strait Regional Authority – 13 May 2014

232. Abolishes the Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, the only elected representative body for Indigenous Australians – 13 May 2014

231. Breaks election promise and slashes funding to Landcare13 May 2014

230. Abolishes the National Rental Affordability Scheme – 13 May 2014

229. Cuts funding from the corporate regulator ASIC which oversees the financial sector – 13 May 2014

228. Axes the first home buyers savings scheme – 13 May 2014

227. Reduces funding to the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency – 13 May 2014

226. Abolishes the Improving Educational Outcomes Programme – 13 May 2014

225. Cuts funding to the Child Care Early Learning Projects and the Professional Support Program which assist childcare workers gain skills – 13 May 2014

224. Reduces funding to the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership – 13 May 2014

223. Cut the Research Training Scheme, with tertiary education providers to introduce student contributions for higher degrees – 13 May 2014

222. Ends the development of the Australian Baccalaureate – 13 May 2014

221. Cuts higher education reward funding – 13 May 2014

220. Cuts the Australian National University’s HC Coombs Policy Forum – 13 May 2014

219. Cuts Australian Research Council funding – 13 May 2014

218. Abolishes tax break for mature age workers and replaces it with a payment for employing people over 50 who have been on Newstart or the DSP for more than 6 months – 13 May 2014

217. Cuts an incentive program for graduates to take up work in regional locations of need – 13 May 2014

216. Axes the National Partnership Agreement on Certain Concessions for Pensioners and Seniors Card Holders which supports state and territory concessions for senior citizens including energy rebates. – 13 May 2014

215. Kills off four grant programmes including the the Australian Community Food Safety Campaign and Outreach Support Services for Criminalised Women – 13 May 2014

214. Cuts $2.3 million in contribution to the World Health Organisation – 13 May 2014

213. Abolishes the Australian Interactive Games Fund which helped support local video game developers – 13 May 2014

212. Breaks a promise not to cuts funding to health by dramatically cutting hospital funding – 13 May 2014

211. Cuts $240 million over four years to community programs that support poor, sick or disadvantaged people – 13 May 2014

210. Cuts $25million over 4 years or a quarter of the funding to Community Legal Centres who provide legal support to the poor and disadvantaged – 13 May 2014

209. Cuts the Women in Leadership program – 13 May 2014

208. Breaks a promise to have one million more solar roofs across Australia and at least 25 solar towns – 13 May 2014

207. Breaks a promise to spend $2.55 billion Emissions Reduction Fund by committing less than half this amount in the budget – 13 May 2014

206. Orders the spending of $11.7 million to plan the privatisation of: Defence Housing Australia, the Royal Australian Mint and the registry function of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission – 13 May 2014

205. Announces 3000 job loses at the Australian Tax Office – 13 May 2014

204. Freezes the Family Tax Benefit A at a set income level regardless of the number of children – 13 May 2014

203. Cuts the Family Tax Benefit B end-of-year supplement by 15% – 13 May 2014

202. Reduces funding for the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation – 13 May 2014

201. Reduces funding to the Australian Institute for Marine Science – 13 May 2014

200. Scraps a range of grant programs aimed at funding innovation and start-up businesses, including: Australian Industry Participation; Commercialisation Australia; Enterprise Solutions; Innovation Investment Fund; Industry Innovation Councils; Enterprise Connect; Industry Innovation Precincts; and Textile, Clothing and Footwear Small Business and Building Innovative Capability – 13 May 2014

199. Rips a further $111.4 million over four years out of the operating budget of the CSIRO – 13 May 2014

198. Ceases funding for National ICT Australia, which is a research centre for communications and information technology – 13 May 2014

197. Abolishes Medicare locals – 13 May 2014

196. Reduces payments to people under 35 with a disability who cannot find employment if they could work more than eight hours a week – 13 May 2014

195. Mandates religious education in schools by taking away the option for school to opt for a secular social worker instead – 13 May 2014

194. Abolishes the ABC’s disability communities website Ramp Up – 13 May 2014

193. Abolishes the Disability Discrimination Commissioner – 13 May 2014

192. Abolishes the Better Schools Centre for Quality Teaching and Learning – 13 May 2014

191. Dismantles the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and will establish a health productivity and performance commission – 13 May 2014

190. Abolishes the Seniors Supplement – 13 May 2014

189. Axes the tax break for people with dependent spouses – 13 May 2014

188. Axes the Diagnostic Imaging Quality Programme – 13 May 2014

187. Ceases the Dental Flexible Grants Program – 13 May 2014

186. Axes the Charles Sturt University’s dental and oral health clinics – 13 May 2014

185. Axes funding for the nursing and allied health scholarships in Tasmania – 13 May 2014

184. Defers 13 Partners in Recovery programs which help people with severe and persistent mental illness and complex support needs – 13 May 2014

183. Cuts funding to the National Anti-Tobacco Campaign – 13 May 2014

182. Cuts Australia’s Animal Welfare Strategy – 13 May 2014

181. Abolishes Health Workforce Australia and cuts the expansion of the Clinical Training Funding Program – 13 May 2014

180. Axes the National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health – 13 May 2014

179. Defers the National Partnership Agreement for adult public dental services until July 2015 – 13 May 2014

178. Reduces the Medicare benefit for optometry services and allows optometrists to charge more – 13 May 2014

177. Abolishes the GP Education and Training Limited and ceasing the Pre-vocational GP Placements Scheme – 13 May 2014

176. Axes industry and community clean energy programs include the Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund, the National Low Emission Coal Initiative, Energy Efficiency Programmes, the National Solar Schools Plan, Energy Efficiency Information Grants and Low Carbon Communities – 13 May 2014

175. Scraps The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) which was set up to support new and emerging renewable technologies and in doing so breaks an election promise – 13 May 2014

174. Scraps the Housing Help for Seniors scheme which provided assistance to older Australians – 13 May 2014

173. Pulls $2.5 billion from aged care, including $1.7 billion from home based support such as Meals on Wheels – 13 May 2014

