What the biffo between Weatherill and Frydenberg really means

“Ten years of brutal, opportunistic politics has left this nation with no credible energy policy.”

The money quote from Jay Weatherill’s outburst was this:

    “Josh Frydenberg was humiliated back in December. We were working with him to introduce an emissions intensity scheme. He knows that. It was well advanced. It was about to happen. Coal interests in the federal Coalition government basically cut him down before he even had a couple of hours explaining it.”

That was highlighted in Paul Bongiorno’s piece in The Saturday Paper. Bongiorno goes on to say:

    Ten years of brutal, opportunistic politics has left this nation with no credible energy policy. We are now seeing climate change denialism preventing any rational path to achieve the goal of net zero emissions by 2050. That’s a bipartisan target that Australia – under the Turnbull government – signed up to in Paris. It’s just 33 years away. Investors get it, and they are unwilling to put their money into coal-fired power stations that have a 40-year horizon to turn a profitable dollar.

    Resources Minister Matt Canavan, a Queensland National, is pushing hard in the opposite direction. He is arguing for taxpayers’ funds to build a new “high-intensity low-emissions” coal-fired power station. And he is not talking about carbon capture and storage, but championing the oxymoron of “clean coal” – basically a technology that delivers 70 per cent dirty emissions rather than 100 per cent. Gas delivers 50 per cent and renewables zero.

For the record here’s what happened at the launch of a project organised by AGL where 1000 Adelaide homes with solar and batteries were being linked to form what is touted as the world’s largest virtual power station, with 5MW capacity. The Feds chipped in $5 million from ARENA, an outfit Abbott tried to destroy, save by Clive Palmer, as I recall.

Some of the links were provided by readers of this blog.

This ABC video at The Guardian shows how Frydenberg goaded Weatherill mercilessly about how the folly SA policies on renewables had caused mayhem and blackouts, boasted about the Snowy scheme for pumped hydro, and said the states and the Commonwealth need to co-operate. You can see the steam coming out of Weatherill’s ears, then he is asked by a reporter whether he finds this all a bit galling.

Media coverage by and large missed the bollocking from Frydenberg, and largely framed the event as an unprovoked attack by Weatherill. Media Watch said “Last Thursday South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill barged into Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg’s press conference with the clear intention of ambushing him”. Mark Kenny headlines Weatherill gatecrashing the press conference, although Weatherill did have an invitation, albeit late. These charactaristisations are, I think, misleading.

The fairest account probably goes to the ABC, where this exchange began the whole thing:

    “Isn’t this all a little bit awkward?”

    It was a fair question, as Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg and South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill stood side by side, preparing for an impromptu press conference.

    After all, the Energy Minister has spent months lambasting the South Australian Government’s energy policies, much to Mr Weatherill’s barely contained fury.

    So, would the next 10 minutes be a little excruciating?

    “No!” declared Mr Frydenberg. He was focused on accentuating the positive.

    Jay Weatherill had other ideas.

    “It’s about to be” he murmured, almost inaudibly.

Weatherill knew what Frydenberg would say, and that he would have to set the record straight.

After Frydenberg performs entirely as expected, Weatherill dumps on the hypocrisy of Turnbull and Frydenberg in a calm but deadly manner, as shown more fully in this video which starts later and goes further.

The bloke behind nodding agreement is energy minister Tom Koutsantonis. The bald guy smiling is Andrew Vesey of AGL.

Here’s the transcript which again does not start at the beginning. Towards the end Frydenberg repeats the lie that SA’s problems were caused by the state going alone.

Finally here a hilarious take from The Advertiser showing Frydenberg’s possible thoughts under the withering attack.

For context we need to remember that the Renewable Energy Target (RET) which is a Commonwealth target, established by Labor was taken over by the Abbott and Turnbull governments. SA Treasurer and Minister for Minerals and Energy Tom Koutsantonis told Patricia Karvelas on RN that the state’s 50% renewable energy target was aspirational only, they had nothing to back it up. The wind investments In SA were subsidised by the RET and happened because it was a good wind province.

