Christopher’s Crisis

Pyne_vd-gonski-gone-pyne-275Christopher Pyne said he was expecting a warm reception from education ministers yesterday. Seems it was heated to the point of being downright explosive. According to The World Today, Tasmanian Education Minister, the Greens Nick McKim, says Mr Pyne had thrown a stick of dynamite into the discussions.

(Image via SMH.)

He also spoke of a “bombshell revelation that will rock the public education system to the core”.

Other ministers were similarly unimpressed. According to the AFR:

“All in all ministers are very disappointed,” Coalition NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli, who chaired the ministerial meeting, said.

McKim again:

“Here’s a unity ticket for you right here – a Labor minister, a Greens minister, National ministers, Liberal Party ministers, sticking up and unified behind Australian schools and behind funding certainty for Australian schools”

Pyne said “no-one should assume they will get less money”. Seems the government school sectors in the states that signed up to Gonski deals with Labor are expecting exactly that. Pyne seems to be strongly implying that if extra funds are needed for the states that didn’t sign up or for other aspects of his new scheme then it will come from the government school sectors of those states that did sign up.

Adrian Piccoli, the NSW minister, points out that this means that everything that is done in schools in 2014 will have to be done on the assumption that it may not flow through to 2015. McKim says we have “Christopher’s Crisis” rather than a “Shorten Shambles”.

Barrie Cassidy says that the Government assumed that it has a store of goodwill. He warns that it doesn’t.

Geoff Kitney in the AFR asks What is going on with the Abbott government? Continue reading Christopher’s Crisis

Simple graphs tell a big story

John D drew my attention to RenewEconomy’s Graph of the Day: Nine simple charts to explain the global carbon budget. The post was originally published at Shrink That Footprint. There’s been next to no discussion at either place, but in my experience site stats show that a lack of comments doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of readers.

The graphs all come from the Global Carbon Project’s Carbon Budget 2013, which you can download here.

Here’s my version of the story in eight slides.

Please note that CO2 emissions are quoted as gigatonnes of carbon. Each GtC = 3.664 GtCO2.

1. Carbon emissions are still rising

In 2012-13 carbon emissions from fossil fuels and cement rose by 2.1% as against 2.2% in 2011-12.

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2. Emissions from coal continue to grow strongly

Emissions from coal grew at 2.8% as against gas and cement at 2.5% and oil at 1.2%.

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Shares of fossil fuel emissions are now coal 43%, oil 33%, gas 18% and cement 5%. Flaring at 1% is not shown. Continue reading Simple graphs tell a big story

Numbers add up to keep Clean Energy Finance

This article from Climate Spectator tells us that shutting down the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) will actually cost the government $200 million each year in lost revenues.

The article refers to an article (by Laura Tingle) in the AFR. Apparently my $3 per day subscription doesn’t entitle me to see the article online – the first time I’ve encountered this problem.

In the dead tree version we are told that the CEFC is making 7% on funds invested, as against their benchmark of 3%, being the five-year bond rate. Other than being a good Labor idea, I think the Government’s objection may be that the CEFC adds to gross debt. The fact that it adds nothing to net debt is apparently irrelevant.

The dividend stream more than covers the cost of administration. The Direct Action alternative is to pay public servants to hand out taxpayers’ money without a return.

Each dollar spent by the CEFC leverages $2.90 in private capital expenditure. So far over $500 has been spent leveraging $1.55 billion of private capital investment.

Apparently the CEFC operates in a niche that would not happen without it.

It has been able to do deals that are too small, too complicated, or not previously done in Australia. In other words, deals that bankers can’t get past their own credit committees which prefer easier propositions.

Perhaps the CEFC’s real crime is to offend Big Coal.

Gonski gone

Kevin Rudd and I are on a unity ticket. There’s no difference between Kevin Rudd and myself when it comes to school funding.

That’s Tony Abbott before the last election.

“you can vote Liberal or Labor and you’ll get exactly the same amount of funding for your school”.

That’s Christopher Pyne, from the Brisbane Times piece, which is probably the clearest account of what is going on.

In simple terms, Pyne is going to honour the 2014 agreements, plus give the share owing to Queensland, WA and NT without expecting reciprocal commitments, but from 2015 there will be a “flatter, simpler, fairer” formula, within the same envelope of funding, but again without reciprocal commitments from the states and territories.