172. Cuts the benefit for unemployed people under 25 by moving them onto the Youth Allowance – 13 May 2014

171. Kills off the Gonski school funding vision by cutting future funding by $30 billion – 13 May 2014

170. Reduces Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme safety nets – 13 May 2014

169. Breaks a promise to make no cuts to health with a $368 million cut from preventative health measures – 13 May 2014

168. Cuts the Family Tax Benefit A end-of-year supplement by 17% – 13 May 2014

167. Increases the fuel excise twice a year by indexing it to CPI – 13 May 2014

166. Forces students to repay their debt earlier by lowering the wage they need to earn before payments kick in – 13 May 2014

165. Increases debt for students by increasing the interest on their fees – 13 May 2014

164. Makes it harder for retirees to access the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card – 13 May 2014

163. Guts the Australia Council and Screen Australia by cutting $87 million for the Arts – 13 May 2014

162. Forces people under 30 to work for the dole if they want to receive any financial support after a waiting period of six months with no financial support – 13 May 2014

161. Imposes a six month wait for people under 30s to receive unemployment benefits13 May 2014

160. Cuts the Family Tax Benefit Part B – 13 May 2014

159. Cuts the old age pension by indexing it to CPI instead of wages – 13 May 2014

158. Increases the pension age to 70 from 2035 – 13 May 2014

157. Imposes a $5 increase on the cost of all medicines available under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (80c for concession card holders) – 13 May 2014

156. Cuts the ‘Tools for the Trade’ program which helped apprentices buy their tools, and replacing it with a loan scheme apprentices will have to repay – 13 May 2014

155. Caps the amount of money workers can recoup in entitlements if their employer becomes insolvent or bankrupt to 16 weeks – 13 May 2014

154. Breaks a promise to only cut the foreign aid budget by $4.5 billion and cuts it by $7.9 billion instead 13 May 2014

153. Axes funding to the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition, the national peak body for young people13 May 2014

152. Slashes Disability Support Pensions by indexing to inflation – 13 May 2014

151. Abolishes the highly successful Youth Connections program that supports young people who have not completed, or are at risk of not completing Year 12 or equivalent qualifications also costing hundreds of community sector jobs – 13 May 2014

150. Breaks a promise of “no new taxes” by introducing a fuel levy – 13 May 2014

149. Announces the sacking of 16,500 public sector workers as whole Departments are abolished despite promising only 12,000 job losses – 13 May 2014

148. Cuts $500 million from indigenous programs over five years – 13 May 2014

147. Breaks a promise of “no new taxes” by introducing a deficit tax rise of two percentage points for people earning more than $180,000 a year – 13 May 2014

146. Scrapping a net $1.2 billion in tuition subsidies for universities – 13 May 2014

145. Scraps the Australia Network, Australia’s international television service broadcast across our region that provides news and current affairs from an Australian perspective – 13 May 2014

144. Breaks promise of “no cuts to the ABC or SBS” by cutting $43.5 million from the ABC and SBS – 13 May 2014

143. Undermines Medicare by imposing a $7 fee increase for GP visits – 13 May 2014

142. Tears up Federal Government’s agreement with states and territories to help fund increasing health costs – 13 May 2014

141. Scraps caps on university fees, meaning universities will be able to charge whatever they like for degrees – 13 May 2014

140. Abolishes the COAG Reform Council — which provides information to Governments so they can track the performance of their programs – 13 May 2014

139. Sacks the National People with Disability and Carers Council — which pushed for and then helped build the NDIS – 13 May 2014

138. Releases the Commission of Audit report which recommends savage budget cuts that would negatively affect every Australian – 1 May 2014

137. Breaks a promise to introduce the paid parental leave scheme he took to the election – 30 April 2014

136. Spends $12.4 billion on new fighter jets whilst claiming a budget “emergency” and preparing to make big cuts to health and welfare – 23 April 2014

135. Abolishes the research and development tax incentives board – 11 April 2014

134. Begins dismantling GP Super clinics – 8 April 2014

133. Cuts 480 jobs from the Environment Department who are responsible for protecting places such as Kakadu, Antarctica and the Great Barrier Reef – 7 April 2014

132. Forbids public servants from making political comments online, even anonymously, and instructs them to report on colleagues who do – 6 April 2014

131. Establishes a secret, publicly funded “hit squad” to target political opponents led by the man who provided a “chaff bag” for Alan Jones to auction at a Young Liberal fundraiser – 1 April 2014

130. Imposes fees and charges on people who become bankrupt – 1 April 2014

129. Axes free legal assistance for asylum seekers – 31 March 2014

128. Defunds Ethical Clothing Australia that worked with industry to protect outworkers in the textile and clothing industry from exploitation and abandons the Governments ethical procurement guidelines – 30 March 2014

127. Opposes a UN resolution to conduct war crimes inquiry in Sri Lanka – 28 March 2014

126. Closes all Medicare offices on Saturdays – 26 March 2014

125. Brings back the awards of knights and dames which were abolished in 1986 – 25 March 2014

124. Cuts 400 jobs from the industry department – 25 March 2014

123. Ensures a human rights enquiry into the Manus Island detention centre is shut down and human rights lawyers are denied access to the centre – 23 March 2014

122. Abolishes one third of the jobs in Treasury costing approximately 300 jobs – 21 March 2014

121. Cuts welfare payments to orphans of soldiers – 16 March 2014

120. Moves to deny funding to artists or events that refuse corporate sponsorship for ethical reasons – 15 March 2014

119. Cuts hundreds of jobs at the CSIRO – 14 March 2014

118. Reopens 457 visa loophole to allow employers to hire an unlimited number of workers without scrutiny – 12 March 2014

117. Overturns a ban on cattle grazing in the Victorian Alpine National Park – 6 March 2014

116. Frustrated and defeated an attempt at the UN to highlight the humanitarian consequences of nuclear war – 5 March 2014

