After close to two years of doing next to nothing (other than not being Campbell Newman), the Palaszczuk government has been busy appearing to have a plan for the state, and more specifically a plan for north Queensland. The core of this plan has been to pretend that the Carmichael mine is: important, feasible, and a jobs bonanza.
It is none of these things, and no matter how much bluster is generated by the Townsville Bulletin or the state government... the mine remains dead in the water.
There are a number of good reasons (which aren't changed by giving the mine lip service) why the Adani project is unfeasible and won't actually generate any jobs.
India is stockpiling Coal
In India - Domestic demand for coal is weak and demand for power is down
India can't burn the coal it currently has because of a drought and the shortage of water
India will be producing all the coal it needs long before the first piece of coal could be dug up from the Carmichael mine.
Indian demand for renewables is growing and thermal power is being scaled back
The proposed Carmichael mine will be digging up thermal coal and the current blip in thermal coal prices is highly unlikely to be sustained
Banks won't finance Adani. Doing a search on the histroy of the sources from which Adani have sought finance (and those who have ruled it out) covers so many nations. Europe, Australia, Asia, the US. Even the State Bank of India has cold feet.
While the unwavering support of the Townsville Bulletin must be of some comfort to Adani, and the recent words uttered by the state minister for Mines are likely also encouraging... they are just words. There remains no compelling reason for proceeding with the mine.
The only chance this mine has of getting up is if large amounts of this projects infrastructure are funded by the tax-payer... and the Palaszczuk government has already promised not to do that.
Without a major political promise being broken (an act of political suicide), the plans for the Carmichael mine have no hope of being realised.
It's important we keep reminding people of the facts, but politicians in particular. Write to your local representative (state or federal), your state senators, or even your local paper and remind them of both the facts and your sentiments surrounding the Carmichael mine.
by Mark Enders
Donations to politicians and political parties still seem to be on the radar, and that’s a good thing. The truth is that donations do affect the political process, they do damage our democracy and they do sway policy and political decisions.
What's the evidence for this... let’s start by looking at the international experience – recently released court documents from an investigation into Wisconsin governor Scott Walker don’t just reveal the indiscretions of one person, they reveal how widespread the influence of corporate cash is… on politicians, lobbyists and judges.
There is the incredibly complex story of political corruption in Nauru as revealed recently on 7.30 – and the dance that continues between senior members of government, money being provided an Australian company and the Australian government’s complex relationship with the nation as a result of our asylum seeker policy. The democratic fallout affects the citizens of both Nauru and Australia and the root cause of this problem is money and a lack of transparency.
It would be naïve to believe that these issues are isolated ones.
We only need look at our own political history for signs of problems. Donations disclosures are available online.
In 2014-15 (a non-election year when they were not in government) the ALP received $153, 000 in donations from a combination of Clubs NSW, the Australian Hotels Association, and Woolworths (the nation’s biggest owners of poker machines).
In 2011 (an election year when the ALP was in government) the same group donated $156,600 while simultaneously launching a multi-million dollar ad campaign focusing on marginal seats held by Labor.
At the same time the Liberal party received (from the same donors) – in 2011 - $121,000 and in 2014-15 no reported donations. It would be fair to say that the Abbott opposition was already opposing proposed changes vigorously before the clubs and hotels joined the debate because it saw relative political advantage.
Over the same periods The Greens received no donations from any of these groups.
Currently, The Greens are one of the few parties with a prominent pokies harm reduction policy while neither of the major parties are currently showing any interest in addressing the issue.
In 2011 there was a lot of heat on pubs and clubs in relation to poker machine regulation. In 2016 there is none despite ongoing issues with gambling addiction and ongoing community concerns about the pervasiveness of poker machines. Did money and a massive political scare campaign buy a political outcome that suited donors who have a lot of skin in the poker machines game? It would appear so. This is significant because perceptions are as important as reality when we are discussing public confidence in the political process.
These concerns are a likely factor in the declining confidence in democracy in Australia.
Foreign donations add another layer of concern and complexity (as seen in the case of Nauru), so concerns surrounding state owned enterprises in China are both understandable and completely valid.
Ideally we want to see a more level playing field that gives parties, policies and ideas an equal chance of being heard. We don’t want to see voices drowned out by big money advertising campaigns, and we don’t want to amplify individuals or interest groups based solely on their financial resources rather than the quality of their argument.
And that is what we are currently getting.
A more appropriate arrangement would cap donations and election campaign expenditure, ban foreign donations, improve transparency and disclosure, as well as provide a more level playing field through more equitable public funding.
How that might look in practice would be a great basis for the debate we are not currently having in this area.
by Mark Enders
The first thing that needs to be said about vaccinations is that there is absolutely no link between childhood vaccinations and Autism. Numerous studies have confirmed this. And while vaccines do have an adverse effect on some people, the vaccination process is closely controlled and monitored to ensure very high levels of safety for recipients.
It is also worth noting that not vaccinating actually carries a higher level of risk for children. The decision not to vaccinate is not entirely a personal one - unvaccinated children put all those they come into contact with at greater risk. That is the reason behind the government's policy of 'no jab - no pay' for welfare recipients.
The government has hailed their program a success. The problem is that the children of lower income earners and those dependent on government payments are not the most important target group.
