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May 14, 2014

Environment: green policies casualties of Abbott's vengeance mission

Tony Abbott seems to have taken personal umbrage as a result of Greens and green-minded MPs denying him power in 2010. Now he's in charge, and our sustainable programs are on the chopping block.


For Prime Minister Tony Abbott, his was not so much a budget as a settling of old scores.

Cast your mind back to 2010, when Abbott was denied power in a hung Parliament by Labor, the Greens and two country independents who wished to advance policy on climate change and renewable energy. Ever since, Abbott and the right-wing faction that put him there — the people Paul Keating famously described as “right-wing nutcases” — have vowed revenge.

The proposed trashing of the $3.1 billion Australian Renewable Energy Agency, which under various guises has for years backed Australia’s world-leading solar research and demonstration projects for the energy technologies of the future, was the coup de grace.

The budget has provided Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey the opportunity to implement many of the 75-point wish list drawn up by the influential Institute of Public Affairs, which the government attempted to disguise by asking the Commission of Audit to prepare its 86 recommendations in its ham-fisted documents. Hence the attack on education, health funding and welfare payments that will affect the least advantaged, and the tax cuts for corporates.

But it is “green policy” and anything that resembles it that riles this government the most. Consider Hockey’s comments about wind farms being “utterly offensive”. With proposals to repeal the carbon price, dismantle the Climate Change Authority and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and the dilution of the Renewable Energy Target already in train, the budget measures, which include the closure of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, the dumping of the million solar roofs program (both contrary to election promises) and the research funding cuts at the CSIRO, Bureau of Meteorology and elsewhere, means that the obliteration of the Clean Energy Future package will be complete — if it can get past the Senate.

The closure of ARENA, which still had $3.1 billion of funds to be invested over the next 10 years, appears the most vindictive, and like the move to pull the CEFC, a case of economic and environmental vandalism. The budget document talks endlessly about the need for “innovation”, for new investment and infrastructure. ARENA, like the CEFC, was able to leverage billions of dollars in private finance — a rate of $2.50 of private funds for every $1 invested.

Chief executive Ivor Frischknecht says that until the Senate decides otherwise, the agency will continue to work through its applications. It has more than 190 proposals worth $7.7 billion (two-thirds private money) on the table. He says that reflects not just the level of disappointment, but the “scale of investment that is unlikely to go ahead because of the proposed closure”.

ARENA has been branded as one of many examples of “corporate welfare”, but in reality more than 150 of its 180 projects already allocated are in support of research and development, a core competency of any advanced economy. Future funding of that research will be lost. Corporate welfare will continue to be doled out to manufacturers in other sectors.

“Instead, according to Abbott and Hockey, we are to build the roads of the 21st century. Welcome to the asphalt economy.”

ARENA was not the only victim of the budget axe. The million solar roofs program, once a $1 billion centrepiece of Direct Action to bring solar to lower-income earners and renters, has sunk without trace — replaced by a derisory $2.1 million program to install solar on RSLs and bowling clubs in seven marginal electorates (yes, really).

It has cut another $459.3 million (or around three-quarters) of remaining funds from the Carbon Capture and Storage Flagships Program, cut $16.8 million over two years from the National Low Emissions Coal Initiative, slashed $111.4 million over four years from the CSIRO, $10 million from the Bureau of Meteorology, and $21.7 million from its Environmental Science programs.

Left in place are $525 million to pay up to 15,000 under-25s to pick up litter at below-award wages under the guise of the Green Army, and a diesel fuel tax exemption for miners and other off-grid users worth $2 billion a year, which may ironically relieve some of the pain of having financing for cleaner, cheaper options such as off-grid solar removed.

The centrepiece of the government’s Direct Action policy, which replaces the carbon price, also seems to be in a state of utter confusion. The budget papers mention $2.55 billion set aside “over 10 years” rather than the four set aside by the government previously. The office of Environment Minister Greg Hunt described this as a “printing mistake”, but Treasury documents also allocate just $1.1 billion of actual expenditure over the coming four years, suggesting that Treasury boffins have little faith in the emissions reduction fund attracting any meaningful offers for abatement. Bankers still describe the policy as “wishful thinking”.