The LNP’s commitment on funding has only ever been for four years.

Presumably the LNP will have to change the law. Bronwyn Hinz at Crikey:

Another obstacle for Pyne is that the increased funding for school systems that signed up to Labor’s National Plan for School Improvement have been legislated for the period 2014-2019. The complexity of this legislation and a hostile Senate means that the Abbott government cannot just back away from these legislative commitments, and certainly cannot prevent the first additional funds from flowing before the start of the new school year.

Pyne claims that the Better Schools plan was incomprehensible an un-implementable. Certainly he declined a briefing from the Gonski panel and has never shown the slightest interest in Gonski’s findings. He plans to work from the old Howard scheme as a base.

Funnily enough, none of this is a surprise to me. It’s exactly what I expected from what was said before the elections. The statements by Abbott and Pyne back then were always a transparent snow job. Unlike Gillard’s “no carbon tax” statement, they intended to mislead. Continue reading Gonski gone

Climate clippings 87

Climate clippings_175These posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as a roundtable. Again, I do not want to spend time in comments rehashing whether human activity causes climate change.

This edition picks up the theme of activism mentioned in Climate change: reconnecting politics with reality.

1. Blue sky

After the last election some friends of my younger brother, feeling blue, decided to turn blue into an optimistic colour, and invented the Blue Sky movement. To join all you have to do is ‘like’ the Facebook site put something blue on your front footpath visible from the road, take a photo and post it on the site. Yes, and take the Blue Sky Pledge, which includes reducing your own emissions, displaying blue for 12 months, and encouraging others to join.

Here’s one example:

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I notice that people have been using the site to share links.

If you click on “Community” or “About” at the head of the Blue Sky FB page and then click “more” you’ll get the full Blue Sky spiel.

2. Go Getup!

Ben Eltham thinks GetUp! is currently Tony Abbott’s most dangerous opponent. Continue reading Climate clippings 87

Climate change: reconnecting politics with reality

After the rally on Sunday 17 November Ben Eltham took a look at climate activism in the digital age and nominated climate policy as “the central battleground of 21st century politics.” Sooner or later, somehow or other, climate activism has to be turned into real politics. As one of the ten themes in the Centre for Policy Development’s Pushing our Luck: ideas for Australian progress Professor John Wiseman, Deputy Director of the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute at the University of Melbourne looked at the shape of climate policy for the future.

You can find his whole piece at page 142 on the pdf counter, but I’ll attempt to give a brief outline here.

First he surveys the science, our prospects and the risks. The risk of a 4C future is unacceptably high. He quotes the World Bank’s report Turn Down the Heat:

    ‘Even with the current mitigation commitments and pledges fully implemented there is roughly a 20 per cent likelihood of exceeding 4°C by 2100. If they are not met warming of 4°C could occur as early as the 2060s.’

What does 4°C mean?

    Professor John Schellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, provides a stark assessment of the difference between a rise of two and four degrees. ‘The difference,’ he says, ‘is human civilisation. A 4°C temperature increase probably means a global [population] carrying capacity below 1 billion people’.

He then looks at the climate budget approach and posts a version of this now familiar graph:

Copenhagen diagnosis Fig 22 n

He concludes that we need more ambition and urgency, both at the national and international levels. The achievement of emission reductions at the necessary scale and speed will require transformational rather than incremental change. Continue reading Climate change: reconnecting politics with reality

Hartcher on Rudd and Gillard

RuddGillard-240My attention was drawn to a series of articles under the heading The Meltdown by Peter Hartcher by Mark and then this post by John Quiggin. I thought them well worth a read, but found the links from Quiggin’s post less than straightforward to access. My purpose here is to facilitate such access rather than put a point of view. So here goes:

Actually if you click on the last on you get the links to the previous four.

This comes towards the end of Part 5:

Before the 2010 coup against Rudd, Anthony Albanese had presciently warned colleagues: “If you do this, you will destroy two Labor prime ministers.”

Penny Wong adds this postscript: “They were two extraordinary politicians. The great sadness of this time was that they were both in the same generation with the same ambition. Together they should have been invincible.”