Some of the wealthiest suburbs are at high risk due to dangerously low vaccination rates. There are numerous explanations for this (none of which relate to vaccine safety), but what is clear is that families living in areas such as Mossman and Manly are unlikely to be influenced or affected by a 'no jab no pay' policy.
The other areas with dangerously low levels of vaccination are among indigenous people and among select indigenous communities (especially in NT). There is no evidence that these groups are avoiding vaccination based on personal choice or fear of side effects. and the government's own website suggests:
These disparities point to the importance of identification of Indigenous status, particularly in mainstream health services, and particularly in urban areas. The use of patient information systems to record Indigenous status and schedule preventive health services has the potential to increase opportunistic vaccination and enable the provision of patient reminders, with resultant improvements in coverage and timeliness. Culturally appropriate service delivery and communication strategies, as well as use of Indigenous-specific Medicare items, will also assist in improving access to health services for Indigenous Australians.
No mention of 'no jab no pay' so clearly these measures are not intended to close the gap.
Peter Mares from the Swinburne Institute for Social Research suggests that there is another large group that the government isn't targeting and is in effect withholding support from.
Vaccination rates are low is among the 800,000 temporary residents in Australia, people the government has allowed and even encouraged to enter. Public health staff have been instructed not to give free vaccinations to the babies of workers on 457 visas, international students and other temporary visa holders. Instead they have been instructed to seek out a GP and pay for the vaccinations themselves. By asking people from a group that largely has very limited financial resources to pay for immunisation is a formula for low vaccination rates.
Based on the way the government is treating the above higher risk groups, it does make you wonder whether the government is really interested in driving up immunisation rates, or whether immunisation is being used as an excuse for using another tool (no jab no pay) to hit the poor and those depending on financial support from the government. It seems plausible that this government wouldn't be overly disappointed with less than 100% take up as this would be an opportunity to both make savings in the budget and to level blame at those in need for their increased financial hardship.
Because based on the evidence, and based on what strategies are most likely to target key at risk groups, the government isn't being effective and isn't following its own advice. Either they are incompetent or they have a different agenda.
by Mark Enders
There is no denying that money buys power and influence. That has always been the case.
Money can keep illegitimate governments in power – it propped up Saddam Hussein’s regime, including Australian money that came from AWB. At the time the Howard government sent us to war in Iraq while at the same time turning a blind eye to allowing the regime they were fighting to be funded by an Australian country. This period has been thrown into further controversy recently with the release of the findings of the Chilcot inquiry - a report which made adverse findings against the Howard government, and which brought a robust defense from Howard himself. Interestingly, we have still not had an inquiry in Australia into what took us to war.
As they say in government - only hold an inquiry if you already know the outcome and you are sure it won't hurt you.
The Pacific Solution came about because Australia was able (and is still able) to bribe nations like Nauru to deal with a political problem such as refugees. But the damage to democracy extends beyond our shores. Nauru was essentially a failed state when the Howard government started pouring millions of Australian dollars into their economy to help run his Pacific solution.
Outside the moral issues of outsourcing our international responsibilities, this created a different issue. It made Nauru less dependent on foreign aid, which might at first blush seem to be a positive. But what this has done is to make them less accountable... as with foreign aid comes the need for levels of transparency. As Tess Newton Cain has highlighted - the removal of independent office holders (like the commissioner of police and the resident magistrate) has coincided with the new-found financial independence. As Tess states:
...with hindsight, it appears that the ‘Pacific Solution’ has contributed to a ‘perfect storm’ with the government having increased funds available at a time when those in power are actively seeking to throw off the perceived shackles of good governance.
Murdoch’s money and the media empire he built with it gives him a voice and influence well beyond what he would otherwise have. Gina Reinhart’s ideas were heard not because they are insightful, but because she was the richest woman in Australia. Clive Palmer built a profile, a voice and eventually a short career in parliament based on the money he spent in 2013. And for a brief time he had a powerful voting block in the Senate which was hugely influential.
The North Sydney Forum raised a lot of money for Joe Hockey’s political aspirations by selling access if not influence when he was Australia’s treasurer. It opened up many questions which were never sufficiently answered, as well as exposing connections to the corrupt Australian Water Holdings and people like Nick Di Girolamo (who gave Barry O'Farrell the $3000 bottle of Grange Hermitage that ended O'Farrell's political career) and Senator Arthur Sinodinos (whose selective memory seems to have saved his political career)
Political fundraisers for both major parties involve attendees paying ridiculous sums of money per ‘plate’. And while I’m sure the food is good, there is no doubt that what is being paid for is access and potential influence
It also seems that recent governments and their policy settings have been heavily influenced by money - either through donations or through money spent campaigning against them.
Back in the mining super-profits tax days, a large amount of spending from foreign owned mining interests was able to change government policy through the influence it was able to exert through advertising.
But very recently money has potentially decided who formed government. It is reported that quite late in the campaign at a time when a Liberal insider said 'The Party is broke. There is no money' Malcolm Turnbull donated $1M effectively trying to get himself re-elected as PM.
Government representatives are bemoaning policy setting on Superannuation and the impact it had on both the election result and donations. In the wake of the election result Eric Abetz has called for changes to the government's policy on Superannuation as he believes this was the message the election result sent. Abetz's comments were reported on the saveoursuper.org.au website. Clearly not an independent news site.
