Category Archives: Politics & Government

Abbott government watch

Parliament house_280A few days ago Jenny Macklin put out a press release headlined “Abbott Government Dumps Disability Care Roll Out”, implying that the new Coalition Government has no intention to fully roll out the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) across the country. Google took me to a page where presumably the press release once existed, but has now been taken down.

Dr George Taleporos worries that both sides of politics may be using the NDIS for political point scoring.

Senator Mitch Fifield, Assistant Minister for Social Services has branded Jenny Macklin’s statement as “a lie”. They say they will honour existing agreements negotiated by the previous Government with the states and territories but not necessarily announcements made by Labor during the election period.

Nevertheless there is concern that in the context of budget tightening the LNP may delay or cut the scheme. Taleporos says the economic argument for an NDIS is strong and the evidence that it is an investment in our nation’s future undeniable. I think he is referring here to a Productivity Commission report that found the NDIS will save money in the long run. This sort argument is sometimes lost in short-term budgeting.

Please use this post as a roundtable to identify and discuss any other Abbott government implementation issues.

Image Credit: Michael Dawes (Flickr.com; CC BY-NC 2.0)

Abbott heads for the past as Labor contemplates the future

True to his word Abbott has revealed his plans to repeal the carbon ‘tax’ by releasing eight pieces of draft legislation and a consultation paper for comment.

Abbott_4918428-3x2-340x227Abbott claimed that the proposed action would save families an average of $550 per annum. The ABC fact-checked this claim when it was made at the Rooty Hill debate and found the saving to be $134 when compared to the then planned Labor early move to a trading scheme.

The legislation will be effective from 31 July 2014 even if passed later than that date.

Labor and The Greens are standing firm, so Abbott will have to try his luck with the new senate from July 2014. I believe there is a recount in progress in WA but in any case the LNP will only have 33 of the 39 votes it needs to pass the legislation. Since the Palmer United Party will control either three or four of the votes, dealing with them will be inevitable. Palmer wants to scrap the tax, but wants all the tax collected to be repaid. Then Abbott will need two or three of the other floating votes. Since repealing the tax is a high priority it would seem a perfect opportunity for the floaters to go hard.

Meanwhile Labor after Shorten announces his full team on Friday will have ample time to contemplate the future. Jungney said this last night: Continue reading Abbott heads for the past as Labor contemplates the future

Less from the back room, please

The news story of the day yesterday was undoubtedly the selection of the Labor ministry.

Katz was probably right:

Members of the Labor factions conspired with each other to maximise factional outcomes and then complained when they felt themselves personally short-changed.

Shorten, or any other Labor leader, is the victim, not the author, of this process. Because of the process, the Labor leader is forced to give portfolios to individuals he prefers not to have on his front bench.

Clare O’Neil was positive about the leadership election.

But the fruits of allowing members a say in the leadership run deeper than yesterday’s result. The Labor Party is buzzing. Membership has increased. Policy forums have sprung up in every direction. Policy ideas that would never normally see the light of day have been hotly debated. Critically, the ballot has been marked by civility.

This civility fell away a bit with the choice of ministers being done by factional heavies behind closed doors. Anna Burke feels women in particular did not get fair consideration admitting she was bitter and disappointed.

It seems the right did not play its part selecting only three women in its 16 choices. Eight came from the left.

Shorten_5021046-3x2-340x227Returning to Clare O’Neil’s piece, she cites Tanya Plibersek on why Labor lost the election:

As Tanya Plibersek has said, we got nine out of 10 for governing the country, but one out of 10 for governing ourselves.

But to O’Neil Labor won’t regain government and hold it for extended period unless it tackles the task of reform: Continue reading Less from the back room, please

Abbott’s direct action on climate

On Thursday the Abbott government took four actions on climate change. First, Greg Hunt phoned Tim Flannery, letter to follow, that the Climate Commission was to cease operation. We can take for granted that money was not the problem. Five million over four years in a $400 billion pa budget is not even small change.

Abbott told us on Wednesday that his governments actions would be based on values rather than ideology.

“We will be a problem-solving government based on values, not ideology,” the new Prime Minister added.

So what problem were they solving? Too much information on climate change? Is information from independent scientific sources too inconvenient? We are told that the information we need will be prepared by the public service in the future, where there will no longer be a dedicated department for climate change.

Lenore Taylor thinks the sacking of senior public servants smacks of ideology, not values. She says two of them, Martin Parkinson and Blair Comley, appear to have been punished because of their roles in implementing the former government’s policy on climate change.