115. Axes funding earmarked to save the Sumatran rhinoceros from extinction – 28 February 2014

114. Introduces legislation to allow people aged between 17-24 years old to work for half the minimum wage and be exempted from all other work rights including health and safety laws and protections should they be injured at work – 26 February 2014

113. Misleads the Australian public about what occurred on Manus Island when asylum seekers were attacked killing one person and injuring seventy-seven. Once the information was known to be untrue, waited five days to correct the record – 25 February 2014

112. Contravenes 113 years of established practice by moving to release the previous Government’s confidential cabinet papers to the Royal Commission into the Pink Batts scheme – 22 February 2014

111. Scraps food grants program for small farmers – 21 February 2014

110. Pressured SPC Ardmona to cut the pay and conditions for workers in return for Government money – 20 February 2014

109. Blames carbon pricing for the close of Alcoa smelters and rolling mills and the loss of nearly 1000 jobs, despite the fact the company states it had no bearing on their decision – 19 February 2014

108. Breaches the privacy and puts in danger around 10, 000 asylum seekers and their families by releasing their personal details on the Department of Immigration website – 19 February 2014

107. Fails to ensure the safety of asylum seekers in our care on Manus Island who were subjected to a vicious attack, which left one person dead and seventy-seven seriously injured – 18 February 2014

106. Reverses the previous government’s decision to care for refugee children who are without an adult family member (ie unaccompanied minors) in the community and sends them to detention centres in Nauru – 17 February 2014

105. Removes poverty reduction from the goals of the foreign affairs budget –February 17, 2014

104. Appoints a climate change sceptic to head a review of our renewable energy target – 17 February 2014

103. Pays hundreds of indigenous workers in his Department up to $19 000 less than non-indigenous workers doing the same job and cuts the budget for the representative body the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples causing two-thirds of the staff to lose their jobs – 15 February 2014

102. Breaks a promise to provide fibre-to-the-premises for all Tasmanians for the National Broadband Network – 13 February 2014

101. Unemployment rate jumps to highest in more than 10 years – 13 February 2014

100. Lies to the Australian public about the reasons Toyota gave for their decision to close in order to blame the workers and their union – 12 February 2014

99. Takes down a website providing information to the Australian public on the ingredients and nutritional content of foods. It is later revealed that the person in the Minister’s office who gave this directive is married to a lobbyist from the junk food industry and was still a share holder in their lobbying company – 11 February 2014

98. Destroys the Australian car manufacturing industry by refusing to provide any industry assistance leading to the decision of Toyota to shut costing up to 30 000 jobs – 10 February 2014

97. Launches a Royal Commission into unions – 10 February 2014

96. Attempts to reintroduce temporary visas for asylum seekers found to be fleeing persecution preventing them ever settling in Australia and retrospectively applies them to 20 000 people. This is stopped in the Senate twice by the ALP and The Greens – 7 February 2014

95. Supports a reduction of penalty rates and other Award minimums in a submission to the Fair Work Commission’s review of all Awards – 4 February 2014

94. Lies to the Australian public about the wages and working conditions of factory workers at SPC Ardmona in Shepparton and uses this incorrect information to blame them for their job insecurity – 4 February 2014

93. Launches an “efficiency study” into ABC and the SBS – 30 January 2014

92. Cuts the wages of Australian troops deployed overseas by almost $20 000 per solider – 29 January 2014

91. Intervenes on the side of Toyota to support cutting Australian workers wages and conditions – 28 January 2014

90. Privatises the 104 year old Australian Valuation Office costing nearly 200 jobs – 24 January 2014

89. Seeks to wind back the World Heritage listing of Tasmania’s forests – 23 January 2014

88. Withdraws funding for an early intervention program to help vulnerable young people – 22 January 2014

87. Exempts Western Australia from national environment laws to facilitate shark culling – 21 January 2014

86. Defunds all international environmental programs, the International Labour Organisation and cuts funding to a range of international aid programs run by NGOs such as Save the Children, Oxfam, CARE Australia and Caritas – 18 January 2014

85. Violates Indonesia’s territorial sovereignty while turning back asylum seeker boats – 17 January 2014

84. Politicises the national school curriculum by appointing a former Liberal staffer and a Coalition supporter, both critics of the current curriculum to conduct a review – 10 January 2014.

83. Directs that people already found to be refugees who arrived by boat be given the lowest priority for family reunion – 8 January 2014

82. Fails to contradict or take any action against a member of his government, Senator Cory Bernardi, who makes divisive statements about: abortion, “non-traditional” families and their children, same sex couples, couples who use IVF and calls for parts of WorkChoices to be reintroduced – 6 January 2014

81. Scraps funding from the Jewish Holocaust Centre –January 3, 2014

80. Devastates Australia’s contribution to overseas aid by cutting $4.5 billion from the budget, causing vital programs supporting those in extreme poverty in our region to collapse – 1 January 2014

79. Drastically reduces tax breaks for small business and fails to publicise it – 1 January 2014

78. Appoints Tim Wilson, a Liberal Party member and Policy Director of a right-wing think tank to the position of Commissioner at the Human Rights Commission even though this think tank argued for the Commission to be abolished – 23 December 2013

77. Approves private health fund premium increases of an average 6.2% a year – 23 December 2013

76. Breaks his promise to provide the promised customs vessel to monitor whaling operations in the Southern Ocean – 23 December 2013

75. Requests the delisting of World Heritage status for Tasmanian forests – 21 December 2013

74. Cuts funding to the Energy Efficiency Opportunities Programme which makes it mandatory for large energy using businesses to improve their efficiency –17 December, 2013

73. Breaks a promise to make no cuts to health by cutting $150 million from hospital and health services – 17 December 2013.

