In breaking news, one asylum seeker is dead and 77 have been treated for injuries following a rolling series of serious disturbances at the Manus Island detention centre. Unconfirmed reports suggest scenes of carnage involving ongoing rioting by detainees, mass breakouts and savage reprisal attacks on asylum seekers by locals and PNG police using sticks and machetes. Shots have been fired. Details are still hard to come by.
In other news, there were angry protestations yesterday as the government announced that it would be reviewing the 20% Renewable Energy Target and that the review would be conducted by business man and climate change denialist Dick Warburton. The review will consider "the economic, environmental and social impacts of the RET scheme, in particular the impacts on electricity prices, energy markets, the renewable energy sector, the manufacturing sector and Australian households."
The government's top business adviser, Maurice Newman, another climate change denier, wants the RET scrapped altogether.
The Abbott government is aiming to focus discussion of the RET on rising electricity prices, rather than the effectiveness of the scheme in encouraging renewable energy production and reducing carbon emissions – which are its key objectives.
Some facts: Overall electricity consumption in Australia has dropped over the past 4 years, due to the decline in manufacturing as well as falling household demand as a result of higher bills and general energy efficiency. There is now an oversupply. More than 1 million Australian houses have installed solar panels and this is also disrupting the energy market, as households further reduce their reliance on large, coal-fired generators.
The government may be concerned about rising power prices, but it is pointedly not reviewing network costs, which account for over half the recent rise in power prices ("gold-plating" the grid to cope with the massive increase in air conditioners boosting short spikes in demand), nor will it consider retail margins or rising gas prices.
One more thing to note: The federal government currently subsidises industry via fossil fuel tax credits and concessions to the value of over $4.5 billion per year. With this in mind, readers should be wary of any suggestion that the cost of renewable energy is too great to bear, especially when it is paired with the assumption that Australia will never genuinely attempt to reduce carbon emissions.
"The Abbott government has appointed a self-professed climate sceptic to head an “extensive” review of the renewable energy target... As flagged by the prime minister, Tony Abbott, the review’s terms of reference focus heavily on the impact of the RET on power prices, but also include the need for investment certainty for the renewables industry."
"A drought package is being put together to take to cabinet in the next week, with backing from the agriculture minister, Barnaby Joyce, who is also on the tour with Abbott. Lowering interest rates from 4.5% and extensions of 10 to 15 years for farming loans; lifting asset tests on income support payments for farming; and a reduction in the populations of kangaroos and wild dogs are major considerations for the package."
"Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said it was his "great regret" to report the extent of the injuries inflicted on the asylum seekers. He said 77 asylum seekers were treated, 40 had been discharged and 22 suffered minor injuries. "There were 13 serious injuries, there was one critical injury, and there is one person who is deceased," he said... The asylum seeker who is listed as critically injured received a skull fracture and the seriously injured asylum seeker was shot in the buttock."
"Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash's former chief of staff had links to the alcohol industry - and played a key role in stripping Australia's peak drug and alcohol body of its funding. Alastair Furnival told staff at the Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia in a meeting in December that their organisation, established 46 years ago, would no longer be funded. He and his wife own a company that owns another that lobbied for the alcohol industry as recently as 2012."
"He had always said that he wanted to be known as the Infrastructure Prime Minister, but now he told us just what he actually meant by infrastructure in the 21st century: roads. Not a global information network or national broadband, not the airwaves, not even ports, harbours, railways and air terminals, but roads. Roads, those things cars run on, the cars that won't be made in Australia anymore. Roads, that were last at the cutting edge of innovation about 2,000 years ago when the ancient Roman Emperors were planning their future economies."
Also: Alcoa closures of Point Henry smelter, two mills leave 1000 out of work (The Australian)
And: Craig Thomson found guilty of fraud, theft charges (The Age)