The Climate Commission site is still there, for now. I wonder for how much longer.

The other three actions require legislation – getting rid of the ‘carbon tax’, shutting down the Climate Change Authority and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. So all the Government can do now is commence preparing legislation. Continue reading Abbott’s direct action on climate

Soil carbon and direct (in)action

Last week on the 7.30 Report we were treated to a debate between Mark Butler, the climate change minister and his Opposition counterpart, Greg Hunt, that just did not work. Leigh Sales tried a hard-edged questioning style, but unfortunately did not come close to being familiar with the topic. So large parts of the LNP agenda were unaddressed, such as their dismantling of the institutional framework of the the Climate Commission, the Climate Change Authority, the incorporation of the Climate Department into the broader environment department and the dismantling of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

One issue canvassed was the sequestration of carbon in soil, which comprises a large part of the LNP’s mitigation strategy.

Mark Butler said the cost of such abatement was higher than previously thought, the potential for sequestration less and given the problems and uncertainties there “may be some opportunity to abate carbon pollution through soil carbon initiatives in the future, but it is grossly irresponsible to make it the centrepiece of a nationwide carbon pollution policy.”

Hunt dismissed those concerns, quoting the CSIRO but when he was pressed on whether he was talking about just soil carbon he said he meant the full range of green carbon initiatives – mallee and mulga revegetation, reforestation, avoided deforestation, soil carbon.

A recent article in Nature (paywalled) came to the conclusion that:

considering carbon storage on land as a means to ‘offset’ CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels (an idea with wide currency) is scientifically flawed. The capacity of terrestrial ecosystems to store carbon is finite and the current sequestration potential primarily reflects depletion due to past land use. Avoiding emissions from land carbon stocks and refilling depleted stocks reduces atmospheric CO2 concentration, but the maximum amount of this reduction is equivalent to only a small fraction of potential fossil fuel emissions.

Continue reading Soil carbon and direct (in)action

Direct action examined and found wanting

Yesterday The Climate Institute released a policy brief Coalition Climate Policy and the National Climate Interest which not to mince words is a complete crock, will increase emissions and ruin our reputation on climate matters in the world. The report, based on modelling by Sinclair Knight Merz-MMA and Monash University’s Centre of Policy Studies, was then declared by Greg Hunt to be “one of the silliest reports” he has ever seen prepared by “a clear partisan political organisation” which backs the ALP.

Giles Parkinson’s article The black hole in Tony Abbott’s frat party climate policy gives a comprehensive account and I commend it to readers.

Abbott in response to Rudd’s bringing forward of the ETS gave his memorable opinion on such trading schemes:

“It’s a so-called market in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no-one.”

Sara Phillips finds this curious since

the financial markets do a lot of trading in non-deliveries of invisible substances to no one. Water-front mansions in Abbott’s electorate of Warringah have been built on the profits of those trades.

Continue reading Direct action examined and found wanting

Are they liars and clunkheads still?

Back on 3 September 2010, 12 days after the election, Laura Tingle wrote:

There are two possible explanations for how an opposition presenting itself as an alternative government could end up with an $11 billion hole in the cost of its election commitments.

One is that they are liars, the other is that they are clunkheads. Actually, there is a third explanation: they are liars and clunkheads.

But whatever the combination, they are not fit to govern.

Then this:

But what is more extraordinary is that now, having been caught out, Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb are continuing to try to bluff their way through, suggesting there is nothing more than a gentlemanly difference of opinion between them and the bureaucracy.

The brazenness of the three men only becomes really clear when they claim the bureaucrats’ document actually proves the budget would be $7 billion better off under the Coalition.

There is no other term for any of this except “complete bullshit”, to use one of Abbott’s favourite terms.

Ever since those three brazen bullshit artists have been rubbishing the institutions that called them on their incompetence and/or perfidy.

On Tuesday this week Treasury and Finance issued the Pre-Election Fiscal Outlook (PEFO) in which the charter of budget of honesty requires them to identify “all other circumstances that may have a material effect on the fiscal and economic outlook”. Laura Tingle explains how Treasury and Finance have used the modelling at their disposal to project receipts and payments over the next ten years. The results are inconvenient to the common view that we are headed down the crapper. You see they found that receipts are going to pick up in the out years, so that in ten years time net debt will be restored to around zero. Continue reading Are they liars and clunkheads still?