72. Scraps the Home Energy Saver Scheme which helps struggling low income households cut their electricity bills – 17 December 2013

71. Defunds the Public Interest Advocacy Centre whose objectives are to work for a fair, just and democratic society by taking up legal cases public interest issues – 17 December 2013

70. Defunds the Environmental Defenders Office which is a network of community legal centres providing free advice on environmental law – 17 December 2013

69. Axes funding for animal welfare – 17 December 2013

68. Breaks his election promise of no cuts to education by cutting funding for trade training centres in schools – 17 December 2013

67. Abolishes the AusAID graduate program costing 38 jobs – 17 December 2013

66. Cuts Indigenous legal services by $13.4 million. This includes $3.5 million from front line domestic violence support services, defunding the National legal service and abolishing all policy and law reform positions across the country – 17 December 2013

65. Abolishes the position of co-ordinator-general for remote indigenous services – 17 December 2013

64. Breaks his promise to unequivocally support the NDIS by changing the name of NDIS “launch sites” to “trial sites” and flags cuts to funding – 17 December 2013

63. Abolishes the National Office for Live Music along with the live music ambassadors – 17 December 2013

62. Cuts $2.5 million from community radio – 17 December 2013

61. Weakens the ministerial code of conduct to let ministers keep shares in companies – 16 December 2013

60. Disbands the independent Immigration Health Advisory Group for asylum seekers – 16 December 2013

59. Dumps the National Occupational Licensing Scheme which was designed to increase productivity by making it easier for skilled workers to work interstate – 14 December 2013

58. Axes $4.5 million from charities and community groups for the Building Multicultural Communities Program – 13 December 2013

57. Starts dismantling Australia’s world leading marine protection system – 13 December 2013

56. Scraps the COAG Standing Council on Environment and Water – 13 December 2013

55. Breaks his NBN election promise of giving all Australians access to 25 megabits per second download speeds by 2016 – 12 December 2013

54. Overturns the “critically endangered” listing of the Murray Darling Basin – 11 December 2013

53. Dares Holden to leave Australia. Holden responds by announcing its closure which costs Australians tens of thousands of jobs – 11 December 2013

52. Approves Clive Palmer’s mega coal mine in the Galilee Basin which opponents say will severely damage Great Barrier Reef – 11 December 2013

51. Demands that the few childcare workers who got pay rises “hand them back” – 10 December 2013

50. Approves the largest coal port in the world in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area – 10 December 2013

49. Removes the community’s right to challenge decisions where the government has ignored expert advice on threatened species impacts – 9 December 2013

48. Downgrades national environment laws by giving approval powers to state premiers – 9 December 2013

47. Undermines Australia’s democracy by signing a free trade agreement with South Korea allowing corporations to sue the Australian Government – 6 December 2013

46. Damages our diplomatic relationship with our nearest neighbour East Timor – 5 December 2013

45. Repeals the pokie reform legislation which was designed to combat problem gambling – 4 December 2013

44. Suspends the Wage Connect program, despite it being proven to deliver good outcomes for unemployed people – 3 December 2013

43. Axes funding to the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia, forcing the 46 year old organisation to close. It is later revealed that a staffer in the Assistant Health Minister’s office had links to the Alcohol Industry – 27 November 2013

42. Breaks his promise to support Gonski and back flips three times – 25 November 2013

41. Shifts Australia’s position at the UN on Israeli settlements – 25 November 2013

40. Damages our diplomatic relationship with the Indonesian Government by refusing to apologise for tapping the phones of their President, his wife and senior Government officials – 23 November 2013

39. Converts crucial Start-Up Scholarships into loans, increasing the debt of 80,000 higher education students by $1.2 billion – 21 November 2013

38. Gifts two navy patrol boats to the Sri Lankan government to stop asylum seekers fleeing the Sri Lankan government – 17 November 2013

37. Introduces a Bill to impose on workers who are elected onto unpaid union committees huge financial penalties and jail terms for breeches of new compliance obligations – 14 November 2013

36. Condones torture by foreign governments by saying “sometimes in difficult circumstances, difficult things happen” – 14 November 2013

35. Hides information from the Parliament and the people about the government’s treatment of asylum seekers – 13 November 2013

34. Abandons Australia’s emission reduction targets – 12 November, 2013

33. Separates a refugee mother from her newborn baby – 10 November 2013

32. Cuts 600 jobs at the CSIRO – 8 November 2013

31. Abolishes Insurance Reform Advisory Group which provided a forum for industry and consumer bodies to discuss insurance industry reform – 8 November 2013

30. Abolishes the Maritime Workforce Development Forum which was an industry body working to build a sustainable skills base for the maritime industry – 8 November 2013

29. Abolishes the High Speed Rail Advisory Group whose job it was to advise Governments on the next steps on implementing high speed rail for eastern Australia – 8 November 2013

28. Abolishes the Advisory Panel on the Marketing in Australia of Infant Formula which for 21 years ensured companies comply with agreements on the advertising of infant formula – 8 November 2013

27. Abolishes the Antarctic Animal Ethics Committee who ensured research on animals in the Antarctic complies with Australian standards – 8 November 2013

26. Abolished the National Steering Committee on Corporate Wrongdoing that for 21 years worked to make sure the law was effectively enforced on corporate criminals – 8 November 2013

25. Abolishes the National Inter-country Adoption Advisory Council which provided expert advice on overseas adoption – 8 November 2013

24. Abolishes International Legal Services Advisory Council which was responsible for working to improve the international performance of Australia’s legal services – 8 November 2013

23. Abolishes the Commonwealth Firearms Advisory Council a group of experts in gun crime and firearms which was set up after the Port Arthur massacre – 8 November 2013

22. Abolishes Australian Animals Welfare Advisory Committee a diverse group of experts advising the Agriculture Minister on animal welfare issues – 8 November 2013

21. Abolishes the National Housing Supply Council which provided data and expert advice on housing demand, supply and affordability – 8 November 2013

20. Abolishes the Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing, established to help address the challenges the country faces as the number of older Australians grows – 8 November 2013

19. Refuses to offer support to manufacturing in Tasmania, despite requests and warnings. Caterpillar announces the move of 200 jobs from Burnie to Thailand, costing around 1000 local jobs – 5 November 2013