ARENA chairman Greg Bourne says that while the outcome of the RET review — led by climate change sceptic Dick Warburton — is not yet known, it looks as though the government is looking to “clear the decks” of clean energy.

“From cleared decks, the question is then, what do you build?” Bourne said. “The government is leaving behind a set of options that would allow it to accelerate the deployment of clean energy, and they may well need those options in the future. We are trying to build the infrastructure of the 21st century in terms of energy.”

Instead, according to Abbott and Hockey, we are to build the roads of the 21st century. Welcome to the asphalt economy.

*This article was originally published at RenewEconomy


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20 thoughts on “Environment: green policies casualties of Abbott’s vengeance mission

  1. Roger Clifton

    >> “ongoing war on renewables and climate change”. The right-wing nutcases have been able to dismiss the seriousness of climate change because it is easy to dismiss many of the impractical claims of the renewables lobby.

    We need our commentators to separate the two issues. After all, averting climate change is about converting to non-carbon energy, whereas renewables would be needed if we were running out of non-renewable resources. There is more to “non-carbon” than just “renewables”, such as nuclear.

    Climate disasters will eventually persuade LCP voters that we are running out of time. But they will never see us running out of carbon.

  2. MJPC

    Hold on, didn’t Citizen comment that removal of the Carbon tax…levy…tax… would result in cheaper electricity for all. Another lie coming up to haunt him when they get the CT removed and the electricity rent seekers spin why prices haven’t fallen (and will not ever).
    I thought the Green Army had been shelved as a joke, and now it is resurrected as a keystone environmental policy of these imposters. I dareway all of the school leavers waiting 6 months for the dole for jobs that have been off-shored can serve a stint painting rocks and sweeping paths west of the black stump.
    Memo to the Labour Party;
    1: recall Paul Keating as leader. “Right wing nutcases”; indeed!
    2: Start firing the bullets being loaded by the LNP.

  3. Stuart Coyle

    Coal and cars is all they care about.

    19th century technology and 19th century social attitudes show through very clearly with this budget.

    Let’s ignore the 21st century. Let’s not have a modern energy infrastructure nor a modern network infrastructure. When Tony Abbot says he is the “infrastructure Prime Minister” he has decided that “infrastructure” means only that technology that is at least a century old. Anything else is way too cutting edge and progressive for him.

  4. Electric Lardyland

    And still, the only ‘direct action’ being implemented, is against people who believe in acting to reduce carbon emissions.
    And still, I haven’t noticed any Australian journalist, ask Abbott the increasingly obvious question of, “When are you going to stop telling the lie to the Australian people, that you believe in the science of climate change?” Actually, since it’s probably been a while since Abbott has even been asked to comment on climate change, that question should now probably be, “Why did you decide to relentlessly tell the lie to Australian people, that you believed in the science of climate change?”

  5. Zeke

    Roger Clifton. There’s nothing wrong with a carbon economy as long as the carbon you use is recycled, ie using vegetation based energy. Climate change is coming about because of the burning of fossil fuels, not fuels based from carbon based renewable resources. Plants take carbon from the air, we burn carbon and replace it, no problem.

  6. Roger Clifton

    Zeke says that the problem [for the Greenhouse] from using carbon fuel would vanish as long as all the carbon gets recycled in vegetation. Sure, but every citizen on planet Earth would require several square kilometres of rich forest, to be lightly harvested with saintly self-discipline. But there is no such spare forest, and the archaeological record shows that there never has been such saintly restraint. We have been a weed species, doomed to repeatedly climax and collapse.

    Zeke’s vision is poetry, no doubt appreciated by the faithful. However, to Conservative voters, it is a hopelessly impractical whimsy. In their ridicule, they also dismiss the very real threat of climate change as an equally unreal fantasy that they can afford to ignore.

  7. mikehilliard

    These morons don’t have a clue. They can kill the messenger but the fact remains that as electricity prices fail to come down, carbon tax or no carbon tax, people will take matters into their own hands. Technology is fast outstripping the dinosaur brains in Abbott’s clique. Sooner rather than later installing solar or wind technology with storage batteries to provide almost stand alone systems will be as common as buying a new lounge. The great shame of Abbott’s policies will be that that technology will be sourced from overseas.

