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Jun 18, 2009

Wong's cynical renewable energy play

The Government is happy to sacrifice its Renewable Energy Target for political expediency.


Penny Wong’s pathetic stunt of linking the Renewable Energy Target legislation to the passage of its ETS bill has been rendered moot by Steve Fielding getting support from the Coalition and Nick Xenophon to refer the bills to a Senate inquiry even before they’ve been introduced into the Senate.

The Government introduced the bills yesterday in the House of Representatives but they have yet to be debated or passed there.

The link between the RET bills and the CPRS bill is courtesy of a definition in the section of the RET bill dealing with exemptions, where industries that will be exempted from the renewable energy target are defined with reference to the CPRS legislation. Without a CPRS Act , the definition has no meaning. The “delinking” would be an entirely simple matter of pasting the CPRS definition into the RET bill.

Opposition sources believe that this was originally a drafting error that Minister Wong and the Prime Minister decided should be retained as it offered a good opportunity to increase the pressure on the Coalition — which has hitherto been supportive of the RET proposal — to pass the CPRS and split the Coalition. The Coalition is deeply, and rightly, angered that the Government is so blatantly playing politics with an issue it says is one of “the great moral challenges” of our time, especially when it had indicated support for the RET, despite misgivings amongst the Nationals.

The Government is happy to sacrifice its Renewable Energy Target for political expediency.

The more immediate problem for the Coalition now is how it handles the CPRS bills in the Senate next week. The Government has been ramping up the pressure on the Senate, threatening to keep it sitting until the bill is passed or defeated and briefing journalists about the Senate’s poor work rate in dealing with legislation.

The Coalition’s formal position is to defer a vote on the bill until next year, but a deferral is sufficient for the Government to create a double dissolution trigger. There was a suggestion this morning that Coalition and Nick Xenophon may move for yet another inquiry into the Bills, but both Xenophon and the Coalition denied this to Crikey. Xenophon wants further modelling work done by Treasury as a prelude to a vote immediately on return from the winter break (11 August) and the Coalition wants the Productivity Commission to assess the scheme, but neither would amount to a formal inquiry of the kind that might muddy the issue of whether, as the Government would like to suggest, the Senate had failed to pass the bills in a constitutional sense.

An alternative was floated this morning of an old-fashioned, US-style filibuster, with Coalition senators lining up to fill next week with extended speeches about the bill, but we’re unlikely to see Opposition senators reading from recipe books given they would need the minor parties to support them and Anthony Albanese appears content to keep Parliament sitting over next weekend if necessary.

The fate of the CPRS bill is now a procedural issue. It won’t pass, but quite how it won’t pass depends on Steve Fielding, whose position remains unclear. He could elect to support Xenophon’s deferral until August (when the inquiry into the RET bills Fielding initiated today will report), he could support the Coalition’s deferral until 2010, he could back the Government or the Greens on passing or killing the bill, or, more likely, he’ll do something different altogether.

You can bet the Government will be getting — if it hasn’t already — some top-flight legal advice on the definition of “failure to pass” under the Constitution. But if the High Court eventually decided the Government hadn’t had the grounds for a double dissolution election, it would only do so after the bill had been passed in a joint sitting after the Government had had won an election and someone had challenged the Act’s validity. Intriguing as that would be, we’re a long way off that yet.


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15 thoughts on “Wong’s cynical renewable energy play

  1. Venise Alstergren

    Am I the only person in Oz who bitterly resents the huge amount of our money being spent on every bl-ody Bill and sons of Bill and grandsons of Bill: not to mention the punishing legal costs incurred as a result of the Opposition constantly knocking every Bill on the head? Only to go through the same blo-dy farce, and fresh committees, and fresh sub committees and fresh sub-sub committees all over again. All to support a legal company and it’s over-fed, over-corpulent and over-greedy partners, just so Messers Raped Stoned and Willing Pty Ltd can earn millions in fees? Just look at the on-going costs of the Telstra fiasco. I am so fed up by this squandering of our money I feel like slitting someones wrists.
    Is there anyone out there in the blogosphere who can tell me whether or not this is just an extension of the Howard government’s thinking-except they had the power in both the houses, or has it taken the Rudd government to make an art-form out of pis-ing money into the wind?
    If I ever vote Labor again in my life I will cheerfully admit to a sanity test. Yes the Howard government was despicable, rotten, criminal-every adjective in the book-but we were left with something. It it wasn’t for the presence of Christopher Pyne and Tony Abbott in the Opposition ranks I might give them my vote now.