The blackout in September was caused by a storm blowing the power lines down, and the fact that the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) was running the Haymarket interconnector to Victoria at near full capacity. The blackout in February was caused by AEMO failing to get the Pelican Point second gas turbine operating in time.

Danny Price in the AFR goes back to the Warburton review into the RET in August 2014, where:

    the Australian Energy Markets Operator (AEMO) assured him the NEM design was well placed to deal with challenges of integrating renewables. Warburton quoted AEMO as saying that they consider it “technically feasible to integrate the renewable energy likely to emerge from the existing RET settings while maintaining the security of the power system” even though AEMO recognised that there would be greater challenges in South Australia given the high penetration of wind from the Commonwealth’s funding of wind in that state.

    In spite of these reassurances, Warburton went on to recommend AEMO consider making better use of their powers to ensure these security issues are managed with more prudence, and to consider new arrangements to encourage greater provision of system security services. Warburton reported that AEMO was continuing to study these issues and intended to release further reports.

So AEMO took responsibility, as it should, and must now take the blame.

In fact May 2016 Weatherill:

    urged the federal government to take national leadership at an Emissions Reduction Summit to improve the adaptability and resilience of the electricity market, but this fell on deaf ears.

After the September blackouts, Price says:

    the Prime Minister and federal Energy Minister launched a relentless and dishonest campaign against a state government in the midst of a crisis.

Nevertheless Weatherill subsequently worked with Frydenberg on the notion of an emission intensity scheme, which takes us up to where we started at the top of the post. The scheme did not last half a day when Frydenberg floated it.

Price says that the South Australian plan to keep the lights on is quite compatible with the National Energy Market, and was necessary because of federal failure. Weatherill has committed the state to work with anything sensible the federal government comes up with.

So a coherent policy is required at national level. On the evidence at present Price thinks we are heading for a third world energy system.

9 thoughts on “What the biffo between Weatherill and Frydenberg really means”

  1. A small dose of honesty in politics. Thanks, Jay. Thanks Brian, for bringing this to us. I saw it all on the day and was cheering, it felt for a short time there like I could be proud of Australia again.

  2. The whole record of what was said at the virtual power station speeches makes Frydenburg look like a cheap smart aleck who needed to be taken to task

  3. Yes, John, Frydenberg looks like a jerk with no credibility at all. There was an attempt, even by the ABC, to target Weatherill as having bad manners, but really what he did was the only responsible and credible course.

    I’m doing a post on the SA energy plan, not sure I’ll get it done tonight.

  4. The other day I gave Frydenberg the benefit of doubt, as for generally being a decent guy trying to do the right thing under trying circumstances within the Liberal party. As it turns out he actually is a deliberate serial liar. I doubt now wether it is to save his and the Governments skin as it becomes more and more obvious that the pressure is not coming from the dwindling ranks of deniers, who have become evermore deluded and shrill and thus marginalised. It would appear the real pressure is coming from fossil industry and is applied via IPA and astroturfing outfits. For example, at the recent Senate inquiry, into “Retirement of coal fired power stations” reported in Coalition still being led by the nose by Institute of Public Affairs Reneweconomy awhile back.

    … of the 103 submissions made to the inquiry, the overwhelming majority of which supported the managed exit from coal, the Coalition cited just four, and gave the most prominence to the submission from the IPA.

    Brian, I can’t remember if you reported on that debunking of the IPA argument by Giles before so my apologise if I go over old territory. It is worthwhile to have a look at their submission (aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Environment_and_Communications/Coal_fired_power_stations/Submissions), the spin and post-truthing is breath taking. So my point is, if you look behind Frydenbergs twisted reality and serial lies, it is illuminating see what is driving them, particularly given their influence on the Government, who is behind and funding the IPA .

  5. So basically when you strip it back to powerful deniers/fossil you end up with obscene wealth indulging to ‘party on’ like there is no tomorrow. The Frydenberg’s in this world are not really serious professional decision makers they are just ‘bought’ actors for the public Punch and Judy show. Obscene wealth and ignorance are holding humanity at ransom.