What the website didn't report was that there was actually no evidence for this claim.
The Australian quotes Senator Ian McDonald as saying (about the Superannuation policy taken to the election):
It also severely impacted our fundraising because most of those affected and even those who weren’t affected but were concerned that they might have been were traditionally our supporters and very often our very good donors.
McDonald is linking policy settings to donations, and while he isn't overtly calling for policy changes to ensure donations keep flowing, you do wonder why he makes the point.
The recent changes made by the Queensland government to ensure political donations are revealed in real time are a welcome change and are one step towards handing democracy back to everyone, not just the rick and the well-connected.
There isn't a democracy on the planet which suffers from too much transparency, and we should be calling for more of it. The Greens are one of the few political parties which are calling for a Federal ICAC and the banning of political donations.
They are next steps we need to take to shore up our democracy and wrest back some power from the wealthy and the well-connected.
by Mark Enders
While the biggest story around the world is tax havens run by a Panamanian law firm, our major parties are silent on changing the status quo.
Less than 12 months ago Joe Hockey was famously saying: the rich pay too much tax, and poor people don't pay much fuel excise. And Hockey himself felt his greatest contributions were his preference for lifters over leaners, and ending the age of entitlement.
Hockey was wrong time and time again, and when he was pointing the finger at who he thought the leaners were... he was clearly pointing at the wrong end of town.
Our current treasurer is focused on spending cuts because we must live within our means and we can't afford a strong social safety net, the best health care for all Australians, a decent education which targets resources to the neediest, and we certainly can't afford real action on climate change.
Labor's Andrew Leigh is someone whose writing and research I have admired for some time. Not so long ago he was deeply concerned about the growing gap between the rich and poor, publishing Battlers and Billionaires. He put forward a compelling argument for more effective wealth distribution. But now he is willing to do little more than “carefully consider proposals for making information regarding all companies available on a public register”
But responses to the most wealthy avoiding their share of the tax burden are bad all over. David Cameron had suggested that he was serious about multi-nationals' tax avoidance, and then he revealed he profited from dodging tax himself.
The Chinese are censoring information that relates to their families' tax dodging activities.
Iceland's Prime Minister was forced to step down over his activities.
Our biggest companies are doing it. BHP-Billiton - as revealed by 4 Corners loans money to itself from an off shore shell company. The interest payments it makes to itself are tax deductable, the interest the shell company receives disappear into a tax haven.
News Corp received a $882M tax refund in 2014 by shuffling papers.
The scale of the problem is alarming, not just for Australia but for the planet. The ABC reveals that Tax havens account for 50% of all world trade.
According to the data gathered by Andrew Leigh, the rich spend their money on: sports cars, private air transport, bottles of Penfolds Grange Hermitage, first class airfares or perhaps Virgin Galactic Space flights, private treatments, private resorts, memberships at exclusive private clubs... all while keeping their tax affairs exceedingly private.
What makes this kind of behaviour completely abhorrent is that these taxes foregone by governments means less can be spent on: alleviating poverty, addressing the fallout from natural disasters (which are becoming more frequent), real action on climate change, fast tracking innovation and our transition to the new economy and a clean energy future, building infrastructure like public transport (which is a great social equaliser), adequately funding schools and universities, and better health outcomes all over our planet.
And this growing inequality is driving conflict, which in turn drives refugees, which we respond to by attacking the victims in all this.
And although all this activity is mostly legal (but shouldn't be), the somewhat ironic thing is that the same loopholes the very wealthy are using (legally) to hide their wealth are being used by criminals to hide their ill-gotten gains. It has to stop... we can't afford it.
So what to do?
Get angry. Stay angry. And let the decision makers know that rather than there being no other option than to cut services (or increase debt)... there is no other option than ensuring EVERYONE pays their fair share of taxes.
It's time to turn the world's leaners back into lifters again.
by Mark Enders
About a month ago a 10 year old Indigenous girl in the Kimberly took her own life. A sad event on so many levels... that a 10 year old saw no future, another death in a remote community where suicide is the most common cause of death for young people, and yet more evidence of indigenous disenfranchisement.
The story hit the news, lasted slightly more than 24 hours, and then essentially disappeared. You might think this is a function of the pace at which news travels and is reported. But last year when Indigenous footballer Adam Goodes was booed whenever he touched the ball, the story continued for three months. Targeting an athlete because of their colour, race, or even their religion is wrong and innately unfair, but sport is easier and safer to talk about and it pales in comparison to a 10 year old suiciding... or the unreported events which have led to children as young as 9 taking their own lives.
The question is why we won't discuss it publicly
I was heartened to see that The Saturday Paper took on the story and dug deeper. They revealed that Howard-era policies like the intervention, welfare spending restrictions, and linking welfare payments to school attendance were not working. They were a one size fits all approach which need to be better targeted - there needs to be engagement so that things are done WITH those in need, not done TO them.
While the emergency of Howard's imminent election defeat spawned the intervention, the emergency of young kids continuing to take their own lives has instilled.... mostly silence.
