The Politics    Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Roadmap to nowhere

By Paddy Manning

Image of Energy Minister Angus Taylor.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor speaking at the National Press Club today. Via ABC News

Angus Taylor’s plan has a credibility problem

It is hard to take Australia’s Technology Investment Roadmap seriously when it comes from this minister for energy and emissions reduction, Angus Taylor, who by now really should not have a job. It’s difficult to think of a less credible member of the Morrison government – or any government in living memory – given the succession of scandals that he or his office have been involved in, from selling inflated water rights to poisoning native grasslands to peddling doctored documents. But perhaps the biggest scandal of all is that, in the wake of Australia’s Black Summer bushfires, this ridiculous minister for energy has come up with a policy that cannot even be clear about decarbonising the economy by 2050 – a goal endorsed by state and territory governments of both major political parties, as well as a plethora of industry and environment groups. In this, Taylor has the full support of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who dissembled like a demon on Insiders on Sunday, saying: “Our policy is to achieve that in the second half of this century, and we’ll certainly achieve that.” That could mean the year 2099 for all we know. According to experts interviewed by Guardian Australia, failing to endorse a target of net-zero emissions by 2050 puts Australia in breach of the Paris Agreement. Without the 2050 target, or the intermediate 2035 target that we are promised is coming soon, Taylor’s plan is – as has been widely observed today ­– a roadmap to nowhere.

Taylor’s plan outlines five key low-emissions technologies in which the federal government “expects” to invest $18 billion over the next decade, including via the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Climate Solutions Fund, in the hope of attracting some $50 billion of new investment. The technologies are: “clean” hydrogen production, energy storage, green steel and aluminium, carbon capture and storage (CCS), and soil carbon. As RenewEconomy reported today, the plan focuses “firmly on technologies that favour fossil fuels, farmers and big energy users”, and the inclusion of both CCS and “clean” hydrogen (rather than renewable hydrogen) is especially suspect. Greens leader Adam Bandt described the plan as a “fig leaf for the continued expansion of the fossil-fuel industry”. 

The clincher in Taylor’s speech at the National Press Club today was the line that “Australia can’t and shouldn’t damage its economy to reduce emissions.” This shows that (a) he doesn’t understand the opportunity that is being missed as his government bumps along the bottom with what Labor claims is the 21st attempt at an overarching energy policy; and (b) he doesn’t understand the damage that accelerating climate change will do (and has already done) to the economy. All this leaves Australia at sea. As independent MP Zali Steggall, who unseated former prime minister Tony Abbott on a climate platform, responded: “The government is taking us on a detour. The roadmap is not the most efficient or economic way of reducing emissions, and not the way that delivers the most jobs … This is not a roadmap but a historical sightseeing tour of technologies, like carbon capture and storage, that have cost a lot and delivered little.”

The most offensive part of Taylor’s announcement today? His weasel words when asked whether anyone on the National COVID-19 Commission’s advisory board, headed by Nev Power, would stand to benefit personally from the Morrison government’s plans for a gas-fired recovery. Would they benefit, yes or no? “Well, it’s not something that I’m even focused on,” said Taylor. “I’m focused on delivering a plan that is right for the country and we make the decisions. We made the decisions here that I’ve announced. We made the decisions that I announced last week. That’s the role of government.”

Coming from Angus Taylor, that is simply unbelievable. 

“There is not, in my judgement, a trade-off between debt and supporting the Australian economy in the current circumstance. Absent the fiscal stimulus, the economy would be significantly weaker and debt levels even higher.”

Reserve Bank deputy governor Guy Debelle warns that the Australian economy faces a “gradual and uneven” recovery from the coronavirus recession.

“There was no question of ministerial involvement in the report.”

A spokesperson for Urban Infrastructure Minister Alan Tudge dismisses questions about the government’s $30 million purchase of land in Western Sydney, worth just $3 million, from Liberal donor the Leppington Pastoral Company.

The grey pyramid scheme (part two)
A royal commission has heard hundreds of aged-care centres are facing financial collapse, as the crisis in the sector takes its toll. In the second half of this two-part series, Rick Morton investigates what happened to the aged-care sector under the leadership of Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison.

The number of millionaires claiming JobSeeker payments as a result of the assets test being suspended six months ago. The test will be reintroduced on Friday.

“Working in partnership with retail internet providers, NBN Co will invest up to $700 million in a multi-faceted package of initiatives over the next three years to support business innovation, productivity and growth.”

Ahead of the release of its corporate plan tomorrow, NBN Co announces that fibre-optic cable will be provided to cover more than 700,000 suburban and regional businesses.

The list

“Having found success at the age of 67 with 2018’s The Friend, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Sigrid Nunez is obsessed with time in her new novel. Everything the book touches – climate change, parenthood, illness – is defined against ageing’s inescapable defilement, likewise its streamlined clarity of expression and attentiveness to the lives of others. It moves at speed, in short bursts, in search of the essence of things.”

“Chris Smith works at his own pace, in his own inscrutable style. The Melbourne guitarist and songwriter’s new album Second Hand Smoke (It Records) is his first since 2006’s Bad Orchestra, which came six years after the previous one. Smith continues to revel in contrast and fragmentation, with the new LP emerging only after Smith had brought around 50 hours of primarily home recordings to producer John Lee. Even after being distilled into a 12-song album, it plays like outsider art, snaking along disparate paths while looking stubbornly inward.”

“When the COVID-19 pandemic was at its early peak, few argued that locking down the country was an overreaction. But with Victoria the only state now experiencing serious transmission levels – and things improving there as well – Liz Curran is not alone in suggesting the time has come for more flexibility. Business is also making a case for compassion and common sense.”

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor at The Monthly and the author of Inside the Greens and Body Count.

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