Thursday, October 31, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Psst… got a climate policy?
The Coalition is fumbling in the dark without a light switch

© Dean Lewins / AAP Image

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor reckon they’re smart – Taylor’s a Rhodes scholar, in case you didn’t know – but they are clueless on climate and energy. They chuck money around – some for abatement by farmers (never mind if it’s additional or not), some to extend the life of coal-fired power stations (wow), a fresh billion for clean energy (including… gas), lots for Snowy Hydro 2.0 – often at cross purposes, and always with lashings of we-told-you-so, but never with any overarching policy framework. The best illustration of the medieval depths we’ve sunk to on climate policy is to contrast it to the 2008 Garnaut Climate Change Review. It’s like a document from another era, the rational past. The review weighed in at 5.7 kilograms, ran to 643 pages, and was jam-packed with the best thinking and evidence that a team of serious minds could bring to bear on the costs and benefits of different levels of ambition on emissions reduction, right across the economy. No country in the world had been given such a comprehensive textbook for climate action.

The Garnaut review was published by Cambridge University Press, and had back-cover endorsements from Lord Stern, then BHP chair Don Argus, and representatives of the World Bank and the Indonesian government. It was globally significant policy work. Eventually it resulted in an emissions trading scheme that was the envy of the world – regarded as “template” legislation – and it worked to give a price signal to businesses and households right across the economy to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, and indeed they started to fall.

In 2013, the Coalition came along, cheered on by a raft of business lobby groups, and wrecked it. Electricity prices came down briefly, in a one-off sugar hit, and then resumed their relentless climb and are now higher than they ever were. Emissions are climbing, and Australia is not doing its bit as part of an international effort to stop dangerous warming. We are climate leaners, not lifters. Now, after five years of rising pollution, the Morrison government’s highly distracted energy minister has the genius idea of quietly writing to a few of those same business-lobby mates to ask them what to do to fix the execrable, rebadged, never-fit-for-purpose Climate Solutions Fund that was always – as Malcolm Turnbull called it at the time – a “fig leaf” policy for the climate deniers.

As RenewEconomy reported yesterday, the Coalition has taken another leaf out of the Tony Abbott playbook and formed a carbon-abatement expert panel, headed by outgoing Business Council of Australia president and former Origin Energy chief Grant King, to run a closed-door process to tell the government what to do. In the final years of his long stint at Origin, King hitched the company’s wagon to the coal-seam gas industry and accused promoters of renewable energy of being ideologically motivated – there’s your Dark Ages right there. (Amazingly, Alinta Energy chair and Macquarie Group co-founder Mark Johnson confessed to the ABC this week that “a relatively small bunch of non-believers, conspiracy theorists and others have exerted influence to stop more proactive policies”.)

We are where we are. Ten groups, including the Australian Industry Group and National Farmers’ Federation, whose bona fides are questionable here, but also some really genuine, worthwhile players – have written to the government spelling out the obvious: in the absence of policies to support emissions reduction that isn’t funded by taxpayers, “the government will need to commit more resources – both now and over time – to finance abatement”. Kane Thornton, the chief executive of the Clean Energy Council, told Guardian Australia that he welcomed “any steps towards stronger national climate and energy policy to provide the necessary certainty for investors”. What else is there to say?


“After two rounds of consultation, two draft codes, and then to have this one come out where it’s substantially changed, vague, ambiguous and not protecting farmers from the inadequacies of the current system? What’s the point?”

Nationals MP Lyne David Gillespie flagged a possible challenge against deputy leader Bridget McKenzie while rebuking the government’s dairy code of conduct.

“I don’t want Indigenous Queenslanders being separated from non-Indigenous Queenslanders on the basis of their race and who they can vote for and where they can vote on the basis of a special chamber or a special voice. We’re all equal, we’re all the same. This is just nuts.”

Queensland Liberal senator James McGrath fronts a new attack ad for the Institute of Public Affairs, opposing any proposal for an Indigenous voice to parliament.

Rosie Batty’s next fight
After the Morrison government announced another inquiry into the family courts, to be co-chaired by Pauline Hanson, advocates in the sector expressed concern it was a distraction. One of them was Rosie Batty.


The number of Victorian police allocated to responding to about 250 protesters outside the International Mining and Resources Conference in Melbourne earlier this week, according to journalist Benjamin Millar.

“One issue likely to be addressed in the interim report is the new regulations around physical and chemical restraint. The royal commission questioned the adequacy of the rules, especially around the issue of consent … Another area to be tackled is the long waiting list for home care. There are 120,000 people waiting for home care while at the same time, nursing home occupancy rates are falling.”

The ABC previews the findings likely to be contained in the aged care royal commission interim report, due out here this afternoon

The list

“David Michôd has no idea if his new film, The King, a riff on Shakespeare’s history plays that stars Timothée Chalamet as Henry V and Joel Edgerton as Falstaff, is any good. But then, four features into a career that began with 2010’s Animal Kingdom, he never does. ‘I’ve learnt now that I just can’t judge it,’ he says. ‘Doesn’t matter how many people I show when I’m cutting; doesn’t matter what that vibe is while we’re finishing it. When it’s out in the world it’s a whole other thing.’”

“Moran has been performing comedy since he was 19. He explains how he walked in to a Dublin comedy club not expecting much but found himself blown away by the quality of the writing. ‘They were young people having a wonderful time, and they were smart and they were funny and it was irresistible, actually. And I said, “Please can I do five minutes next week”, and that was it.’”

“What function does the superhero genre play, culturally, in a world of collapsing faith in the institutions of the liberal international order and its democratic guardians? In a world where men like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson and Peter Dutton grip the levers of state power … Why, after various fits and failures, is this genre so reliably bankable now?”

Enter to win

The Monthly invites readers to enter the draw for a chance to win one of five in-season passes to Pain and Glory, by writer-director and Academy Award–winner Pedro Almodóvar, courtesy of Universal Pictures International. In recovering his past, Salvador finds the urgent need to recount it, and in that need he also finds his salvation. Pain and Glory delves into creation, the difficulty of separating it from one’s own life, and the passions that give life meaning and hope.

Entries close at 4pm AEDT on Friday, November 1, and the winners will be notified on Friday, November 1.


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?


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