Archive for the ‘Spin’ Category

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Liberals Part 4: Australia has a legitimate government

27 January 2013

This is the fourth part of a series examining the Liberal Party of Australia. Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 examine the party’s climate policies. This part debunks their allegations that the incumbent government is illegitimate.

Both sidesIllustration: Stephen Wight

There has been a persistent campaign by the conservative Coalition, led by Tony Abbott and his Liberals, assisted by most of the mainstream media, to create the perception that the incumbent Labor minority government, led by Julia Gillard, is illegitimate. Don’t get me wrong: I have a long list of disagreements with the government. But the implication it is somehow illegitimate is simply unjustified. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Liberals Part 3: False crimes of a climate crook

16 January 2013

This is the third part of a series examining the Liberal Party of Australia. Part 1 covers the party’s climate change denial and intention to abolish various existing climate policies. Part 2 examines the climate policies they promise to introduce. This part defends them against incorrect criticisms of their climate policies.

To use language which Liberal leader Tony Abbott might outside of a family program, the Liberals’ climate policy is complete crap. Having said that, its problems do not include some of the things for which it is most often criticized: fiscal impact, directness, and reliance on domestic action.

Fiscal impact

Some commentators (eg. Alan Kohler) claim the Liberals’ policy would have a massive impact on the government’s budget. But there is nothing wrong with the government spending money on addressing the greatest threat facing humanity. Indeed, we should be spending far more than either major party is currently prepared to. The real problem, as I explained in Part 2, is the Liberals would not spend enough. The Emissions Reduction Fund is capped at $10.5 billion by 2020, making it impossible to make sure it meets its target (let alone a more ambitious target). Because the Fund’s current costings depend on achieving 60% of its abatement through buying soil carbon offsets, it is difficult to see how it could make genuine absolute emissions cuts with such a limited budget. Read the rest of this entry ?

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A terrible week for the climate

14 October 2012

This week’s events illustrate (not that further illustration was needed) that both of Australia’s major political parties are in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry, though Labor hides it behind a veneer of greenwash while the Liberals are overt about it.

On Monday in New South Wales, the Planning Assessment Commission approved the Ashton South East Open Cut coal mine in the Hunter Valley. The Commission had rejected the same mine last year, but the company, Ashton Coal, appealed the decision and it has now been approved with changes. The mine is still opposed by residents.

Meanwhile, the NSW government made very clear where its loyalties lie on coal seam gas (CSG). On Tuesday, NSW Resources Minister Chris Hartcher told an Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association conference that the “industry needs to get out there and sell the message”. On Wednesday, NSW Planning Minister Brad Hazzard reportedly told the mayor of the anti-CSG Lismore Council that CSG development would go ahead regardless of community opposition.

Also on Wednesday, federal Environment Minister Tony Burke approved the T3 coal terminal at Abbot Point, Queensland, which is joint-owned by GVK and Hancock. The decision is in spite of UNESCO having called for no new port developments to be approved before the completion of a plan to protect the Great Barrier Reef, and follows Burke’s approval of the associated Alpha mine and rail line. T3 will have the capacity to export 60 million tonnes of coal per year. Assuming each tonne of coal burned emits 2.7 tonnes of CO2, when the exported coal is burned overseas it will result in CO2 emissions of 160 million tonnes per year, equal to the emissions which Australia’s domestic carbon price is intended to save. I urge readers to sign this petition to Tony Burke to reverse his approval of T3. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Climate change, foxes, and hens

25 September 2012

Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced yesterday the Labor Government will introduce a tax on the consumption of hens by foxes.

“By making hen consumption more expensive, this policy will make alternative food sources relatively cheaper,” said Gillard.

From 2015, Australia will have a hen consumption trading scheme, in which foxes will be able to buy and sell rights to eat hens.

The scheme aims to cut hen consumption by 5% by 2020.

“A market mechanism is the most cost-effective way to reduce hen consumption,” said Gillard.

All her economic advisers agreed, rejecting demands by animal rights groups that the market mechanism must be complemented by other measures including fox-proof fences around poultry farms.