Experts and those who are engaged with these at risk and needy people say that more money is needed (as opposed to the cuts Abbott drove as 'Indigenous Prime Minister'), programs need to be longer term, they need to occur with a greater level of consultation with the recipients, and they need to multi-factorial... addressing employment, support around domestic violence, managing tobacco and alcohol consumption (and reducing the level of foetal alcohol syndrome), policies to reduce the level of indigenous incarceration.
It's a great article... you'll find it here
There is no quick fix. Sadly many more children will suicide. But the less talk about it and the slower we are to act... the more that will suffer, the more that will die, and the more people that will live an impoverished life in one of the world's richest nations.
It is our national shame... but we need to own it and we need to do something about it.
In the same edition of The Saturday Paper there is another related story. While Uluru was handed back to the traditional owners 30 years ago, and it is the express wish of those owners that people don't climb the rock... it's still happening.
Ongoing disrespect for sacred aboriginal sites and the practices and beliefs of aboriginal people is another blow to their cultural wellness, of which there have been many repeated blows for over two hundred years.
Suicide is a health problem... mental and cultural ill-health are key contributing factors. Fully handing control of the rock back to its traditional owners is one small but necessary step towards greater cultural wellness and ultimately towards reducing youth suicides.
We all need to be vocal advocates for avoiding these deaths by a thousand cuts.These problems can be fixed - one cooperative and consultative step at a time.
by Mark Enders
Sometimes a series of events don't really require any commentary... all you need to do is to draw the key events together so that their meaning becomes clearer than if the events are looked at in isolation.
The Safe Schools debate (if you can call it that) has been very emotive so perhaps the best place to start is with some very funny commentary on the changes to the program as agreed to by Simon Birmingham and Malcolm Turnbull .
It is worth examining the events that shaped the Coalition's attitude to the Safe Schools program and the irresistible drive for seemingly urgent and significant change.Those events are outlined below in what approximates the order in which they occurred.
In November last year the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) slammed the Safe Schools Program.
In early February Cory Bernardi labels the program a 'gay manual' and calls its supporters 'hetero-phobic'
On the 10th of February the ACL continues its attacks on the program.
In mid February, Family First Senator Bob Day echoes Bernardi's calls for defunding of the program, calling it 'Gay Lifestyle promotion' rather than an anti-bullying program.
In late February George Christiansen likens the program to Paedophilic grooming.
Turnbull orders a review of the program after concerted right wing pressure.
On February 29th Lyle Shelton, managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby, appears on ABC's Q&A further pressing the case to shut down the Safe Schools Program
Turnbull faces another backbench revolt, this time over the results of the review he had authorised into the program. George Christiansen hands Turnbull a petition signed by more than half of the government's backbenchers asking that the program be suspended until a full parliamentary inquiry in conducted.
Tony Abbott is a signatory to Christiansen's petition despite having launched it.
Turnbull defends letting the debate on Safe Schools run so long and acts as an apologist for some very unsavoury remarks by attacking the opposition for their criticisms of the tone of the debate.
The government makes significant changes to the Safe Schools program which please far right conservative George Christensen who welcomes the 'gutting' of the program.
Protests against the changes are currently being organised.
70,000 signatures are collected by Senator Simms from The Greens in support of the Safe Schools program. Cory Bernardi's petition to defund the program collected only 9500 signatures.
Writer Daniel Swain sums up the actions of Christensen and Bernardi beautifully in this article and opens the article powerfully with:
The Safe Schools debate in Parliament takes us back to the playground. Cory Bernardi, George Christensen and their supporters claim to be motivated by belief in traditional gender roles and family choice.
Cory Bernardi underlines the point being made by Daniel Swain with an aggressive and dismissive email to a concerned parent.
You can make you own mind up about the reasons behind Malcolm Turnbull's decisions and actions, and who the key influencers were... the ACL, government back benchers, particular Senators or MPs. You can also make up your own mind as to whether Bernardi and Christiansen (as apparent intolerant bullies) would benefit from participating in the program.
At the end of the day it probably doesn't matter too much... Christiansen and Bernardi are unlikely to ever change, and the decision to alter the program has been made and likely tucked away out of sight until after the election.
What it is worth being clear about is... what the Safe Schools program is actually about and what are its merits and weaknesses. You can also decide that for your self by reading the program... in my opinion it is well structured, easy to read and its intent seems very clear.
What is less clear is what the all fuss has been about. We could ask George and Cory to explain but I'd say most of us feel we've heard more than enough from them
by Mark Enders
The Turnbull government is in real trouble, with desperation setting in. The latest attempt to blackmail the Senate cross-bench is not about getting legislation through, it is about forcing an election as soon as possible... before their chances of re-election sink any lower.
Just about every poll has the government at a 50-50 chance of winning the next election with the Morgan poll recently joining the pack. And Newspoll has Turnbull's satisfaction entering negative territory. It's a very big fall from the heady heights of only a few months ago.
Malcolm has said he welcomes a 15 week election campaign because it will shine a light on the opposition. But it will also shine a light on the shambles that Turnbull leads. And that shambles extends to Malcolm himself. As a trained Lawyer and a very experienced debater, Turnbull is used to arguing for things he doesn't actually believe in. But sadly, for the government's aspirations. he isn't very good at it.
Case in point... his appearance on ABC's 7.30 program Monday night.