  2. meski

    Wouldn’t reading from a recipe book breach copyright, being a public performance? :^)

  3. Joel B1

    The lack of comment shows how far left Crikey has drifted/been kicked/staggered drunkenly.

  4. Joel B1

    Secondly, BK you just lost me $20.

    The main running bet in our family was that you would always have a paragraph “But the Coalition are far worse yada yada…”

    The minor wager was on the positioning of stated paragraph. I always maintained it would be the 13th para, other household bets were first Daughter 10th, Wife 12th.

    Thankfully, that wager is forfeit.

  5. Julian Watson

    You’re on here Joel B1. Guess that makes you a lefty then!

  6. MichaelJChristie

    Dear Senator Fielding
    Your actions this week to vote down by deferring the Renewable Energy Target (RET) legislation has placed the Australian solar industry into a dramatic decline. You have left Australians with little support for solar power installations. Affecting both its reputation to its suppliers, bankers and customers. The new legislation you deferred would have taken away from households installing solar PV additional financial support.
    Can you please answer the following questions?
    1. Why as a politician do you believe the evidence for climate change is a conspiracy? That the evidence provided by the Australian Chief Scientist is not factual? What criteria have you based your decision on regarding climate change?
    2. While you were in the USA on your taxpayer funded trip recently. What US Government Agencies and Universities did you visit on climate change and renewable energy? Was the Senator aware that the US Pentagon of any government agency in the world spends the most on renewable energy and energy efficiency?
    3. What is the current value is the Australian solar PV industry in employment and sales?
    4. In the next three months what is the anticipated number of jobs and have been lost due to your decision of deference to this industry?
    5. How many families have you affected by not being able to access this program?

  7. jreimer

    MichaelJChristie, get your facts right before you start attacking people.

    Firstly, Steve Fielding’s trip to America was not taxpayer funded, there has been extensive coverage in the media of how in fact he self funded the trip in order to gain more information about the issue.

    Secondly, I don’t believe the Senator believes in a “climate change conspiracy” as you put it. I understand him to be saying that he is simply trying to get all the facts before he makes a decision which could impact the livelihoods of thousands of Australians – good idea, no?

    I think his open minded attitude to the whole issue – one way or another – is quite clear. See http://stevefielding.com.au/blog/comments/fielding_talks_to_wong_on_climate_change/ . It will be interesting to see what kind of answers he receives from Senator Wong.

  8. Evan Beaver

    Michael, your comment is not 100% correct. But that doesn’t mean I don’t agree.

    Fielding’s trip was paid for out of his own pocket.

  9. Venise Alstergren

    Michael, I thought your points were excellent. In the case of Senator Fielding paying for his own trip I tend to think the more he told us that, the more we were entitled to be suspicious. Has the fifty six thousand+ Senator presented receipts and proof that he paid for his trip? Sadly, I find that by believing the opposite to what politicians are saying, informs me a lot better and a lot quicker than accepting their lies.

    PS I lied when I said I would vote for the Opposition.

  10. Heathdon McGregor

    Re: Mr Fielding, Has anybody actually answered his query relating to the rise of carbons levels against the lowering of temperature? I see everybody attack who he spoke to, who paid but I must have missed where somebody just answers his question? I am no climate change denier or true believer, I dont know. I am too ignorant of all of the debate to pick a side.

  11. MichaelJChristie

    As he states he is a qualified engineer maybe he does not need to be spoon feed on the evidence. Why has he not read the Palaeontology evidence and the amount of GHG we are emitting on this planet. Go figure!!!!

  12. MichaelJChristie

    If his trip was not taxpayer funded who pays his salary and the tax deductions for his travel related expenses? As a an Australian Senator who is representing this country why did he only seek out in the USA only one point of view? Seems his visit to the White House he completely missed the point!! How qualified is this person? What engineering projects has he worked on? What type of qualifications does he have in engineering? Please keep up you comments on Steve Fielding I am sure you doing his cause a lot of good.