    In my endeavour to do something about my ignorance, I started to look into what language obscene wealth communicates in. Apparently at it’s core is a place called ‘free market’ wherein ‘capital’ does it’s thing called ‘trading’. On investigation it turns out that quite a few of these ‘obscene wealthy’, who invest in fossil/denial, are supported by my trade. How ignorant of me! Changing my private health provider was a breeze. Next, is Super but that should be very easy as I think the ‘ethical’ option of my trading partner should be adequate, but one never knows. Other investments including banking are more complicated. How does one navigate through a ‘free market’ in order to survive?

    Brian, I would be very much interested and motivated by, if you could do a divestment post. You do some of the best summaries around on the blogosphere and a discussion on it could be very fruitful. If I may be so bold to make are request and interfere with your busy schedule. It could be a ‘productivity winner’ all round, just saying 🙂

  6. Ootz, I’ll take on board the request for a post on divestment. I always have posts in my head that I never start, and I don’t finish all the ones I start, so we’ll see how we go.

    The link to Parkinson on the influence of the IPA was interesting, but I’d see the relationship somewhat differently.

    My elder brother was for many years involved in National Party politics. For example he was one who encouraged a young bloke called Barnaby Joyce. I remember my bro telling me once, probably 5+ years ago, that I was the only person he knew that believed in this anthropogenic climate change nonsense. He was overlooking our younger bro, a retired agricultural science academic, who holds the same benighted views as I do, just talks about them less.

    I think in the last parliament the Nats were 100% climate deniers. I think in the last parliament, from memory, the Libs were said to be about 60% in that camp.

    In other words the LNP are way different from the general population in that regard, where from memory it maxes out at about 15%.

    People with those beliefs must necessarily believe in the conspiracy of climate scientists, but it leaves them short of anything they can call ‘information’. It leaves them with outfits like the IPA to draw on.

    On the Labor side, the main fossil was Martin Ferguson. Heard him the other day, and he’s a fossil still. Yet no-one on the Labor side is informed enough to see that the mining of coal needs to stop, and the burning of gas is at least problematic, but should be wound down also.

    There’s a fair bet that Turnbull and Greg Hunt are among the most knowledgeable in the parliament, but have sold their souls. I could never bring myself to believe anything Hunt said, but have to now concede that he played the double game better than Frydenberg.

  7. Thanks Brian, just keep divestment in mind. I’ll see what I can get onto and may make a comment in a Salon sometimes.

    Agree with you on Greg Hunt and Josh Frydenberg. From my memory Hunt only had environment, while Frydenberg also has has energy, which would complicate matters. I was curious why Turnbull put those two together actually and why he picked Josh for such a number? Or maybe Josh put his hand up for it?

    I also appreciate your insight into the way you see the relationship between political power and monetised power. I’d agree, there is a strong relationship between the two powers who sustain the status quo on climate/energy. My argument is, to facilitate progress, we as individuals and citizens should also consider the ‘other’ vote/choice available not just in politicians but who we support with our investments/consumption. In view of the risk of a massive change in lifestyle and values due to our pollution, I may as well as an individual make some proactive changes in my lifestyle and values in my own time and will.

  8. There’s a fair bet that Turnbull and Greg Hunt are among the most knowledgeable in the parliament, but have sold their souls.

    I’m reminded of Phillip Adams’ story that when he questioned Philip Ruddock (a long time friend) about the conflict between his membership of Amnesty and the appalling policies he was implementing as Immigration Minister, the reply was along the lines of, “I’ve waited twenty years to be a minister”.

  9. Ootz, sorry I don’t have any special insights about the relationship between political power and monetised power, as I’m not a political scientist or sociologist.

    In the US you really have to be in the top 5% of income earners to run for politics.

    Here representation would gravitate towards the upper middle class, which is why the former fish and chips shop owner has an attraction to some.

    I’m sure there are other learned and wise comments to be made about the relationship more broadly, and if I find any I’ll be sure to post them.

    I think it was this program where Walter Scheidel said there was no direct relationship between democracy and equality. The political process can be captured by moneyed interests, even in a democracy.

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