Climate clippings 82

I’m not planning to do posts on the upcoming election apart from link posts if I see anything interesting and/or important. The post on the Murdoch’s intervention started out as a link post, but then I warmed to the task. While this space is open I’d like to explore a theme that came from a comment in reaction to the LNP ‘solution’ to the asylum seeker ‘problem’. I can’t find it now, but someone asked, “What have we become?”

Moreover, what will we become? We have a choice, and in our response to the stranger in need who has chosen us, we either grow or diminish ourselves.

The task is ambitious and I’m not academically equipped for it. I’m not speaking as a philosopher or a sociologist, just “someone who is trying to sort out his ideas”, so the results may be modest. Some of the posts may not appear to be directly on the topic, but I hope all will fit together in the long run.

Climate clippings_175Meanwhile I’ll try to keep some information flowing on climate change. Both these projects may be of more use than any contribution I can make to an election here in Oz. This time CC will be free flow rather than numbered items, to save time. I’ll use bold to identify the topics.

Arctic ice is losing its reflective sheen. We all know that ice reflects more incoming radiation from the sun than does open water. Now by analysing 30 years of satellite data scientists have found that albedo of the ice itself at the end of the summer is about 15% weaker today than it was 30 years ago.

The cause of the darkening is

partly due to thinning ice and the formation of open water fissures, and partly because in the warmer air, ponds of liquid water form on the surface of the ice. The shallow ponds on the ice can dramatically reduce reflectivity and increase the amount of solar radiation that the ice absorbs.

Continue reading Climate clippings 82

What should Kevin Rudd do about climate change policy before the election?

No-one should doubt the political potency of the climate change issue. Malcolm Turnbull’s demise came as a direct result of the bi-partisan agreement on an ETS negotiated between Ian Macfarlane and Penny Wong in 2009. In a three-way contest Joe Hockey was expected to win in a landslide, but he was eliminated in the first round of voting.

So what went wrong for Joe?

Yesterday, Mr Hockey was demanding a free vote to decide Coalition policy on climate change early next year, if he were to agree to take on the leadership.

That angered right-wing Liberal powerbrokers and prompted Mr Abbott to stay in the race for the top job.

It’s worth noting, as I did in the post Political thuggery and climate change that it was Abbott and Nick Minchin who told Turnbull he could only keep his job if he changed his stance on the CPRS. Also that Andrew Robb’s actions were described by Hockey as “the worst act of political treachery I have seen in twenty years of politics” and by Turnbull as “an act of almost inconceivable treachery and dishonesty”.

Rudd’s dumping of the CPRS in April 2010 was followed by a sharp fall in Rudd’s approval rating and party voting intentions. As I pointed out in Rudd, Gillard, the CPRS and public opinion the notion that Rudd was talked out of doing something about climate change by Gillard and Swan does not hold up. Rudd was dithering and unapproachable on the issue. When he called a meeting to discuss the issue his view was to leave an ETS until broad international agreement was achieved. Gillard wanted to wait for a return of bipartisanship with the LNP. Rudd decided to do it his way.

Climate change was nominated by Gillard as one of three policy areas where the Government had lost its way. Continue reading What should Kevin Rudd do about climate change policy before the election?

European ETS

EU_0,,16746928_403,00_300

Last week when the European Parliament voted down a proposal to prop up the EU Emissions Trading System’s languishing carbon price by postponing the sale of 900 million emission allowances until the back-end of this decade the price fell to below AU$4. There are obvious concerns about the legislated linking of the Australian carbon price to the EU scheme in mid-2015. Treasury had forecast an EU price of at least $29 in 2015.

Radio National’s PM program had a roundup of political commentary. Julia Gillard on the 7.30 Report was very clear. The legislation was there, it was hard enough to get through the parliament in the first place and we’d have to work with it.

Big business, quick off the mark, was suggesting that link with the EU should occur earlier, so they could buy permits while they were cheap.

Ross Garnaut said, don’t panic, the ETS is only one measure and targets may tighten by impacting on the price: Continue reading European ETS

Climate clippings 31

Hurricane Katrina

Severe weather alert: a busy hurricane season

That’s the forecast for 2011.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting a 70 per cent chance of 12 to 18 named storms, six to 10 of which are likely to reach hurricane force – with wind speeds of at least 119 kilometres per hour.

A normal season would have 11 named storms, six of them hurricanes. During 2005, which brought us Katrina, there were 28 named storms. Continue reading Climate clippings 31