Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Albo’s opening salvo
Labor wants to look at the upside of clean energy

© Gary Day / AAP Image

Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s first “headland” speech in Perth today reframes climate change, and the decarbonisation that is its inevitable response, as an opportunity for Australia, allowing the nation to build tomorrow’s economy, “not yesterday’s economy”. That’s good: the transition to clean energy presents a huge upside for this country, particularly in the export of renewable power to Asia by undersea cable or shipped as liquid hydrogen. Ross Garnaut, former climate-change adviser to the Rudd and Gillard governments, argues that Australia could be a “superpower” of the zero-emissions global economy. Alan Kohler wrote [$] in The Weekend Australian that, according to one analyst, coal-fired generation could be extinct by 2040 and Australia could be exporting the equivalent of five times our own power needs.

Along the way, as The New Daily’s Samantha Maiden reported this morning, Albanese’s speech gives some hope to those who as a minimum do not want to see backsliding on Labor’s commitment to climate action, by noting that “experts tell us achieving 50 per cent renewable energy at home while building a hydrogen export industry would create 87,000 good, well-paid jobs”.

Labor took a renewable-energy target of 50 per cent by 2030 to the election, along with a commitment to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 45 per cent in the same timeframe. Albanese’s speech makes no reference to any particular target or timeline – and there’s certainly no jumping the gun on Labor’s policy review process – but it’s a clear statement of intent. It’s not especially ambitious – as Maiden points out, many experts believe that 50 per cent renewables will be met by 2030 regardless of federal intervention, because of state-based RET schemes. But at least it’s not the kind of capitulation urged by shadow agriculture and resources minister Joel Fitzgibbon, who wants Labor to adopt the government’s 2030 emissions reduction target. The Australian’s Margin Call reports that Fitzgibbon’s next speaking engagement [$], by the way, is at the Sydney Mining Club, whose gushing blurb reads: “He’s one of Us.”

Interestingly, Albanese’s speech goes out of its way to reassure the resources industry that it has a place in a decarbonised economy. It identifies Australia’s potential to be a “capital of mining and processing of the key ingredients of the renewables revolution”, as a large producer of rare earths with enormous reserves of iron and titanium, copper, silver and – especially – lithium, which is key to unlocking the vast potential of battery storage. For coalminers, there’s the metallurgical coal needed to build all the wind turbines expected by 2030. The gist of Albanese’s first vision statement was well-flagged this morning: as Guardian Australia reported, it’s all about jobs.

Today’s speech comes ahead of the release of the election review by former South Australian premier Jay Weatherill – a close friend and ally of shadow climate minister Mark Butler – and former federal trade minister Craig Emerson. Hopefully Weatherill and Emerson will read Lech Blaine’s brilliant essay in the current issue of The Monthly, “How good is Queensland?”, which takes a close look at what went wrong for Labor there in May. Two vignettes are especially relevant here. The first concerns a diesel fitter from Nebo, Steve, who works at the South Walker Creek coalmine, who tells Blaine: “I know people think that we’re all dumb coalminers, bogans and the rest of it. Which is how the media portrayed us when Labor lost. But lots of people I work with hate coalmining. We’re trying to set ourselves up, so when we have kids we can send them to uni in Brisbane. So they don’t have to be a shitty coalminer.” The second is an interview with former Labor member for Cairns Rob Pyne, who tells Blaine: “Mate, honestly, they would’ve been better off saying we don’t support the Adani coalmine, and having a position, because people don’t like fakes.”

Albanese is no fake. The opportunities in the clean economy are enormous. The jobs on offer are better than the jobs in coal – blue collar and white collar, north and south. The number of people who don’t get it and are resistant, as Alinta Energy’s Mark Johnson confessed to ABC’s The Business last night, is actually tiny.

“The corruption and the corporate greed and capitalism in this country has killed our rivers … Why are we selling water to make profit? My people on the river, that relied on those animals for their food source for thousands of years, are now dying. This is the second wave of genocide.”

Muruwari and Budjiti man Bruce Shillingsworth, artist and Water for the Rivers activist, unleashes on the panel during last night’s Q&A drought special.

“There was a crossover in requirements for cash … and she tipped in money to make sure there was enough money to cover both elections. It is [a big personal commitment] and it shows how serious she is about making sure the party does well. It doesn’t come without a personal cost to her. But, no, the party’s not in financial trouble at all.”

One Nation adviser James Ashby explains why Pauline Hanson tipped $100,000 into the party’s coffers ahead of the May federal election, after also loaning the party almost $200,000 ahead of her tilt at the Senate in 2016.

Swallowed by the sea (part two)
How the American anti-climate-science lobby hijacked local councils in Australia, changing sea-level benchmarks as it went.

The effective tax rate paid by Pratt Consolidated Holdings, a key company in the empire of Australia’s richest man, Anthony Pratt – head of Visy and friend of US President Donald Trump – between 2014 and 2017.

“The federal government has today commenced a once in a decade review of Australia’s environmental law to tackle green tape and deliver greater certainty to business groups, farmers and environmental organisations … This review is not about ideology. The one thing all sides of the environmental debate concede is that the complexities of the Act are leading to unnecessary delays in reaching decisions and to an increased focus on process rather than outcomes.”

The environment minister announces a review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act, to be headed by former chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Graeme Samuel.

The list

“Can Anthony Albanese rebuild his shattered party and lead it to power in three years? If he wins power, what will he and the ALP do with it? Will he rise to what economist John Kenneth Galbraith described as the task of a leader: a ‘willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time’? And can he tackle a different question, the most urgent of our time: How do societies continue with economics and politics as usual, when, as United Nations secretary-general António Guterres puts it, politics as usual is ‘a suicide for the planet’?”

“Whether they remake themselves each episode (Black Mirror) or each season (Fargo), the anthology is once again relevant. The strengths and weaknesses of that approach are both apparent in Modern Love, the new Amazon Prime Video anthology adapted from the weekly relationship column in The New York Times. The eight episodes are studded with stars, lured by a comparatively brief shoot and roles that revolve around dialogue and not digital effects.”

“We’ve all seen it in some American police drama: the line-up from which a victim of crime is asked to pick out the perpetrator among a range of suspects. Now envision a situation where those suspects are selected by an algorithm capable of scanning the biometric data of almost every citizen of the country, held on a single central government database.”

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Inside the Greens and the unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


The Monthly Today

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews

Locking back down

Victoria’s woes are a warning for the whole country

Image of Labor candidate in Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain

Bega pleased

Kristy McBain’s win has implications for the Morrison government

Images of Kristy McBain and Fiona Kotvojs

Southern discomfort

Tomorrow’s result in Eden-Monaro is on a knife edge

Image of Defence Minister Linda Reynolds speaking at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute

Grey zone

Between war and peace, Australia’s defence strategy is evolving

From the front page

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews

Locking back down

Victoria’s woes are a warning for the whole country

Illustration by Jeff Fisher

Weal of fortune

Rebuilding the economy means government investment, but not all public spending is equal

Image of Labor’s Kristy McBain and Anthony Albanese

A win’s a win

The Eden-Monaro result shows that Morrison’s popularity has not substantially changed voting patterns – and Labor has still not cut through

The man inside and the inside man

Crime, punishment and indemnities in western Sydney’s gang wars