4 key policy failures already
Ultraconservative Liberal Party-National Party Coalition leader Tony Abbott was sworn in as the new Prime Minister of Australia on Wednesday 18 September 2013, replacing defeated Labor PM Kevin Rudd. Australia now has a new right-wing, ultraconservative, climate change denialist, pro-war, pro-Zionist, pro-coal, pro-gas, anti-environment, anti-science, anti-education, anti-equity, human rights-abusing; US lackey Coalition Government for the next 3 years.
Tony Abbott clearly re-iterated the Coalition agenda 1 week after the 7 September 2013 Coalition victory in the Australian Federal elections: “The challenges are considerable: we must stop the boats, we must scrap the carbon tax, we must build the roads and we must get the budget back into the black” (Tony Abbott quoted in David Crowe, “Let’s prove we can do it: Abbott”, The Australian, 14 September 2014).
However PM Tony Abbott is already locked into well-deserved failure on each of these 4 key goals as outlined below.
1. “Stop the boats” is a 3-word conservative slogan for maltreatment of desperate Tamil refugees fleeing the ongoing Tamil Genocide in Australia-supported Sri Lanka and Muslim refugees fleeing Western-imposed war, sanctions and persecution in the Muslim world and trying to find safe haven by attempting to reach Australia by boat. The Coalition policies of military-led “turning back the boats when safe to do so” in International waters and actually buying boats in Indonesia to prevent their use to transport refugees are against the clearly and repeatedly stated position of the Government of Indonesia which has serious concerns about violation of its sovereignty (note: the Indonesian population is 247 million, the Australian population is 23 million).
The Coalition has responded to continued boat arrivals since the election by imposing a news blackout on refugee (asylum seeker) arrivals and subsequent abusive maltreatment in contravention of International Law. In the race to the bottom of the barrel, the Coalition supported Labor’s policy of excluding all new arrivals by boat from ever living in Australia and shunting all boat arrivals off to concentration camps in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. However the Coalition went further and has stated that existing refugees on temporary visas in Australia and condemned to dire poverty by exclusion from employment, will also be excluded from ever permanently living in Australia.
UNHCR regional representative Richard Towle has stated that Australia is breaching the UN Refugee Convention of which it is a signatory (a view supported by Australian law experts): "We're concerned that the net effect of the measures is that for all intents and purposes Australia ceases to be an asylum country under the convention for anybody coming to the country other than by air” (Richard Towle quoted in “United Nations refugee agency warns Australia its asylum policy may breach international law”, ABC News, 26 July 2013).
2. “Scrap the carbon tax” refers to the Coalition policy of repealing Labor legislation for a Carbon Tax transmuting into an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) in 2015. However while the Coalition dominates the House of Representatives it is presently in a minority in the Senate. Further, as outlined below, the Coalition is effectively proposing a Carbon Tax of its own (through its Direct Action policy) that is arguably 5 times bigger than Labor’s after PM Kevin Rudd slashed the 2014 price from $25 per tonne CO2-e (CO2-equivalent) to a derisory $6 per tonne CO2-e.
Australian Government greenhouse gas (GHG) experts indicate that Australia’s Domestic GHG pollution was 565 Mt CO2-e in 2000, noting that Australia’s Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution in 2000 was (in Mt CO2-e) 565 (Domestic) + 505 (coal exports) + 17 (LNG exports) + 105 (iron ore exports) = 1,192 Mt CO2-e (“2011 Climate change course”, section G ). The Coalition and Labor both promise unlimited coal, gas and iron ore exports plus “5% off 2000 GHG by 2020” i.e. 0.95 x 565 Mt CO2-e = 537 CO2-e in 2020.
The Australian Government GHG experts predict Australian Domestic GHG pollution of 637 Mt CO2-e in 2020 (Australian Government Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, “Australia’s emissions projections 2012”). Thus the GHG savings promised by both Labor and the Coalition for the year 2020 = 637 – 537 = 100 Mt CO2-e. The cost committed to by the Coalition’s Direct Action plan for achieving this goal in 2020 (ignoring subsequent years) is no more than $3.2 billion = $3,200 million over the period 2013-2017. The maximum Carbon Price implicit in the Coalition’s Direct Action plan of subsidizing polluters not to pollute is accordingly $3,200 million/100 Mt CO2-e = $32 per tonne CO2-e.
In contrast, Gillard Labor’s policy involved a Carbon Tax of $23 per tonne CO2-e on industrial polluters and domestic consumers, with 90% of the receipts being returned as “compensation” for increased electricity and gas prices in an absurd “futile cycle”. However as a political ploy just before the 2013 Federal elections, Labor slashed the 2014 Carbon Price from about $25 per tonne CO2-e to a derisory $6 per tonne CO2-e before going to the floating price of an a Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) linked to that in Europe where the Carbon Price is a mere $6 per tonne CO2-e. Interestingly, Rudd Labor’s effective abolition of its Carbon Tax was estimated to cost the Government budget about $3.8 billion over the next few years, similar to the maximum cost of the Coalition’s Direct Action plan (Emma Griffiths and Monique Ross, “Greg Hunt rejects “silly” Climate Institute report on direct action policy”, ABC News, 15 August 2013 ).
