According to the Prime Minister, it’s a “stupid” decision not to invest in fossil fuel companies. Treasurer Joe Hockey says only someone “removed from reality” wouldn’t invest in fossil fuel stocks. Education Minister Christopher Pyne has said not investing in resources companies is “bizarre” and lamented his inability to force the Australian National University to invest in them. Junior minister Jamie Briggs believes not to invest in fossil fuel stocks is “extraordinary” and “remarkable”.

If you were an investor, you’d be tempted to believe Australian fossil fuel stocks now come with some sort of government guarantee as to their performance, with everyone from the Prime Minister and Treasurer on down giving the tick to putting your savings into the likes of Santos and Iluka Resources. After all, the government has an important role in determining the success or otherwise of companies: it has set about single-handedly destroying investment in a sector that competes with fossil fuel companies, the renewable energy industry, and declared itself a strong supporter of the mining industry. Coal is “good for humanity”, Tony Abbott insisted last week, in defiance of the reality of climate change. Indeed, mining is one of the five “winners” the government picked as a priority area for business welfare handouts in its industry statement earlier this week.

The problem is, it’s not the likes of ANU that is “removed from reality” about fossil fuel industries, but Australia itself, which under the Abbott government is being pointedly left behind as the rest of the world accepts the challenge of decarbonising industry and energy. And as the rest of the world moves, no amount of ministerial spruiking of mining shares will help those industries.

Peter Fray

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