18. Provides $2.2 million legal aid for farmers and miners to fight native title claims – 1 November 2013

17. Abolishes the 40 year old AusAID costing hundreds of jobs – 1 November 2013

16. Launches a successful High Court challenge which strikes down the ACT Marriage Equality laws invalidating the marriages of many people and ensuring discrimination against same-sex couples continues – 23 October 2013

15. Denies there is a link between climate change and more severe bush fires and accuses a senior UN official was “talking through their hat” – 23 October 2013

14. Appoints the head of the Business Council of Australia to a “Commission of Audit” to recommend cuts to public spending – 22 October 2013

13. Cuts compensation to the victims of bushfires – 21 October 2013

12. Instructs public servants and detention centre staff to call asylum seekers “illegals” – 20 October 2013

11. Appoints Howard era Australian Building & Construction Commission (ABCC) Director to help reinstate the ABCC with all its previous oppressive powers over construction workers – 17 October 2013

10. Axes the Major Cities Unit a Government agency with 10 staff which provided expert advice on urban issues in our 18 biggest cities – 24 September 2013

9. Breaks his promise to “stop the boats” – 23 September 2013

8. Scraps the Social Inclusion Board, which had been established to guide policy on the reduction of poverty in Australia – 19 September 2013

7. Abolishes the Climate Commission – 19 September 2013

6. Appoints himself Minister for Women – 16 September 2013

5. Appoints only one woman into his cabinet and blames the women for his decision, saying he appoints “on merit”– 16 September 2013

4. Abolishes key ministerial positions of climate change and science – 16 September 2013

3. Breaks his promise to spend his first week with an Aboriginal community –14 September 2012

2. Takes away pay rises for childcare workers – 13 September 2013

1. Takes away pay rises from aged care workers – 13 September 2013

The Broken Promise Count

1. Does not spend his first week as Prime Minister with an Aboriginal community – 14 September 2013. This promise was made in front of indigenous elders and participants at the Garma Festival on 10 August 2013, this is a live recording.

2. Fails to “stop the boats” – 23 September 2013. This promise was repeated so many times I can’t count. Here’s Abbott’s 2013 campaign launch speech.

3. Breaks his promise to support Gonski – 25 November 2013 and 13 May 2014. Fails to commit to future funding or to require States to match the Commonwealth funding commitment. See paragraph two from Christopher Pyne on 29 August 2013

4. Breaks its NBN election promise of giving all Australians access to 25 megabits per second download speeds by 2016 – 12 December 2013 This was the Coalition’s policy they took to the election first announced 9 April 2013.

5. Changes name of NDIS “launch sites” to “trial sites” and flags cuts to funding – 17 December 2013. The unequivical promise to deliver the NDIS in full was made 20 August 2013 and is in the policies they took to the election

6. Breaks his election promise of no cuts to education by cutting funding for trade training centres in schools on 17 December 2013. He made this promise at the National Press Club on 2 September 2013 and in writing on 5 September 2013 as part of their policy commitments.

7. Breaks a promise to make no cuts to health. He made this promise at the National Press Club on 2 September 2013 and in writing on 5 September 2013 as part of their policy commitments. This promise was first broken on 27 November 2013 when they cut funding to the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council and again on 17 December 2013 when they cut $150 million from hospitals and health services.

8. Fails to provide the promised customs vessel to monitor whaling operations in the Southern Ocean – 23 December 2013 Promise made by Greg Hunt – 9 April 2013

9. Breaks a promise to provide fibre-to-the-premises for all Tasmanians for the National Broadband Network. This promise was confirmed my Malcolm Turnbull on 17 August 2013 and confirmed as broken by the NBN Co executive chairman Ziggy Switkowski on 13 February 2014.

10. Breaks a promise to introduce the paid parental leave scheme he took to the election on 30 April 2014 by reducing the promised benefit for those earning above $100 000.

11. Breaks promise of “no cuts to the ABC or SBS” by cutting $43.5 million from the ABC and SBS.

12. Breaks a promise of “no new taxes” by introducing a deficit tax rise of two percentage points for people earning more than $180,000 a year.

13. Announced to sacking of 16,500 public sector workers as whole Departments are abolished despite promising only 12,000 job losses and through natural attrition.

14. Breaks a promise of “no new taxes” by introducing a fuel levy.

15. Reduction in foreign aid budget of $7.9 billion over five years despite promise to not exceed $4.5 billion and cut via indexation.

16. Increases the pension age to 70 from 2035 after promising last month that changes to indexation and pension age would come in three years.

17. Cuts to old age pension by indexing to CPI, while it was promised there would be no changes.

18. Scraps The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) which was set up to support new and emerging renewable technologies and in doing so breaks an election promise.

19. Tears up Federal Government’s agreement with states and territories to help fund increasing health costs despite promise of no cuts to health.

20. Breaks a promise to make no cuts to health with a $368 million cut from preventative health measures.

21. Reduces the Medicare benefit for optometry services and allows optometrists to charge more, despite promise to not cut health budget.

22. Axes the Charles Sturt University’s dental and oral health clinics, despite promise to not cut health budget.

23. Abolishes Medicare locals, despite promise to not cut health budget.

24. Breaks a promise to spend $2.55 billion Emissions Reduction Fund by committing less than half this amount in the budget.

25. Breaks a promise to have one million more solar roofs across Australia and at least 25 solar towns.

26. Breaks a promise not to cuts funding to health by dramatically cutting hospital funding.

27. Breaks election promise and slashes funding to Landcare

28. Breaks promise that no public servants will be forced into redundancy after revelations that two public servants in the Department of Industry have been made involuntarily redundant since September.

(http://sallymcmanus.net/abbotts-wreckage/)


 .. and even after losing his job as PM, with no sign of recognition of his bad decisions and unpopular policies, Abbott pushes the same old demagoguery – not only in Australia – but now to the rest of the world

Tony Abbott tells European leaders to turn back asylum seekers or risk ‘catastrophic error’

Updated

Former prime minister Tony Abbott has used a speech in London to call on European leaders to close their borders to asylum seekers or risk imperilling their nations.

Mr Abbott delivered the second annual Margaret Thatcher Lecture at a banquet in London to an audience of Tory ministers and Conservative Party members.