  8. Dogs breakfast

    Thanks Roger, but back in the real world, where nuclear is not an option; apart from the cost, the unproven next generation technology, and the fact that more carbon emissions are produced from the building of a nuclear power station than can ever be saved, and the fact that it is politically impossible in this and most countries, oh yeah apart from that, that leaves us with,

    oh yes, renewables.

    May as well get on the bandwagon now before you get hopelessly left behind.

    The word ‘philistines’ seems just wasted on this government.

    The Arena cuts are particularly galling, but what would you expect.

  9. Liamj

    The voluntary human extinction movement thanks Tony Abbott & LNP voters for their support.

  10. Graeski

    OK – I’ve done it. I’ve just joined the Greens. Would have considered Labor but I’m not in a union. Either will do – I just want these bastards out. I can’t sit back and watch them destroy our country any longer.

  11. Mandy Xia

    and the fact that more carbon emissions are produced from the building of a nuclear power station than can ever be saved

    No. Just no. A wild unsubstantiated assertion — which also happens to be incredible wrong — does not constitute a fact.

    Potential nuclear power in Australia is estimated to have a CO2 intensity of approximately 60 g CO2-equivalent per kWh, compared to the 106 g for photovoltaics, and 950+ g for coal.

  12. klewso

    “Lemmings R’ Us”?

  13. Lord Muck

    When Joe denigrates a particular windfarm, he is denigrating an Australian company that is also successfully exporting its expertise. It’s a good thing no one takes him seriously, or it might affect business and shareholder confidence in this company.

    The massive deforestation that preceded and possibly benefits the Capital windfarm doesn’t seem to affect Joe’s sensibilities at all.

  14. Rohan

    “Massive” deforestation for a windfarm?

  15. David Penington

    Cutting three quarters of Carbon Capture and Storage Flagships Program, and $16.8 million (over two years) from the National Low Emissions Coal Initiative are the only good news in the budget. CCS is an inefficient myth as is low emissions coal, and they formed a smokescreen for business (and CO2 emissions) as usual by the coal industry.

  16. David Penington

    Rohan, those green, grassy hills are the result of deforestation – not for a wind farm but for farming. The “beautiful, natural scenery” that is “ruined” by wind farms is man-made deforestation.

  17. Brad

    It seems the government is intent on reinforcing our dependence on fossil fuels and locking us into the never ending upwards spiral of energy costs. No surprises there. Transfer funding from public transport to more roads to force greater reliance on vehicles. Then raise the fuel excise (which I support if its used to maintain – rather than expand – our road networks).

    How convenient that increased dependence on private vehicles + increased fuel excise = increased govt revenue + more profits for established energy players

  18. klewso

    We gotta keep this government’s major sponsors profitable – a continuation of their “Age of Entitlement”.
    So they can keep contributing/donating to their party’s costs of other advertising (other than Murdoch’s positive Conservative PR) to get re-elected, so their Limited News Party can continue to indulge them.
    [The Abbott-Murdoch “Magic Circle Carbon Ring Club”]

  19. Rick Fehlberg

    I remember, even clearer now 20yrs later, when I was studying Electrical Engineering at University doing Philosophy 101. We were the first year that had philosophy added to the course with the intention to opening the eyes of potential engineers to a frame of reference for the decisions we may one day make as engineers.