Now whether it is spending taxpayers’ money bribing companies not to pollute (Coalition Direct Action policy) or taxing companies for polluting with the cost after compensation being passed on to the taxpayers through price rises (Labor policy), the taxpayer ultimately pays. Either way, whether it is the Coalition’s maximum $32 per tonne CO2-e Carbon Tax or the Labor’s proposed derisory $6 per tonne CO2-e Carbon Tax, the higher the Carbon Tax the greater the disincentive to pollute. Indeed Dr. Chris Hope (leading climate economist, Judge Business School, 89-Nobel-Laureate University of Cambridge) (2011): “If the best current scientific and economic evidence is to be believed, and climate change could be a real and serious problem, the appropriate response is to institute today a climate change tax equal to the mean estimate of the damage caused by a tonne of CO2-e emissions. The raw calculations from the default PASGE09 model suggest that tax should be about $100 per tonne of CO2 in the EU. But correcting for the limited time horizon of the model, and bringing the calculations forward to 2102, in year 2012 dollars, brings the suggested tax up to about $150 per tonne of CO2” (Dr. Chris Hope, “How high should climate change taxes be?”, Working Paper Series, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, 9.2011). Dr. Chris Hope has further excoriated the Coalition’s Direct Action Plan as “a system effectively of giving subsidies to people not to emit pollution. It's a very bad system. The last thing you want to be doing is subsidizing people who are doing bad things” (Dr. Chris Hope interviewed by Emma Alberici, “Climate economist warns of impact climate change", Late line, 29 July 2013).
3. “Build the roads” refers to a Coalition policy of expanding huge urban and inter-urban highways and private transport in Australia rather than expanding railways and public transport. However from a science-based perspective, the world is facing a worsening climate emergency demanding urgent action. Thus according to the German climate advisory body WBGU and the Australian Climate Commission, the world has only about16 years before it exceeds the terminal greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution budget of 600 Gt (billion tonnes) CO2 that must not be exceeded if we are to have a 75% chance of avoiding a catastrophic 2C temperature rise (Australian Climate Commission, “The critical decade 2013: a summary of climate change science, risks and responses”, 2013, p7). Using recently revised data, it is estimated that the world has only 5 years left before a terminal GHG pollution budget of 600 Gt CO2-e is exceeded (Gideon Polya, " Doha climate change inaction. Only 5 years left to act", MWC News, 9 December 2012).
Urgently required, science-indicated Climate Emergency actions include (1) change of societal philosophy to one of scientific risk management and biological sustainability with complete cessation of species extinctions and zero tolerance for lying, (2) urgent reduction of atmospheric CO2 to a safe level of about 300 ppm as recommended by leading climate and biological scientists, and (3) rapid switch to the best non-carbon and renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal, wave, tide and hydro options that are currently roughly the same market price as fossil fuel burning-based power) and to energy efficiency, public transport, needs-based production, re-afforestation and return of carbon as biochar to soils and storage coupled with correspondingly rapid cessation of fossil fuel burning, deforestation, methanogenic livestock production and population growth. Rail transport is much more energy efficient than road transport. Thus a tram carrying 100 passengers can be 20 times more efficient than a 4-wheel drive carrying 5 passengers in using the same energy per kilometer (see Beyond Zero Emissions ).
It is a no-brainer for science-informed people that governments should be investing public money into energy-efficient railways and public transport and not into energy-inefficient road transport and private transport. However the neoliberal and climate change denialist Coalition when in government has been fundamentally corrupt like all neoliberal governments in diverting huge sums of public money into the hands of private capitalists and against the public interest. Indeed several days before the Federal Election the Coalition revealed an extraordinary climate change denialist position in releasing its resources and energy policy (see “The Coalition’s Policy for Resources and Energy”) that (a) made zero (0) mention of man-made climate change from fossil fuel burning and (b) made zero(0) mention of renewable energy except to propose a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) investigation into the climate change denialist murphy of alleged deleterious effects of wind farms, this ignoring the reality that the NHMRC has already found that there is “no published scientific evidence to positively link wind turbines with adverse health effects” (see the NHMRC Report “Wind farms and human health” ). In contrast, an estimated 10,000 Australians die each year due to pollutants from carbon burning (see “Australian carbon burning-related deaths” ).
4. “Budget back into black” refers to the enormous debt run up in the 6 years of the successive Rudd, Gillard and thence Rudd Labor Governments. Thus when the first Rudd Labor Government defeated the Howard Coalition Government and came to power in November 2007, Australia’s net assets were worth plus $31 billion but this declined to a current net debt of about minus $184 billion (see John Barron, “Fact checking Australia’s debt”, ABC TV, Lateline, 19 August 2013 ). Labor has “excused” this debt blowout as due to economy- and jobs-saving emergency action taken during the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), arguing that Australia’s net debt as a percentage of GDP is much lower than for other OECD countries.