He used the occasion to promote the Coalition’s hardline asylum seeker policies as a solution to Europe’s migrant crisis, which has seen hundreds of thousands of people, mainly from the Middle East, cross into the continent.

He urged regional leaders to act by “turning around boats [and] denying entry at the border for people with no right to come”.

“It will require some force, it will require massive logistics and expense; it will gnaw at our consciences,” Mr Abbott said.

“Yet it is the only way to prevent a tide of humanity surging through Europe and quite possibly changing it forever.”

He outlined his concern that “misguided altruism” was “…leading much of Europe into catastrophic error”.

“No country or continent can open its borders to all comers without fundamentally weakening itself,” he said.

He cautioned, “too much mercy for some necessarily undermines justice for all”.

Mr Abbott called for more to be done to counter the ideology behind extremist groups, such as Islamic State.

“It’s a pity that the recent UN Leaders’ week summit was solely about countering violent extremism … and not abound not about dealing much more effectively with the caliphate that’s now the most potent inspiration for it,” he said.

Mr Abbott acknowledged the lack of public appetite for escalating involvement in the Middle East, but he emphasised the need for military action.

“Leaving anywhere, even Syria, to the collective determination of Iran, Russia and Daesh [Islamic State] should be too horrible to contemplate,” he said.

Abbott’s views in hot demand: Turnbull

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull refused to be drawn into the debate about Mr Abbott’s comments.

“Tony has given a speech. I will leave others to run the commentary on it,” he said.

“He has obviously had a remarkable career in public life, including two years as prime minister. We owe him a great debt for that.

“His views are in hot demand everywhere in the world.”

However, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Europe’s asylum seeker crisis was complex.

“I am not sure Tony Abbott on a victory lap giving a Margaret Thatcher Lecture is exactly what Europe needs to solve its problems,” he said.

“I think the issues there are issues which the Europeans have to grapple with and simply saying Australia has all the answers is not the right way to go.”

Mr Abbott arrived at Guildhall in London with wife Margie by his side, after the pair spent time hiking in Scotland, including a visit to Hadrian’s Wall.

The lecture, to honour former UK Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher, was attended by several Tory ministers in David Cameron’s government and Conservative Party officials.

Some of Mr Abbott’s current and former staff members attended the function, but not his former chief of staff Peta Credlin.

Abbott’s comments ‘disappointing, simplistic’

Refugee Council of Australia president Phil Glendenning slammed Mr Abbott’s comments as “disappointing” and “simplistic”.

“In terms of what Mr Abbott’s proposing in Europe, it would be an utter catastrophe if people fleeing from persecution were told to go back there, were pushed back to sea where they would likely drown,” Mr Glendenning told ABC News Breakfast.

“I find it very disappointing that an Australian PM would say this.”

Mr Glendenning took aim at Mr Abbott’s claim he had stopped asylum seeker boats coming to Australia.

“It hasn’t actually stopped people taking to the sea in our region,” he said.

“The UN’s recently reported there are some 53,000 people trying to seek safety and security in our region.

“So the boats have sort of been deflected.

“They’ve passed the problem on to someone else.”

However, Mr Abbott received support from UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, who backed his stance as “heroic” and “absolutely right”.

“There is a very big difference between being a civilised country that recognises that there are genuine refugees from time to time and having a lunatic policy, that I’m afraid [German chancellor Angela Merkel] has pushed, saying ‘Please, world, come here, we’re pleased to have you’,” he told Radio National.


Malcolm Turnbull – Liberal Party of Australia, Federal Member for Wentworth
29th Prime Minister of Australia, 15 September 2o15

Turnbull fails debate, economics and science with dumb coal defence

Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t seem to understand the basic laws of the market — or the science of climate change, writes Dr Richard Denniss, chief economist at The Australia Institute.

Malcolm Turnbull either doesn’t understand how global commodity markets work or he is betting that most Australians don’t. Either way, the PM’s #coalisamazing moment yesterday was not a great way to start a new conversation about the reality of the Australian economy and the choices we face.

The Prime Minister dismissed calls for a global moratorium on new coal mines from the likes of Sir Nicholas Stern and former Reserve Bank boss Bernie Fraser by saying a moratorium was “not sensible from an economic point of view”. Let’s be clear, Nicholas Stern and Bernie Fraser are economists; the Prime Minister is not.

The Prime Minister was completely and utterly wrong when he argued that “if Australia were to stop all of its coal exports it would not reduce global emissions one iota. In fact, arguably it would increase them because our coal, by and large, is cleaner than the coal in many other countries.”

Echoing the lines of the Minerals Council of Australia and his Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg, Mr Turnbull also went on to argue that exporting coal was ‘an absolutely critical ingredient’ in alleviating hunger and world poverty.

The Prime Minister’s debating skills are widely renowned, but while clever arguments might win court cases they don’t solve real world problems like climate change. Sadly for those hoping that our public debate might have turned a corner under our new PM, if we break his arguments down we see that not only are they flawed, they aren’t even that clever.

First, there is a fundamental contradiction in the PM’s argument. On the one hand he argues that exporting more coal will help reduce “energy poverty”, and on the other he argues that our coal exports can do nothing to help or harm global emissions. Logic tells us that at least one of those arguments is complete bollocks, and empirical evidence suggests that both are. If the 2 billion tonnes of coal that will come from the 40 km long coal pits of the Adani/Carmichael mine are to provide electricity to those who currently have none, by definition, the extra coal will lead to an increase in emissions. So which is it? Will the enormous new coal mines help provide energy to the poor or will it displace the coal sold by other countries? It can’t do both.

Second, economics 101 tells us that when you increase the supply of something it pushes the price of that something down. Doubling our iron ore production pushed the price of iron ore down. More houses up for auction pushes real estate prices down and, of course, the taxi industry is always trying to prevent new entrants (an increase in supply) precisely because cabbies know that an increase in supply will lead to a reduction in price.