He began strongly by suggesting that a multi-layered approach to reform and economic transition was required. He then went on to suggest that the government was implementing IR reform (I don't believe they have yet), Tax reform (maybe... but we all have to wait until the budget), competition law reform (commentary on 'the effects test' suggest it is a potential mess but only time will tell), Innovation (lets all get excited like Malcolm wants), Defense spending (how... when most of the contracts will go offshore.. to Japan, the US, Germany), reformed bankruptcy law (assuming the system isn't rorted... which it likely will be by some).
As usual, Malcolm spends some time saying next to nothing. Many have compared Turnbull to Rudd... all talk and no action. That appears to be a valid criticism.
Tony Abbott's great strength as leader was that he knew when to walk away and shut his mouth, before his foot ended up where it didn't belong. Turnbull doesn't have that insight.... as the Leigh Sales interview proved.
The next excerpt from the interview is a marvelous example of Malcolm talking around in circles, in a very long winded way, hoping he would lose people along the way.
His argument goes like this - tax policy is about competing priorities and shifting taxes and benefits to suit different sectors of the economy, it drives investment decisions, negative gearing is such a vehicle for investment in property.
Leigh Sales then asks why a government dedicated to the free market would support market distorting policies like negative gearing to which Malcolm responds - negative gearing is not a tax concession, it is a tax principle that has been in place forever (although it was introduced in the 1960's to stimulate new construction), and a tax deduction is not an incentive to invest.
Malcolm has just argued that black is white. But he keeps going...
He suggests that changes to negative gearing are irresponsible. These are changes supported by long standing Greens policy:
Turnbull is opposed to changes (recently proposed by Labor) as they will affect investment decisions (black is now black again) - investors will be competing with new home buyers in the outer suburbs driving them out of the market. In the inner city where there is a lot of rental stock investors will only be able to sell to owner occupiers (which is not true), this will drive down rental availability and drive up rents while driving down resale prices for apartments as well as drive down inner city construction..
It's an argument built on a number of crazy assumptions - that renters can never become buyers, that people only want to rent in the inner city and buy in the outer suburbs, that investors won't want to invest in new inner city construction (which can still be negatively geared) and that some investors won't see the merit in buying old rental housing stock.
It's confusing I know, which is the whole purpose of Malcolm's argument. The election campaign hasn't even started and Turnbull is out of the blocks with a long interview in which he contradicts himself several times. If Malcolm is the great communicator of this government... they are in serious trouble.
Malcolm is the kind of man who when he finds himself in a hole... he dig faster and deeper and more elaborate tools. It's difficult to watch, like a slow motion train wreck
For some real clarity and some light relief on Malcolm Turnbull and the government he leads we can only turn to a cartoonist.... First Dog on the Moon.
We have been told for many years that the Coalition are better economic managers, without being provided with any evidence to support this bold claim.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and distance gives you the perspective and the ability to take a more dispassionate assessment of many things, but that is especially true of government performance. The Howard government is now far enough behind us to take a look at their economic record and that of the former Treasurer Peter Costello. And in recent months a great many experts and commentators have been doing this
According to Crispin Hull in the Canberra Times the structural deficit we currently have in the budget belongs wholly to Peter Costello and his hopeless performance as Treasurer. An excellent article by Mike Seccombe highlights the fact that a number of very wealthy Australians essentially pay no tax – surely that’s revenue problem (as well as a problem of equity). Mike also goes on to outline how many Howard-era policies shifted the tax burden from the big end of town to those at the bottom of the economic pile… the exact template Abbott spectacularly failed to implement in 2014.
Despite the assertions of Scott Morrison, our latest non-performing Coalition Treasurer, that the only problem we have is a spending problem, analysis by the ABC suggests we have a revenue problem also. And despite recent claims by the budget office that we do have a spending problem, Greg Jericho demonstrates things are more complex than that.
Howard himself was treasurer, appointed following the removal of Phillip Lynch for dodgy land deals while in the Fraser government. During this stint many consider Howard to have been inept. In 1982-83 Howard personally oversaw the worst recession since the Great Depression.
All damning stuff, and a long history of blunders and ineptitude.
In addition to all the poor report cards on so many Howard and Costello policies, it is worth looking at additional spending (the baby bonus) and revenue (fuel excise) initiatives.
The Baby bonus was largesse at the height of the mining boom, introduced by Costello, but poorly targeted and always completely unsustainable. It took a Labor government to pare it back and better target it to actual need rather than middle and upper class pork barrelling. The change introduced in 2013 by the Gillard government is projected to save $2.4B over 4 years. Given that the bonus was introduced in 2002, and based on these numbers the wastage as a result of poor Coalition policy and loose economic management around this issue alone is likely over $6B.
Fuel excise was cut and frozen in March 2001 – at a time (in an election year) when the Howard govt was deeply unpopular. As Bernard Keane explains it worked a treat politically by turning Howard’s political fortunes around, but has been something of an economic disaster. The Australia institute found that up to June 2015, this desperate move by Howard cost $46B in lost revenue. Keeping Howard and Costello in their jobs was very expensive for us all.
Malcolm Turnbull came to the top job by promising better economic leadership. At the time anyone looked better than Hockey and Abbott. Things moved slowly because everything was on the table and was being considered carefully by the government.