    The topics I remember were:
    • Value judgments, how our personal values influence what’s right
    • The energy crisis – over reliance of fossil fuels
    • Global warming, The Greenhouse effect, man-made CO2 emissions
    I very much enjoyed the Value judgments topic. Why do we make bridges only 2.5 times stronger than their maximum loading? What makes your decisions and values more important than others? Does it take into account the potential of natural disasters? Excellent stuff!
    The Energy Crisis topic didn’t make as much sense to me. So many loaded learnings. We weren’t philosophizing, we were being brain washed. I could understand that fossil fuel is a finite resource but I also knew, at the same time I was being brain washed, the constant discovery of more and larger deposits that technology was helping us find were being discovered. We were being told to use Nuclear energy, solar, wind, tidal, etc. etc. This only had me think, what is the environmental cost of those resources? Why aren’t we discussing those in philosophy rather than being brain washed? I was sure, even without evidence, the environmental cost of making solar panels was likely to be expensive. Not only were fossil fuels required to make them but how much processing and environmental damage? I knew we weren’t being encouraged to think, but to agree. Anyway, so what if I don’t agree?
    Then the topic of Global Warming. I can’t tell you why, it must have been instinct but the whole topic did not sit right with me. Maybe because it was so accusational? It was our fault! And therefore it was our responsibility to fix it. Nope! I didn’t have anything to do with our current position at 20yrs of age. I knew it wasn’t me, and I was feeling uncomfortable about the whole delivery of this brain washing. I immediately agreed, we probably should stop polluting the planet and reduce our use of fossil fuels but the rest was rubbish.
    I was not happy and there was a lack of scientific evidence. And then, the evidence that was produced? Well it was a chart of the earth’s temperature related to the suns radiation. I don’t have a copy any longer, all these years later and I can’t find it online. What I saw, at least in my mind was a direct correlation between the suns output compared to the earth’s temperature. It was as clear as day for me. I wanted to find evidence to support my gut feeling and the only piece of evidence that seemed to matter, but there was none. Keep in mind the internet wasn’t what it is today. The best thing about the internet at that moment in time was the release of Netscape, so I got to see boobs on the computer. Yes indeed, remember the very first steps into the World Wide Web? I do.
    Needless to say, I failed philosophy. I would not spew their lies. I still say, I have never learned more than I did when I failed philosophy.
    All these years later I have found a growing movement of educated and intelligent people who share my suspicion towards the global warming lie. Ok, I better clarify that comment. The lie that global warming is due to man-made CO2 emissions.
    I encourage everyone to research this for themselves. It shouldn’t be a surprise that I refer you to a community I am involved with SuspiciousObservers.
    Here is Ben’s latest conference which is a great start and overview. Watch this if nothing else. Ben Davidson: The Variable Sun and Its Effects on Earth | EU2014
    Their website contains a wide variety of brilliant information including:
    • Starwater – water comes from stars and every planet has water
    • C(lie)mate – the global warming lie
    • Agenda 21
    Check out the daily SO news on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/user/Suspicious0bservers
    See weather presented from a space perspective.
    It’s bigger than you think.

  20. Courtney Wale

    Really? Trying to repeal the carbon tax while cutting the budget so we aren’t supporting renewable energy resources. How is that going to benefit Australia in the future?
    The issue with the budget cuts of renewable energy resources is that it will actually cost a considerable amount of money in the future. The cost of ignoring climate change, which Abbot is doing, will cost Australia much more in the future! Not only in monetary value, but people will be much more disadvantaged as a result.
    Australia is more than an economy, though that doesn’t appear to occur to Abbot. The environment is fundamental in Australia and without a transition to renewable energy resources, the environment will suffer. Abbot seems to focus too much on the economy without recognising the future benefits of supporting renewable energy in the future. How are future generations going to cope with transitioning to renewable energy resources when the damage from not doing so has already been done? He also fails to see the economic benefits for Australia by continuing to support renewable energy. It will save a considerable amount of money in the future by supporting it now. Though yes, it may be costing Australia money now, it’s saving more than just money in the future!
    What will it take for Abbot to support renewable energy? Will it take an influx of displaced people seeking asylum once half the Islands have sunk and are in desperate need of asylum? As “utterly offensive” as they seem to think wind farms are, at the end of the day, those wind farms and other renewable energy resources will save Australia.
    Not to mention that Australia’s carbon dioxide emissions far outweigh the world average per capita. If we’re taking this into account, Australia really should include supporting renewable energy resources in the budget. We’ve done enough damage as it is, we should be focusing on rectifying the damage we’ve caused. Ignoring climate change won’t make it go away, it will make the effects harder to manage in the future.


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