“We look forward to working very closely with foxes and other stakeholders over the coming months to ensure we reduce hen consumption at the lowest possible cost and while maintaining the competitiveness of our fox industry,” said Hen Minister Greg Combet.

Reaction from foxes

The pro-hen industry coalition, the Global Organization of Businesses for Bantam Liberation and Emancipation (GOBBLE), cautiously welcomed the announcement.

“We will work with the government to achieve a price on hen consumption, as it is the most cost-effective way of reducing the consumption of hens.” said a spokesperson for GOBBLE, who was previously a senior government adviser. “It’s much cheaper than, say, just banning hen consumption.” Read the rest of this entry ?

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Is Tony Abbott a liar, or just plain stupid?

25 August 2012

It’s taken them two-and-a-half years, but it looks like the Australian media is finally beginning to cotton on to the blatant dishonesty of Tony Abbott, leader of the Liberal Party and Opposition. His latest mistruths are debunked here. What better time than to recall some highlights from his ever-growing litany of false, misleading, and contradictory statements?

“Liar” is an inflammatory term which I used to get your attention. Of course, I have no way of knowing the motivations of Abbott or his party; they may believe themselves to be sincere. But if “liar” means “one who makes false statements”, then Abbott is a habitual liar. In fact, I can logically prove to you that Abbott is a liar. This is possible because if a politician promises one thing to one audience and a contradictory thing to another audience, it logically follows that one of those promises must be untrue.

Abbott claimed in July 2011 he had been consistent: “I once used some colorful language describing the so-called settled science of climate change but look, climate change is real, humanity does make a contribution to it and we’ve got to take effective action against it. I mean, that’s my position and that’s always been my position but I’ve never been in favor of a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme.” But in October 2009, he had said: “We don’t want to play games with the planet so we are taking this issue seriously and we would like to see an ETS.” And he is on video advocating a form of carbon tax immediately after denying climate change:

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Gillard’s policy slammed by… younger Gillard

17 August 2012

Charles Berger from the Australian Conservation Foundation has unearthed a very interesting episode in our Prime Minister’s past. In 1999, then-backbencher Julia Gillard criticized the Howard government for trying to delegate to the state government its decision-making power on a proposed toxic waste dump in her electorate:

I rise to speak to this legislation because in my electorate environmental issues are pivotal. My electorate contains within its bounds both internationally protected wetlands, specifically the Port Phillip Bay western shoreline site, which is protected under the Ramsar Convention, and hazardous industries including, most notably, the petrochemical industry. Under this bill, there is nothing to stop—indeed this bill is predicated on allowing—the hand back of approval and assessment processes on issues like internationally protected Ramsar wetlands to the states.

Yet 13 years later, Gillard has promised business lobby groups her government will hand back approval and assessment processes on environmental issues to the states. Business wants all federal environmental protection powers abolished. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Environmental deregulation agenda continues

26 July 2012

As NASA reports record ice melt in Greenland, Australian federal and state governments remain convinced we have too much environmental regulation. They reaffirmed this belief at yesterday’s meeting of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). The communiqué gives very little detail, but it appears the environmental deregulation agenda outlined at April’s meeting is rolling onward behind the scenes:

COAG noted the progress report from its inter-jurisdictional Taskforce which was set up to advise COAG following the successful Business Advisory Forum meeting in April.  The Taskforce has been consulting with peak business bodies and other organisations interested in specific reforms, including conservation groups which have an interest in environmental regulation reforms.

I assume the latter consultations are for show. This agenda was dictated by business lobby groups at April’s Business Advisory Forum; it’s not about protecting the environment. Recall that Gillard told business groups in April: “We are determined to get this done.”

COAG reiterated its commitment to reducing duplication and double-handling of environmental assessment and approval processes while maintaining high environmental standards that are risk- and outcomes-based. In line with the timing agreed at the COAG meeting in April, consultations are underway and negotiations for bilateral agreements are about to commence.

Recall that business wants all federal environmental protection powers abolished to fast-track environmental approvals. Recall, too, that in Queensland the mining industry is planning mega-mines and infrastructure to extract a billion tonnes per year of coal and coal seam gas, and ship it through the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Read the rest of this entry ?