But that was a lie. Malcolm Turnbull had already decided to keep the baby bonus unchanged (in order to get the National’s support for his Coup) -this will cost $1.4B over the next 10 years.. Clearly a spending problem.
When negative gearing and superannuation entered the public conversation Turnbull insisted he wanted to have, Malcolm and the Coalition tried to shut it down by suggesting house prices would both rise and fall in the same 24 hour period as well as rents going through the roof. Economist Saul Eslake believes there is no evidence to support the claims of those running the scare campaign.
It seems yet again that the Coalition is willing to sacrifice economic improvement for political gain.
Further evidence of the Coalition’s economic credentials - there has in fact been a turnaround since the Coalition took charge of the Treasury benches. Australia has gone from the stand-out economy through the global financial crisis (GFC) to the worst performer in terms of growth trajectories among the world’s wealthiest nations, according to new OECD data from the last quarter of 2015.
The Turnbull government is currently sinking like a stone for many reasons – infighting and division, poor leadership and communication, a continued haphazard approach to government, and significantly… economic mismanagement.
But to be fair the Turnbull government is no different than the Abbott, Howard and Fraser governments… they were all terrible economic managers.
by Mark Enders
Malcolm is a well read, well informed, highly intelligent man with excellent communication skills and a good working knowledge of information technology. He is also a well trained and highly experienced barrister who can argue that black is white, and at the drop of a hat can argue that black is in fact black, it always was and it was never suggested that it was otherwise.
Before Malcolm became a serially disappointing Prime Minister, he was a very effective communications minister who had been instructed by Tony Abbott to 'demolish the NBN' and before he saw the opportunity to knife his leader Malcolm was a very loyal servant of Captain Abbott.
Turnbull argued that with a mix of technologies (old and new), he could deliver a cheaper, good enough service faster. Many technology experts said FTTP (fibre to the premises) was vastly superior to FTTN (fibre to the node)... here is just one example from 2011.
There were many warnings about abandoning the FTTP roll out plan, but Malcolm knew better, so he told us. But the real question... was did he really believe FTTN was a smarter option, or was he following his client's instructions and destroying the NBN?
In 2016 we have the benefit of hindsight and the ability to look at Malcolm's track record... what he promised Vs what he delivered.
Cheaper? Well Malcolm's cost projections have already blown out by 100%. And that is achieved by keeping the old technology which will need to be replaced within 10 years at an even greater cost.
Faster? Well Malcolm won't see NBN Co.reach his target of every user having access to 25 Mbps by the end of 2016... that is now projected to happen by 2020.
Independent analysis by Rod Tucker from the University of Melbourne suggests that sticking to FTTP in 2013 would've led to similar costs and time frames as Turnbull's botched network.
At every step along the way it seems we are paying the same and waiting as long as we would have in the original FTTP plan, but we will have a far inferior product.
One of the persistent critics of the Turnbull plan was Nick Ross, formerly technology editor at the ABC... an organisation Turnbull also had oversight over when communications minister.While Turnbull claims in public that he supports the freedom of the ABC... there is compelling evidence that in private Turnbull sought to gag Nick Ross. And in the same article (link above) Nick goes into great detail how much interference was run to protect Turnbull's position on the Coalition's NBN policy.
But bad news can't be suppressed forever evidenced by this recent article on the ABC which underlines the telecommunications mess created by Turnbull and delivered by Ziggy Switkowski
Putting aside Turnbull's failings as communication minister (and now as PM), what kind of future have we been locked into?
The infographics below suggest problems ahead.
Much slower speeds than our international competitors... slower than even Russia.
Capacity constraints which will limit our access to technology and information. At a time when we are transitioning to more and 'smart devices' the internet of everything will be something our network will struggle to support.
We'll be saddled with speeds which won't meet our needs to 2025 and beyond.
Malcolm Turnbull keeps saying the this is an exciting time and that our future is tied to innovation. When the truth is we will be constrained by infrastructure bottlenecks created by Turnbull policies and rather than making it exciting to be an Australian, will make it frustrating to be in Australia... accelerating the international brain drain.
Australians will continue to do great things, they might just have to do them overseas thanks to the poor policy decisions of Malcolm Turnbull.It begs the question as to why Malcolm is so excited about our near term future prospects. Or is it just words to get a bad government past the next election?
by Mark Enders
Some words (even if they are made up) you just know what they mean when you hear them. Econobabble is one of those words which needs no definition.
We know what it means because we have heard Econobabble for years every time someone tries to push their own political point or their own vested interest. It encompasses the supposed statements of fact that just sound like bullshit but we can't prove it, and we don't know how to fight it. Until now.
I have been reading an excellent book with that exact title... by the economist Richard Denniss. While I'd recommend you read it for yourself, I thought I'd share a few of the more engaging passages to give you a taste for Richard's writing and the message of the book.
One of the staples of Econobabble is to refer to the Markets as if they have feelings, and to ascribe to them some kind of higher and ultimate wisdom. Richard illustrates how opaque economic language is used to conceal the truth with some excellent examples. The following two passages say the same thing:
Markets reacted angrily today to news the government is considering tightening thin capitalisation provisions, which have provided foreign investors with strong incentives to expand their Australian operations.