World demand for coal is flatlining at the moment, which means that every new mine that opens pushes the price of coal down. But you don’t have to take my word for it — the global head of Glencore, the world’s largest coal trader, has repeatedly called for coal mining companies to cut supply in order to stop prices falling further.

Then there is the claim that burning Australian coal somehow reduces greenhouse gas emissions because it’s “cleaner”. It isn’t — not the coal from new proposed mines, anyway. As any resource economist will tell you, you dig up the high-quality, easy-to-get stuff first. That’s why we’ve had coal mines in the Hunter for a century, digging up “Newcastle Benchmark” coal. The huge new coal proposals, like Adani’s Carmichael mine, will produce coal that has energy content far below this benchmark. So while Australia has some high-quality coal in general, that is not what the new mines would be producing.

Clean coal” in general has been trotted out, in desperation, over the years — always with iron-clad promises that a breakthrough was just around the corner (the head of the Australian Coal Association back in 2009 assured us that we’d have carbon capture in 2015). We’re still waiting.

Struggling debaters often lurch for a “call to authority”. Unfortunately for Turnbull, he clutched for the International Energy Agency to back up his belief that the world will need to burn a lot more coal while it is tackling climate change. Leaving aside the fact that the IEA projections for coal consumption have been spectacularly wrong in the past five years, not even the IEA calls its guesses “forecasts” about world demand for coal in coming decades. Rather, the IEA makes ‘scenarios’ based on a wide range of assumptions.

For all of Malcolm Turnbull’s talk about the need to tackle climate change, his desire to build enormous new coal mines can be seen as his bet that other countries will not make significant cuts to coal consumption in the coming decades. There is simply no plausible scenario in which Australia succeeds in doubling its coal exports and the world succeeds in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The simple fact is that a world that is rapidly tackling climate change us a world that will need less coal mines, not more. Our prime minister’s ‘faith’ in coal’s future speaks volumes about what kind of world he is actually planning for.

The Prime Minister’s penultimate debating trick is the false dichotomy, otherwise known as the cheap shot. In suggesting that those who want to double Australia’s coal exports are motivated by helping the world’s poor, he is suggesting that those who oppose the expansion of coal exports do not care about the world’s poor. I think that a government that drastically cut our aid budget lecturing those who are concerned with climate change about the “moral obligation” to help the poor is obscene.

Scientists estimate that the particulate air pollution caused by burning coal kills 460,000 people per year, most of them in low-income countries. Scientists tell us that the impacts of climate change will be most severe in those same countries. The professors of health and the Nobel Prize-winning scientist among the 61 people calling for the moratorium on coal certainly don’t think exporting climate change and coal dust is a good way to help the poor.

Malcolm Turnbull is a good debater, and in a democracy words and arguments matter. But sophistry cannot conceal the simple mathematics of climate change. We need to burn less fossil fuels, and no rhetoric can conceal the simple economics that you don’t need more mines to make less coal.

It is a pity that the announcement of our new chief scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, was accompanied by such an impressive destruction of the role of science in our democracy by a man widely regarded as one of the best debaters of his time. Even more so when you realise the debating points weren’t even that good.


October 2015

On Climate Change, Malcolm Turnbull Is Singing From Tony Abbott’s Hymn Book

(https://newmatilda.com/2015/10/27/on-climate-change-malcolm-turnbull-is-singing-from-tony-abbotts-hymn-book/)

The Liberal Party is said to be a broad church. But even under Turnbull it’s not broad enough to come up with an effective response to climate change, writes Thom Mitchell.

Note to readers: we’re trying to send reporter Thom Mitchell to the Paris Climate Talks. To help us, pledge here.

Negotiating teams are returning from UN talks on climate change in Bonn, Germanythis week. It was the last international meeting of governments before a crucial summit in Paris this December where, not to put too fine a point on it, the world will try to nut out a way to stave off ecological disaster.

Scientists say we’re now in the second half of the ‘critical decade’ for stabilising the Earth’s weather systems — the window of time within which we can still take action to avert ‘dangerous’ climate change.

But what 195 governments have accepted as ‘dangerous’ — emissions that would lead to a more than two degree rise in average global temperatures — is a potentially dangerous political construct in itself.

What ‘dangerous’ really means, in scientific terms, looks increasingly like a sanctioned disaster favoured by rich countries in particular. If temperatures rise by two degrees above pre-industrial levels, it’s likely that the world as we know it would be totally and unequivocally in the bin.

To reclaim a mantle disparagingly bestowed on climate scientists by conservative commentators like Andrew Bolt, the trend in the science is forcefully towards more ‘alarming’ forecasts.

In fact, a large group of countries involved in the UN process around climate change, but with less economic and diplomatic power, are actually pleading for an international target of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees. Literally, they’re pleading.

Passions run very high at these high-level talks, as you might expect when some leaders — like President Anote Tong, of Kiribus — are literally organising for the mass evacuation of their low-lying archipelagos. In the case of the many African countries that support a 1.5 degree target, the more likely affect of a 2 degree rise in temperatures is extreme food shortages and widespread hunger.

Recently, just before former Prime Minister Tony Abbott was deposed, the nations of the Pacific Islands Forum repeated their demand that a 1.5 degree target be adopted by the global community in Port Moresby. The day after attending the talks, the Australian Prime Minister’s response was — again, literally — a belly-chuckle.

More than one world leader called that out for being pretty disgusting, and incredibly callous.

The then Prime Minister and Social Services Minister — Tony Abbott, and Scott Morrison — and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, shared a joke at a press conference. Dutton cracked it, “Time doesn’t mean anything when you’re about to be, you know, have water lapping at your door”.

Abbott, in particular, thought it was a hoot.

Tony-Abbott-laughs-climate-change

One day after oozing platitudes to the elected leaders of neighbouring Pacific countries, Abbott’s worst kept secret, that he really doesn’t give a damn about the mismatch between what coping will cost and the capacity of their economies to pay, was uncomfortably exposed.

It was a clear sign of how little the Australian government understands or cares about, the gravity of the fact we’re physically destroying the atmospheric conditions that allow us to breath, and how quickly we’re doing that.

