ABC, Energy Policy, Trump at UN

Morrison’s Departmental Review of ABC on Wrong Track

There is one thing that emerges from the ABC shenigans, viz it establishes a strong case that there is now no need to have a public broadcaster covering the field, even if there was when it was established. The private sector now has many broadcasters and has ready access to “news” about what is happening overseas and to the views of visiting “experts” from overseas. This extends to the rural sector as well as the urban, although the former does not have as wide an access. There is a marvellous opportunity for the government to review the role of public broadcasting (see Future of ABC and ABC).

But the reaction of the Morrison government to the dismissal by the board of CEO Guthrie, and to the subsequent reported comments by board Chair Milne (who then resigned), seems wrong. Morrison’s decision to commission an inquiry to “establish the facts” by the head of the Communications Department is surely going in the wrong direction. The facts are clear enough and a departmental inquiry is likely to produce no more than a limited range of checks and balances to which the existing ABC could be subject. From this kind of response it will be difficult to escape and the ABC is likely to basically stay as is, with the continued bias.

Of course, given the ABC’s left bias Labor would be dead against any move to sell the ABC. But that is what Morrison should be considering now or at the very least saying it is one possible outcome. Instead, on 27 September Morrison publicly supported Turnbull’s denial that he did not “harbour a hatred” for ABC reporters. According to Morrison,  “I mean he didn’t. I actually spoke to Malcolm today,” Mr Morrison said. “I speak to Malcolm pretty frequently, and no, what the former prime minister did, just like I have as a minister, and I’m sure others … you know, the ABC isn’t perfect, you know, they make mistakes, and it’s all right for people to call them out on that and raise those issues with the ABC”.

It would also be difficult for the Departmental head to recommend a further cut, preferably large, in the ABC’s budget. But that is the second best outcome and it could be done by stipulating that in future the budget will be limited to broadcasting which the private sector has a limited capacity to undertake and which is judged to be in the national interest. It should be indicated that the ABC’s funding for this financial year will be reviewed in the mid-year budget report which usually occurs in December.

The ABC aside, it is not good news that he speaks to Turnbull “pretty frequently”. He should be establishing in the community’s mind that the Coalition will have policies different to those followed by Turnbull, who made as much use for personal benefits from the ABC as he could (including by appointing a friendly chairman).

Energy Policy Also Astray

In previous Commentary I have argued that Morrison’s promise to reduce power prices, and his appointment of Angus Taylor as the minister responsible for achieving this, will not work if the government continues to have a policy to reduce emissions by 26% by 2030 and one that continues to subsidize the usage of renewables. Morrison continues to say that such policies will remain. Yet the implementation of such policies adds to power prices unless the government increases subsidies.

In the Podcast Peta Credlin did last Friday on Sky News she urged the government to withdraw from the Paris accord and the gist of her presentation is in today’s Herald Sun (see Credlin on Paris Agreement). She acknowledges that, when Abbott was PM (and she was his chief adviser), wrong decisions were made. But she argues that

Three years on, we now know that even existing emissions reductions policy is putting power prices through the roof, sending jobs offshore, and risking blackouts when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. We now know, that the emissions commissars will soon turn their attention to culling our animal herds and putting a carbon tax on cars. What’s more — and this should be the clincher — we now know, that three of the four biggest emitters will make no commitments whatsoever, to reducing their emissions, leaving Australia in an even worse position than before.

Now, when circumstances change, smart people change their position. Tony Abbott has said that if we’d known then, what we know now, he’d never have agreed to a 26 per cent emissions reduction. Let’s never forget that it was Turnbull government who signed the Paris Agreement and then raced out and ratified it the day after Trump was elected knowing the US were out. So far, and without much conviction, Prime Minister Morrison has said we’re staying in — but that shouldn’t mean that we hand over even more money to global green bureaucrats.

To big note himself at the Paris conference, Mr Turnbull promised “up to a billion dollars” for this UN green climate fund that was supposed to total no less than one hundred billion dollars each and every year. Now, something called the World Resources Institute says this week that Australia should be the sixth biggest donor to this fund — behind just America, Britain, Japan, Germany and Canada — because of our wealth, and because of our historical contribution to carbon dioxide emissions — and what was initially supposed to be a one-off contribution, of billions, could even be converted to an annual tax at the December meeting in Poland.

Credlin does not mention that Graham Lloyd reported in Weekend Australia that Treasurer Frydenberg has announced that, while Australia has already given through DFAT $200mn to the Green Climate Fund,  there will be no increase in our commitment (see Australia’s Contribution to GCF). Note that a former board member claims that funding for new projects has “effectively stopped” ie Australia appears to  have no real commitment to the GCF.

Importantly, whether that is correct or not, the fact that the Morrison government decided not to make any further commitment to a body which forms part of the Paris accord should mean that it ought to have no concern about modifying its agreement to effect a smaller reduction in its federal emissions target. Our commitment is, in any event, voluntary.

A problem facing the Morrison government is that some of Australia’s states are setting their own targets, as is the Labor party. But an announced reduction in Australia’s federal commitment to the Paris accord would provide a basis for supporting Liberal parties at the state level and could be important for the upcoming NSW (March) and Victorian (November) elections. Credlin also refers to three of the biggest emitters who have no commitment: she might have referred also to the report that China is constructing much greater coal-fired generators than had been thought. In short, there is plenty of support for a major change in energy policy.

Trump’s Address to the UN

This is Trump’s address to the UN on 25 September which I have read because, while overstated in parts, it provides an indicator of priorities in US foreign policy and of the underlying beliefs held by Trump. The contrast with those of his predecessor is remarkable and should be supported by Australia because it is in our interests to do so, as should be the case with Western democracies but is not.

Unfortunately, Australia’s new minister for foreign affairs, Marise Payne, continued in her address to the UN to support the Europeans’ policy of opposing the US decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and re-impose nuclear sanctions. Trump indicated that additional sanctions on Iran will be imposed in November and his overt support for a two nations agreement between Israel and the Palestinians has been welcomed by Israel, which is experiencing massive attacks by Hamas on its borders.

The tone of Trump’s UN speech is slightly less aggressive than was last year’s but has been followed by an aggressive assessment of the potential threat from Iran by chief White House adviser John Bolton who, inter alia, said

According to the mullahs in Tehran, we are ‘the Great Satan,’ lord of the underworld, master of the raging inferno. So, I might imagine they would take me seriously when I assure them today: If you cross us, our allies, or our partners; if you harm our citizens; if you continue to lie, cheat, and deceive, yes, there will indeed be HELL to PAY.

The Iran Deal was the worst diplomatic debacle in American history. It did nothing to address the regime’s destabilizing activities or its ballistic missile development and proliferation. Worst of all, the deal failed in its fundamental objective: permanently denying Iran all paths to a nuclear bomb.

The ayatollahs have a choice to make. We have laid out a path toward a bright and prosperous future for all of Iran, one that is worthy of the Iranian people, who have long suffered under the regime’s tyrannical rule.

The recent shoot-up of Iranian soldiers, apparently by Arab groups, indicates that parts of Iran are exposed to attacks. It is relevant that Trump has announced that the US is developing a Middle-East policy.

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