Together they were essentially invincible, but Hartcher details quite convincingly how things fell apart after Rudd came back from the schmozzle of the 2009 Copenhagen climate talks, apparently a changed man. A strategy meeting was held and it was agreed that they would press forward with the CPRS and take it to a double dissolution election ASAP after Australia Day. Instead Rudd went off and wrote a children’s book and came back in a mood of paralysis and avoidance, which persisted. Continue reading Hartcher on Rudd and Gillard

We pay, but what do we get?

There was much interest in a leaked list of the pay packets of the ABC’s star personnel yesterday, published (paywalled) in The Australian. If I’d been asked to guess how much these folks were paid I would have been thinking the $80,000 to $120,000 range, which shows how out of touch I am.

The salaries listed in this article range from Annabel Crabb on $217,000 (rounded down to the nearest 1000) to $355,000 for Tony Jones.

My question is whether we are paying for star power, essentially personality, or for competence, outstanding ability to do the job. With respect to the latter, I don’t rate highly at all the competence of many listed. Tony Jones is an awful interviewer and is more interested in entertainment than journalism in my book. So my impression is that we are paying mostly for personality.

Some of the people listed are unknown to me in terms of their work. Richard Glover must be an awfully good radio presenter to be worth $280,000.

The Courier Mail today picks up on the Queensland scene. I believe Spencer Howson, local radio’s Breakfast presenter, was the only one to make the top 100 at $160,000. He’s light, breezy and rates well. It’s a long time since I’ve listened to him. For me Fran Kelly at $255,000 would be my choice in the time slot, and that seems an awful lot of money. Steve Austin, our local Mornings presenter, is on $115,000. I rate him and that strikes me as about what he’s worth.

The Community and Public Sector Union were not impressed, seeing it as an attack on the ABC.

It’s claimed that the women are paid less. Leigh Sales at $280,000 is paid $11,000 less than Quentin Dempster, but $25,000 more than Chris Uhlmann.

Jonathon Holmes was on $187,000, which inclines me to think we are rating star power above competence.

Someone pointed out that you can take a bunch of any half dozen and their combined salaries come nowhere near that of Kyle Sandilands.

Indonesian spying affair

Indonesia has recalled its ambassador after leaked documents reveal Australia spied on president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife, amongst others. Dr Natalegawa:

“It’s impossible for an ambassador in foreign country to do their duty in the midst of an unfortunate situation like this,” he said.

“The summoning of the ambassador is not considered a light step, but it’s a minimum step we can do to consolidate situation, and to show our firm but measured act.”

You have to wonder what the endgame is in this matter. Seasoned foreign affairs commenters seem to think these matters can be managed, everyone knows that everyone spies on everyone else. Behind the scenes all can be settled down and we continue as before.

Well that hasn’t worked so far for the US when Angela Merkel found that her cell phone was not off limits. The issue is still very much alive, though it’s not clear that the US will agree to a legally binding ‘no spy’ agreement.

It seems to me that Indonesia has all the leverage it needs to get whatever it wants, especially as Crikey’s editorial suggests, Abbott is pursuing an asylum seeker-based foreign policy.

Nevertheless the US may not allow us to enter a ‘no-spy’ agreement. Against that, the Chinese are taking an interest.

There’s more at The Guardian and The Conversation. Continue reading Indonesian spying affair

Climate Change Authority review

BernieLast month the Climate Change Authority published a Draft Report of its Targets and Progress Review, which is to be completed by February 2014.

Submissions to the Draft Report must be lodged on this webpage by 29 November 2013.

The full draft report (all 265 pages) is downloadable from the first link above. Unfortunately I don’t have time to read all of it, so I’ve reproduced below the summary of the Executive Summary provided by the Authority, with some slight enhancements.

This Review can inform upcoming decisions on international commitments, guide long-term investment decision-making and inform the design of the Government’s Direct Action Plan.

The Authority’s views are grounded in science which says the world needs a long-term limit on emissions to stay below 2 degrees of warming and reduce risks of dangerous climate change. Australia also needs to take a long term view of emissions and set a 2050 emissions budget.

The Authority has also considered international action on climate change which shows a clear trend towards more ambitious action, although all countries need to do more.