  13. MichaelJChristie

    Where did Steve Fielding earn his engineering qualifications? I am sure is a question the Australian taxpayers would like to know.

  14. MichaelJChristie

    For more information visit http://www.theclimategroup.org/indicator
    This week’s (12 June – 18 June) Victoria Indicator is 2.257 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, the breakdown is as follows:
    In tonnes:
    Electricity from coal: 1.304 million; 58.0%
    Natural gas: 0.431 million; 19.0%
    Petroleum: 0.523 million; 23.0%
    Victoria’s emissions from energy grew by 3.1% or 69,000 tonnes this week to the highest level since August 2008.
    Emissions from coal-fired generators, which accounted for 97% of Victoria’s generation, were 5.1% or 64,000 tonnes higher.
    Electricity demand grew by 3.5%.
    Emissions from gas rose by 0.8% or 3,000 tonnes to the highest level since August 2008, largely due to continuing demand for heating.
    Emissions from petroleum grew by 0.3% or 2,000 tonnes.
    This week’s Indicator is 7.0% higher than the same week in 2008 and total emissions to this stage of 2009 are 0.9% higher than the similar stage last year.
    This week’s Indicator is 47% above the average equivalent 1990 weekly emissions and 18% above the equivalent 2000 weekly average.
    New South Wales
    This week’s (12 June – 18 June) NSW Indicator is 1.940 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, the breakdown is as follows:
    In tonnes:
    Electricity from coal: 1.254 million; 64.7%
    Natural gas-fired electricity: 0.027 million; 1.4%
    Petroleum: 0.659 million; 33.9%
    NSW’s emissions from energy grew by 5.9% or 108,000 tonnes this week to the highest level since February, due to a rise in demand and a lack of electricity available for import from other states.
    Emissions from coal-fired electricity, which accounted for 90% of electricity generation in NSW this week, grew by 8.7% or 101,000 tonnes to the highest level since February.
    Electricity demand rose by 6.6%.
    Emissions from gas-fired generators rose by 38% or 8,000 tonnes.
    Emissions from petroleum products remained the same.
    This week’s Indicator is 0.6% lower than the same week in 2008 and total emissions to this stage of 2009 are 2.5% lower than the similar stage last year.
    This week’s Indicator is 33% above the average equivalent 1990 weekly emissions and 28% above the equivalent 2000 weekly average.
    This week’s (12 June – 18 June) Queensland Indicator is 1.406 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, the breakdown is as follows:
    In tonnes:
    Electricity from coal: 0.796 million; 56.6%
    Natural gas-fired electricity: 0.053 million; 3.8%
    Petroleum: 0.557 million; 39.6%
    This week Queensland’s energy emissions fell by 0.8% or 11,000 tonnes.
    Weekly Greenhouse Indicator (12 June to 18 June)
    Emissions from coal-fired electricity, which accounted for 88% of Queensland’s generation, fell by 1.6% or 13,000 tonnes.
    Electricity demand grew by 2.3%.
    Emissions from gas-fired generators rose by 4.6% or 2,000 tonnes back to a very high level.
    Emissions from petroleum products fell by 0.1% or 1,000 tonnes down from the high level of last week.
    This week’s Indicator is 0.3% higher than the same week in 2008 and total emissions to this stage of 2009 are 2.6% lower than the similar stage last year.
    This week’s Indicator is 111% above the average equivalent 1990 weekly emissions and 31% above the equivalent 2000 weekly average.
    Please note: All figures to the nearest thousand.
    Luke Muir

  15. MichaelJChristie

    Climate change is the most complex issue the human species has faced. Executing change in regards to climate change is about knowing the detail about climate change economics, CC society and psychology, renewable energy and energy efficiency, CC ecology, CC meteorology, CC building and design, CC urban design, CC transport etc.
    It may seem our Australian Senators are not up to the mark. While Rome (Canberra) burns below are examples of the level of detail in CC change other locations are doing this week on CC implementation.
    UK Government
    The Devil being in the detail!!!

https://www.crikey.com.au/2009/06/18/wongs-renewable-energy-target-play-and-other-cynical-disgraces/ == https://www.crikey.com.au/free-trial/==https://www.crikey.com.au/subscribe/

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