Commenting on this morning’s media speculation that he might challenge Turnbull for PM, Peter Dutton said “In relation to media stories today, just to make very clear, the Prime Minister has my support and I support the policies of the Government. My position hasn’t changed from my comments last Thursday.” (see Dutton Says Supports Turnbull). That of course is a short time ago and he has also said that, while in Cabinet, he is bound to support government policy.
The Turnbull government has succeeded in obtaining a welcome reduction in personal income taxes. But the estimated reduction in total tax levels is less than might be imagined from the media exchanges. This is important because, as stated in Budget Paper No.1 for 2018-19, “it is important that the personal income tax system does not act as a disincentive for those taking on additional work or seeking advancement”. Also that the “cap on the overall tax burden… “is consistent with the long term average of 23.9 per cent of GDP” which the government has set.
In last Thursday’s Commentary I argued that there are serious problems with the outline of the National Energy Guarantee scheme given by Energy Minister Frydenberg in an article published in The Australian (see Frydenberg on NEG). These included the incorrect claim that the Energy Security Board is independent; the claim that NEG would restore faith in the electricity market when in fact it’s main operative conditions would be stipulated by the government; and the consequent false claim that it would be based on engineering and economics.
I find it surprising that, so far, only three players have acknowledged involvement in the scrabbling (worse than “tampering”) of the ball in the last South African test match. Any of the Australian bowlers who used the scrabbled ball would surely have immediately realised that they were handling a ball that had been scrabbled. At his (incomplete) press conference, David Warner refused to answer questions about whether other players were involved. Darren Lehmann’s decision to resign without holding a press conference meant he did not have any questions posed but he should have known if some form of forbidden activity was being used. The same applies to the CEO of Cricket Australia, James Sutherland, who, even if he was told there were only three scrabblers, should have left the question open.
As we enter the New Year many ask what happened last year and what is likely to happen this year. Not surprisingly, the climate is a point of focus as is whether Australian governments’ policies to reduce carbon emissions are working. Also not surprising is that there are fundamental differences in opinion about the merits of those policies, not the least being Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement and his recent failure to mention in a major security statement.
In Wednesday’s Commentary I suggested that the explanation given by an “expert” as to how Turnbull’s NEG would work, and how NEG would save $110-115 pa in costs, was incomprehensible. This expert (John Pierce) was making the explanation at Turnbull’s request to a press conference whose attendants included Frydenberg and board members of the recently established Economic Security Board (ESB), and whose role appears to be to ensure the provision of reliable power and the achievement of the emissions reduction target of 26-28% by 2030 (the text of the press conference is now attached to Wednesday’s Commentary on my web and is a “must read”). My guess is that the two ministers put together a group of “experts” as members of the ESB who are sympathetic to the need for government intervention to reduce carbon emissions.
Yesterday Environment Minister Frydenberg had a lead article published in The Australian in which he argued that “in order to create a more affordable and stable energy system, the states need to lift their game — business as usual is not an option” (see Frydenberg on States Energy Policies). I submitted a letter arguing that “the same comment might be made about the Commonwealth’s policy game”, but it was not published.
Yesterday I had a “coup”, with The Australian publishing a letter by me and giving it the heading “Bad Energy Policy” (see below). This relates to my comment in the letter that “Voters would have to choose between two bad policies, with the Labor Party offering results twice as bad”. Although the Editor deleted some bits from my original draft (as shown by the bits in square brackets), he has retained the reference to the letter sent by 300 scientists to Trump on global climate. Several scientists from Australia are signatories, including myself ( I have a BSc Econ Hons from the LSE and economics is a justifiable inclusion here). The language used in Lindzen’s letter and included in my letter below is particularly interesting in that it asserts that government actions to reduce emissions of CO2 produce no environmental benefit and in fact cause serioussocial and economic harm. This can be taken as the view of deniers rather than sceptics. Note also that the lead author, Dr Richard Lindzen, is a highly regarded atmospheric physicist who has deeply researched this subject and has communicated with me on it (to put me on the right track!).