Rich foreigners reacted angrily today at news that they might have to pay tax on the profits they earn in Australia. After the government announced that it was considering clamping down on some of the most lucrative forms of multinational profit-shifting, some very wealthy Americans threatened to take their businesses away from Australia if they were forced to pay tax.
The first statement suggests a proposed policy is not in our best interests, while the second demonstrates it clearly is. Econobabble sells us up the river to the rich mates of some politicians and lobbyists.
Richard also provides some excellent advice on how to wade through it to find something more closely resembling the truth:
It's a great book, essentially reading with a Federal election just around the corner... when we will be inundated with Econobabble.
by Mark Enders
Our economy is transitioning... even Scott Morrison is saying so. But it is not transitioning in a way that he and the Turnbull government have foreseen, or even supported.
It is transitioning toward the new economy, powered by renewable energy.
It is difficult to say what was the tipping point for dirty power sources like coal (which is undoubtedly in structural decline).
Solar panels have become both more efficient and cheaper to produce. This in large part due to the large scale production that has been occurring in China. But it seems future efficiency gains are around the corner with Australian companies like Dyesol making huge leaps forward with its Perovskite product coming in at just over 21% efficiency late last year, and French company Sunpower's product recently coming in at 22.8% efficiency.
Solar-thermal is also reportedly coming to our shores with US company SolarReserve reportedly planning a 110MW facility near Port Augusta which can supply power over a 24 hr period... essentially baseload power which completely negates the final argument as to why we 'need coal'.
Battery storage is fast becoming the technology that will smooth out the lumpiness of generation from wind and solar. The big name in this space has been Elon Musk and Tesla, with batteries already being sold and installed in Australia and with reportedly many more lining up.
One of the great Australian energy storage stories comes from AllGrid energy - an indigenous Australian owned company which is using older technology (lead acid batteries) to provide cheaper battery storage to remote communities where power from diesel generators is expensive, dirty and can be unreliable. The answer for remote communities will be solar and battery, and an Indigenous corporation will be doing its bit to close the gap for people in those areas.
Wind is moving ahead in leaps and bounds. In addition to the high penetration in places like South Australia, the technology is changing and improving rapidly - with larger blades (meaning more capacity to generate power at low wind speeds), as well as blades that fold in high winds (for greater safety in stormy and cyclonic conditions).
Proactive governments like the ACT are fast-tracking battery capacity building, and South Australia has set a path towards 100% renewables. Sadly there is no leadership Federally despite us having the World's Best Minister in this space.
Luckily ARENA is an independent body and is doing the investment heavy lifting in this area.
Interesting new technology projects include - Solar air turbine systems (a project between CSIRO and Mitsubishi), Wave energy projects (in WA and Victoria), and the Kidston Pumped storage project near Ingham, and more.
It's hard not to agree with Malcolm Turnbull - these are exciting times - but not for major sponsors of the Liberal party.
by Mark Enders
The Blog has been offline for some time but has returned just in time - to provide an alternative perspective in Townsville in a Federal election year.
Expect the blog to post well referenced articles, to propose innovative ideas for our region, and speak up for those who have been long abandoned by the major parties.
A lot has happened since our last post - we've seen the back of the worst PM in Australia's history, we've seen him replaced by an egalitarian republican who believes in equality and climate science but does nothing on marriage equality, the republic or avoiding dangerous climate change.
Australian politics is still difficult to fathom, but has been nothing was more ridiculous than Greg Hunt being awarded best Minister in the Whole Universe... or something to that effect. First Dog on The Moon can make more sense of it than I can.
Stay tuned for even more interesting time ahead.
by Mark Enders
It is widely accepted that you can't unscramble an egg. But I'd suggest that you can... we just haven't worked out how, and no one has been able to apply themselves to the task for long enough to succeed.
In some ways this is an analogy for addressing the issues of both climate change and energy security, two issues that seem to be working at cross purposes at present. But is that really the case, or is it in some people's interest to maintain this supposed opposition
As mentioned in the previous blog post, an oft used strategy by those who are seeking to subvert the national conversation on climate (because they don't have a good story or because the facts don't support their assertions) is to muddy the waters... or scramble the egg. But despite their best efforts, the climate change discussion egg is not scrambled.
There are a number of websites and organisations which aim to provide the honesty and the clarity which are essential in such an important international debate. Among them the ABC has done a fine job with its Fact Check unit in clarifying some of the public arguments which are being made against action on Climate Change.
The ABC have recently confirmed:
They have debunked the scare campaign that serious action on climate change will bankrupt us. While the government and the Murdoch press screamed that real action on emissions reduction will cost $600B, the treasury modelling they claimed to quote actually said that the economic effects of all scenarios considered “are small compared with the ongoing growth in GDP and GNI per person over time”. In other words - serious action is affordable, while delay and inaction is very costly.
Greg Jericho has also done some excellent modelling which show the real impact of a 45% emissions reduction on the economy, and finds Abbott's assertion about a $600B hit as 'breathtakingly stupid'.
While the entry of real authorities into the debate has ensured that the '$600B scare campaign' has disappeared very quickly that's not to say we won't see it trotted out as a desperate government looks to get re-elected.