However it is better to be in the black than in debt although going into debt can certainly be justified if it brings financial benefits e.g. borrowing to build wind farms that would largely eliminate GHG pollution and future energy costs. Thus, for example, ignoring cost-increasing energy storage and transmission grid costs and cost-decreasing economies of scale for a 2- to 10-fold size increase, here are 2 similar cost estimates for installation of wind power for 80% of Australia’s projected 325,000 GWh of annual electrical energy by 2020: (1) 90,000 MW capacity, 260,000 GWh/year, $200 billion/10 years (10-fold scale-up from GL Garrad Hassan estimates) and (2) 96,000 MW, 260,000 GWh/year, $144 billion (2-fold scale up from BZE estimates ) (see Section H, “2011 climate change course” and Google “100% renewable energy by 2020” ) .
The Coalition and Labor have exactly the same climate criminal, climate change inaction policies of a derisory “5% off 2000 GHG pollution by 2020” coupled with unlimited coal, gas and iron ore exports that will see Australia exceed by a factor of three (3) the whole world’s terminal GHG pollution budget. Currently, apart from re-afforestation, a major way of returning atmospheric CO2 back to a science-recommended 300 ppm CO2 from the current disastrous 400 ppm CO2 is through producing biochar (carbon, charcoal, C) through anaerobic pyrolysis of cellulosic biomass waste in renewable energy-driven microwave furnaces at 400-700C (with existing agricultural and forestry waste this could achieve about 9 Gt biochar carbon per year, roughly the same as the annual industrial carbon output; see Gideon Polya, “Forest biomass-derived Biochar can profitably reduce global warming and bushfire risk”, Yarra Valley Climate Action Group ).
However for every $1 received for coal by the coal industry our children, grandchildren and further generations will have to spend $2 to $3 at present prices converting the consequent CO2 back to biochar to save the Planet (see Gideon Polya, “Expert Witness Testimony to stop gas-fired power plant installation”, Countercurrents, 14 June 2013). Coal exports are Australia's second-largest source of export income after iron ore exports and are worth about AUS$50 billion per year. One can accordingly estimate that in the next 3 years the climate criminal policies of the Coalition Government re coal exports alone will run up a debt for future generations of about $300 billion to $450 billion in today’s Australian dollars.
Tony Abbott made great political capital over former Labor PM Julia Gillard notoriously breaking her 2010 pre-election promise that “There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead”. However Tony Abbott’s promises to (1) “stop the boats”, (2) “scrap the carbon tax”, (3) “build the roads” and (4) “get the budget back into the black” are just as hollow on science-based analysis – (1) Australia’s giant neighbour Indonesia strongly objects to potential violation of its sovereignty by the Coalition’s “stop the boats” policies; (2) via its Direct Action plan of subsidizing polluters not to pollute the Coalition effectively proposes an implicit Carbon Tax that is maximally 5 times bigger than Labor’s in terms of dollars per tonne CO2-equivalent; (3) in the context of a worsening climate crisis, investing public money into energy inefficient highways rather than into energy efficient railways is dangerous and expensive incompetence at best; and (4) fossil fuel burning carries an enormous debt for future generations and coal exports over the next 3 years under the Coalition will entrench a carbon debt of $300 billion to $450 billion in today’s Australian dollars for future generations, an appalling example of Coalition ignorance, incompetence, corruption, intergenerational inequity and intergenerational injustice.
Yet these realities, while apparent to those with a scientific background, are ignored by the climate change denialist Coalition and the appalling Australian Mainstream media, noting that 14 out of 21 major newspapers in Australia are part of the media empire of climate change denialist American media mogul Rupert Murdoch (Google “Boycott Murdoch Media”). The Coalition is strongly anti-science and Tony Abbott’s Ministry, bitterly attacked for containing only 1 woman, is reportedly now the first Australian Federal Ministry in 81 years to not have a Minister for Science whiles it, of course, has a Minister for Sport. This is simply unacceptable in a prosperous country in which an estimated 66,000 Australians die preventably each year (9,000 being Indigenous Australians) linked to corruption, scientific illiteracy, incompetent risk management, fiscal irresponsibility, and a philosophic void of both the major parties (the Coalition and Labor aka the Lib-Labs or Liberal-Laborals; see Gideon Polya, “Endless war on terror. Huge cost for Australia & America”, MWC News, 14 October 2012). Indeed the ignorant and philistine Coalition recently promised to slash over $100 million from Australian Research Council (ARC) funding critical for top university research and specifically targeted the research of an eminent University of Sydney philosopher (see Josephine Tovey, “Academic ridiculed by Coalition says Sydney University Vice Chancellor”, Sydney Morning Herald, 5 September 2013).
A dangerously ignorant, scientifically illiterate, neoliberal, right-wing, ultraconservative, climate change denialist, pro-war, pro-Zionist, pro-coal, pro-gas, anti-environment, anti-science, anti-education, anti-equity, human rights-abusing, US lackey, Liberal Party-National Party Coalition Government has been elected to govern Australia by an extremely uninformed electorate that is significantly brainwashed by the dominant US Murdoch media empire. Sensible, educated Australians must do their best to inform their fellow citizens to ensure the removal of these dangerous, ecocidal, terracidal, and neoliberal Coalition climate change denialists in the next Australian Federal elections in 3 years’ time.
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|Allen L. Jasson|
|William John Cox|