But it was also a symptom of a deep discord that has so far outmatched the climate change ‘alarmists’ efforts to reign in global emissions: the people who currently run Australia hate regulation, and they love wealth and the wealthy. They make no bones about that.

For want of a better word, they are neoliberals. Admittedly, the Abbott government did bring a new radicalism and nastiness to attempts to drive wealth upwards into the deserving arms of to ‘the wealth creators’ (who happen, quite often, to have serious self-interest in the continuing combustion of fossil fuels).

Climate change, of course, was no exception. The rate of remission in Australia’s efforts to clean up its economy over the past few years is legendary amongst the people who watch these things closely. No doubt it will have spooked some of them, at Bonn, that Australian bureaucrats will have continued arguing for the Abbott-era policy on climate change.

They have been arguing for a policy that would see Australia reduce its emission at an annualised rate of -1.6 per year. As the Climate Institute has shown, that’s about 35 per cent below what comparable nations have agreed to do.

In 2012, the world’s best-known climate scientist and former head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, James Hanson said that if we’d started in 2013 a rate of emissions reduction of six per cent a year would be needed “to restore planetary energy balance and stabilise [the]climate this century”.

“If we wait 10 years, it is 15 per cent per year — extremely difficult and expensive, perhaps impossible. But we aren’t even starting,” he said. Clearly, Australia’s efforts are an expensive insult to such experts’ intelligence.

We used to be seen as a world leader in legislating to effectively to disincentivise carbon emissions, and while we will all have our views on that, of course, the grim reality is we are now perplexing the world by handing money over to polluters and asking them politely not to pollute.

Through a series of ‘reverse auctions’, in which a very small number of companies bid for taxpayer funding to mitigate their carbon emissions, the government will hand out $2.5 billion to big polluters by 2020, and much, much more beyond that. There’s little evidence that this expensive plan — which in contrast to a carbon tax or emissions trading scheme is a drag on revenue, rather than a source of it — will achieve even the trifling cuts our government has committed us to.

For a party with a cultish fervour for the free market, a school that typically hates imposing such inefficiencies on the economy, it’s a bloody weird proposition. Although it’s hard to know for sure it’s most likely reflective of the Liberal Party’s wilful blindness to a problem that threatens their worldview.

Uncomfortably for Australia’s conservative clique, the degradation of our climate and broader environment is systematic, and accelerating, and it demands a systematic response. Of course, that means government intervention. Fossil fuels are the engine of developed economies, which sprang largely from the industrial revolution. We’ve now had 20-odd years to upgrade its exhaust pipe.

During that same time, greenhouse gas emissions have risen by around 60 per cent.

As Canadian writer and activist Naomi Klein and many others have noted, around the same time awareness of climate change began to grow with global emissions, folks like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were busy instituting the global rise of neoliberalism.

Naomi Klein. Image: Thom Mitchell.
Naomi Klein. Image: Thom Mitchell.

The Liberal party’s most recent delivery of the neoliberal crypt — deregulation of university fees, free trade agreements, and the deep cuts to social services, for example —was particularly aggressive.

But while the Liberal party may be a ‘broad church’, and one which unfortunately shares a bell tower with Labor, it does have one golden rule of admission: members must love free market fundamentalism, freedom for the wealthy, and they must have an aversion to regulation and government intervention in the economy.

The latest Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull is simply the new priest at that unholy alter.

He has already self-sacrificed on it once, and he’s made it clear he won’t be doing that again. As a result, Australian diplomats are still arguing for belly-chuckle-Abbott’s disingenuous response, and eating into the second half of our last decade to take real and impactful action on climate change.

Vested with shared responsibility for nothing less than saving the planet, the Australian government’s response to desperate pleas for legitimate action was a cackle of indifference, and a refusal to intervene and stop approving new coal mines, let alone increase the ambitiousness of the globally agreed warming safeguard.

But in many ways, ultimate responsibility for that falls largely on the voting public, who indulged and even encouraged Tony Abbott’s toxic interventions in Federal politics. The widespread support for Abbott’s carbon tax scare campaign, in the absence of a meaningful replacement, directly led to Australia being the only nation on earth to repeal a price on carbon.

It was a very popular policy, and one that was largely predicated on Abbott’s belief that climate change is “crap”. When Abbott first unleashed that job-destroying, economy-wrecking, power-bill-hiking spectre, it really wasn’t difficult to envisage his other attacks.

His very public lynching of the renewable energy industry, which led to an 88 per cent drop in investment, and Australia sliding from being the fourth most popular place to invest in clean energy to the tenth, hardly came as a surprise.

In the lead up to Paris, there will be global mass marches calling for a sufficiently solid deal. Last year New York saw 310,000 people turn out in support of greater action at an international day of action, in an oft-cited example of the growing understanding and urgency among populations elsewhere.

As Australian politics have tracked steadily to the neoliberal right throughout the ‘critical decade’, we have all as voters been implicated in our increasingly villainous contribution to the climate crisis.

As Naomi Klein has noted, even those of us that are deeply alarmed by climate change are involved in ignoring it. “I denied climate change for longer than I care to admit,” she writes.

“I knew it was happening, sure. Not like Donald Trump and the Tea Partiers going on about how the continued existence of winter proves it’s all a hoax. But I stayed pretty hazy on the details and only skimmed most of the news stories, especially the really scary ones. I told myself the science was too complicated and that the environmentalists were dealing with it. And I continued to behave as if there was nothing wrong with the shiny card in my wallet attesting to my “elite” frequent flyer status.

“A great many of us engage in this kind of climate change denial. We look for a split second and then we look away. Or we look but then turn it into a joke (‘more signs of the Apocalypse!’). Which is another way of looking away.”

The support for demonstrations demanding a global compact, and anything else that makes climate action politically palatable in a way that’ll allow Turnbull to take action without losing his leadership of the Liberal party againwill be an interesting test of whether the Australian people are also laughing nervously as the thermostats climb.

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