Another scare campaign is being built around 'green vigilantes' who are supposedly looking to shut down the mining industry through litigation. A threat so serious it requires legislative changes to further weaken environmental protections.
Thankfully this scare and these legislative changes seem to be leaving Senate cross-benchers unimpressed. But the push by our government to reduce accountability and oversight is alarming as it risk removing protections that restrain authoritarian governments. It comes with consequences of limiting public interest litigation in defence of the environment. And it should be remembered that Greg Hunt's approval was struck down by the courts because due process was not followed. Asking governments to follow legislated process is hardly the actions of a vigilante. Cristy Clarke from Southern Cross University outlines these hazards on The Conversation website.
The resources industry claims Green groups are seeking to delay mining projects so that they become unprofitable, and Andrew Bolt claims Green groups are 'strangling our future'. Delay tactics have been a part of the fossil fuel industry's play book since the earliest days of Carbon Capture and storage, and after more than a decade of government support this fantasy technological solution is really no closer to commercial scale.
The Conversation often also touches on subjects that are not currently a part of the public conversation, but should be. In relation to Climate change and energy policy, rather than buying into arguments about baseload power, whether coal is good for humanity, whether renewable targets are unaffordable or unachievable, they address the need for energy efficiency. There is a great article which offers up new areas worthy of debate by following this link.
Going back to the scrambled egg analogy... it's possible that we are thinking about the issues associated with both climate change and energy security in the wrong way. After all, a young man worked out how to unscramble an egg back in 2013.
by Mark Enders
As was suggested in the first blog, there is a great deal of misinformation out there which is designed to confuse people, muddy the waters, and subvert the debate. If people aren't sure of the facts, it is easier to shift the debate or even to shut it down completely (by suggesting it is a non-issue).
A perfect example of this can be seen in the approach some take to talking about global temperatures. The classic argument for warming being a non-event as put forward by those who want to shut down debate includes using 1998 as their reference point. They then suggest that as no warming has occurred since, the issue is a fantasy. They use this reference point because 1998 was the hottest year of the entire 20th Century. In comparison to an unusually hot year, other temperatures appear relatively benign. But when looking at long term trends, the rise is unmistakeable... as in the diagram below.
This argument seems to have been recently abandoned as 2014 was the hottest on record, and that has now been trumped as we are currently in the hottest month and year on record globally. You'll find an excellent article on this so called 'Warming hiatus' here.
The same approach has been taken to reducing global emissions. The initial reference period was 1990 emissions, which was agreed to under the Kyoto protocol. Australia was very late to the party and only signed the Kyoto protocol in 2007, when the Howard government was finally removed. Under the Rudd government we committed to a 5% reduction in emissions based on 2000 emissions. And now under the Abbott government, the goal posts have shifted yet again... to 2005.
Why 2005? Well if you believe Tony Abbott (and to be honest nobody does) it is so we can compare 'Apples with Apples' on the international stage. But the truth is that 2005 was a year for unusually large levels of emissions... making the current targets look better than they actually are.
How much have things changed since 1990. According to the graph below sourced from the US Environmental Protection Agency - global emissions have risen by about 35%
But just looking at Australia - A 28% reduction (as recently announced by the Abbott Government) based on 1990 levels takes us from 550,777 Gg of CO2 down to around 396559 Gg. Based on 2005 levels, to get down to that level would require a 35% reduction in our emissions - a much more respectable target
This intentional deceptiveness is well laid out by Mike Seccombe.
The Abbott government keeps doing as little as it can by setting low-ball targets in comparison to other nations with comparable economies, and by moving the goalposts. A 28% reduction based on 2005 levels, translates to only a 20% reduction based on 1990 levels.
The Abbott government has never played it straight with the Australian people... so why would they start now?
by Mark Enders
We have started this blog with a few aims in mind, and plan to conduct ourselves on this site way in a number of principled ways. Should we stray from our purpose, or not behave in the manner in which we have stated we would, we expect you to call us out on that.
Why a Blog is necessary
Sadly we are all swimming in a sea of information and misinformation. That creates confusion, and misunderstanding, and in the worst cases... deception. We believe in the wisdom of people and the sense of the electorate, but we can hardly expect people to be wise or rational if they are constantly fed misinformation. Our blogs will reference other independent sources of information so you can trust in the fact that what we say is backed up by others, and by good, hard evidence.
And when there is so much information out there, it is too easy to miss something important. Rather than not being able to see the forest for the trees, we are left unable to see the tree for the forest.
A blog is also an opportunity to have a discussion. Rather than sitting back and being passively fed information, in the comments section you have an opportunity to agree, disagree, or even add something to the debate. Perhaps you're aware of important information we've missed and that everyone should be aware of.
We will focus on issues that matter to North Queenslanders, to Australians, and to our neighbours near and far. We will seek to inform rather than mislead. We want to engage - which means each post on the blog is a conversation starter. We want to hear many different opinions but will not allow bigoted, defamatory, overly aggressive or nasty posts to remain. All conversations associated with the blog should try to remain calm, rational, open and honest. It is possible to be both passionate and respectful.
I believe this is the start of something very interesting.
by Mark Enders
The Townsville Greens will publish blogs considered to be of merit. The opinions expressed are those of the Author.