The Authority has considered the economic implications of stronger targets and has concluded that it is possible to move to stronger targets at relatively small cost to the economy. The Authority’s draft recommendations seek to balance short term clarity and stability with longer term flexibility by recommending a single 2020 target and a trajectory range to 2030.

The Authority considers a 5 per cent target for 2020 to be inadequate because the Government’s [own] conditions [for moving beyond 5 per cent appear to have been met] and the pace of international action justifies us going further. [It] is inconsistent with action towards the 2 degrees goal and more ambitious targets might now be easier to achieve than earlier thought.

The Authority presents two targets for 2020 – 15 per cent and 25 per cent, with different trajectory ranges to 2030 [35 to 50 per cent and 40 to 50 per cent respectively].

Compared with 25 per cent, 15 per cent would require faster reductions later, and would use up more of the [carbon] budget sooner. [It] would place us in the middle of the pack on climate change action and would cost slightly less in the short term.

Australia can use international emissions reductions to help meet its target. While we have many domestic opportunities to reduce emissions, allowing international emissions reductions to be part of the mix can help lower costs. The Government should consider allowing the use of international emissions reductions to go beyond 5 per cent.

The Authority seeks feedback on this Draft report to inform its deliberations on final recommendations.

Clearly the Abbott Government will take no notice of the Review. In fact they have specifically reneged on the extended 5 to 25% range which had been bipartisan policy since 2009. Continue reading Climate Change Authority review

They don’t make them like Paul Keating anymore

8.30 pm is the absolute worst time in the 24 hour cycle for me, but of course it is prime TV time and last night we were treated to the first of four interviews of Paul Keating by Kerry O’Brien.

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Are there any other politicians who could sustain our interest over four hours? I’d have to agree with Evan Williams: They don’t make them like Paul Keating anymore.

He’s right, the scheduling shows up the current mediocre lot now gathering in Canberra.

The 1990 Australian election was a close run thing. The ALP under Bob Hawke won by nine seats with 49.9% of the vote. Mark once told me Australia would have been a much better place now if Peacock had won. Peacock would have been a one-term time minister, followed by PJK for three terms, followed by some-one other than John Howard. We can but dream!

Elsewhere Keating was in fine form in the Remembrance Day address. He reworked the folly of the First World War in a way that enhances us all and makes us grow in spirit.

He made some fine speeches but was also the master of the one-line insult. Here too there was a rawness and honesty that shades the current lot, who often use one-liners thought up by their spinmeisters.

Cyclone Haiyan

dn24549-1_300Over the last few days we’ve received a stream of information and images about cyclone* Haiyan which devastated central Philippines, especially the city of Tacloban. Zoe Daniels compiled a graphic report for the 7.30 Report program last night. She mentions that they went to see a coastal village where the devastation was complete.

Here’s a photo from the SMH:

Hayan_ leyte169-408x264

Donations can be made through the Philippine Red Cross and Oxfam. Please feel free to post links to other charities in comments.

According to this link you can donate to the Red Cross by via credit card by phoning 1800 811 700. The hyperlink given there is broken.

Dr Jeff Masters’ Wunderblog has a post which reports the damage initially as $14 billion, breaking The Philippines’ record for damages for the third time in 12 months. Initial estimates of the death toll were put in excess of 10,000, but the SMH suggests the toll from Tacloban alone may have exceeded that figure. Some 9 million people have been affected.

The cyclone has been reported as the strongest ever to make landfall. An article in The Guardian quotes Jeff Masters as putting it at number four with the note that NOAA has stated that the maximum sustained winds estimated for typhoons during the 1940s to 1960s were too strong. The other three were in 1958 and 1961. In his linked post above Masters has compiled an unofficial top ten, with Haiyan at the head. Five of the ten were in The Philippines.

There are two aspects where I’d like better information. Firstly, I heard one report that the wind remained at Category 5 intensity for either six or eight hours (can’t remember which). The system was very large. Secondly, I heard of a storm surge of up to eight metres. Apparently this caused more damage than the wind and was responsible for many of the deaths. In many cases only the lowest areas were evacuated. Continue reading Cyclone Haiyan

Climate change, sustainability, plus sundry other stuff