My last Commentary (on Tuesday 13 June) suggested that unless Turnbull recognises the many deficiencies in the Finkel report there is likely to be a political crisis within the Coalition. This morning I distributed several articles which indicate that this is now well under way. I list briefly below how this may have developed and what is wrong with Blueprint.
I concluded my Commentary last Sunday with the view that the Blueprint published by Chief Scientist Finkel has so many deficiencies that it is “not acceptable as a basis for Australia’s climate policy”. On Monday, The Australian’s political correspondent Crowe wrote a rather accommodative report on what he described as Finkel’s “first response to critics of the blueprint” but he offered little criticism or questioning of the Blueprint . His report was accompanied on digital by a five page conversation with Finkel which posed only limited questions. Nor (surprisingly) did he refer to any of the criticisms of Blueprint in News Ltd articles published on Saturday by Terry McCrann and Judith Sloan and yesterday on The Australian’s opinion page by expert climate analyst William Kininmonth (see Kininmonth on Finkel).
This report was presented to the Prime Minister Turnbull and State Premiers at the COAG meeting on 9 June and the head of the reporting panel, Chief Scientist Finkel, outlined the main features to COAG. The panel of 5, incidentally, all seem to be science oriented with little or no economic back ground. And Finkel himself has no background in climate change analysis but accepts the dangerous warming thesis.
In recent Commentaries I have referred to a number of deficiencies in the Budget which have either not been referred to in the main media, including even in The Australian, or have only been given limited attention. Despite this even The Australian has not published four letters I submitted on what I believe are serious analytical deficiencies, and the AFR often couldn’t decide whether to have a letters page. The Age almost automatically refuses to publish anyone deemed to be right of centre.
Turnbull’s address to the National Press Club was supposed to set out his policy agenda for 2017. Perhaps the first thing to note is that his text made no mention at all of the election of Trump as the new President of the US and the possible need for Australia to change some of its policies as the result of the major changes being implemented by Trump. This was surprising if only because of the importance of the US as a world power and our alliance with this country. But also because Trump appears to be reversing many of the major policies pursued by Obama, some of which have implications for Australia’s.
An important question is why there is such a focus by official agencies on the warmist year and whether that phenomonenon helps understand the causes of the increase in temperatures published by official agencies. As to the causes, the Australian BOM report acknowledges that “the Australian climate in 2016 was influenced by a combination of natural drivers and anthropogenic climate change”. But the UK Met mentions neither of these and the Aus BOM does not say anything about the relative contributions made by natural drivers and human activity. We can say however that, even if temperatures have increased by about 0.8C since around 1900 (which is the standard official message), this has done no harm. To the contrary, as illustrated in the attached report by the FAO, 2016 produced record agricultural output and since 1900 there has been a strong increase in food and other consumer production, with poverty rates falling. This suggests that, even if CO2 emissions did contribute to increased temperatures, there is no need to reduce the CO2 concentrations which remain in the atmosphere as a result human activity to date. Indeed, given that the increase in published temperature of 0.8C since about 1900 has done no harm, it also suggests there is no substantive basis for the government to justify taking action to reduce emissions from hereon unless it can be established that major increases in temperatures will now occur and damage production capacity.
The last Newspoll on 20 November showed the Turnbull Government with a TPP of 47/53, the exact opposite to what it was on 23 Nov in 2015 and down from the 50/50 TPP as recently as 12 September. Judging by what happened last year, there will be another poll in early December ie very soon. This should provide an indication of the extent to which, as Turnbull claimed in addressing the Party Room on 29 Nov (see Turnbull on Performance), “we are delivering … on the National Economic Plan” (sic). It will be recalled that, after an extended eight-week official campaign period and with the first election under a new voting system for the Senate that replaced group voting tickets with optional preferential voting, the Coalition lost 14 seats in the 2 July election. It is left with only a one seat majority and a Senate with 11 cross-benchers of diverse views (and 35 Labor/Greens and 30 Coalition).
I have no doubt that Terry McCrann does not want to be labelled a spokesman for Donald T. But after his conclusion yesterday that, in the wake of what he described as “the Trump-quake”, Turnbull now has a last chance to pull his socks up, Terry has again pursued one of Trump’s favourite targets viz international institutions. On this occasion it is the International Monetary Fund and the report by its “mission” to Australia to report on the Australian economy and the economic policy being pursued by the Turnbull government.
On Friday evening I attended the annual dinner of the HR Nicholls Society and gave the vote of thanks to the speaker, Senator Eric Abetz. His address was highlighted by The Weekend Australian giving it the front page lead story (see below) and the SMH also reported it, but not The Age. Abetz, who was dropped by Turnbull from ministerial ranks (he was Minister for Employment under PM Abbott) and from being Coalition leader in the Senate, used the HRN dinner as an opportunity to criticise Turnbull for failing to make reform of workplace relations a major policy issue at the election on 2 July. He pointed out that, with the ammunition provided by two major reports (the Heydon Royal Commission and the Productivity Commission), a policy advocating further reform had been a “gimme” and he noted that “not even the unlegislated elements of the 2013 election policy were taken forward such as changes to right of entry, transfer of business and individual flexibility arrangements”.
Although we had a long election campaign during which Parliament was not sitting, it now has another “break” until 10 October during which Turnbull and two other ministers (including Immigration Minister Dutton) will travel to the US. In this coming week Turnbull is scheduled to attend what his press release describes as “the biggest summit on the international calendar” - the UN General Assembly Leaders’ Week, which will include “summits on refugees and migration” hosted by Ban Ki-moon and a smaller one arranged by Obama. But, while discussions at UN General Assemblies rarely produce meaningful policies for use back home, the risk is that Turnbull may relax our refugees policy and, as Abbott did, agree to take more refugees. Given the tightening of border controls by European countries, and increasing concern about terrorists being amongst asylum seekers, Australia’s existing policy would seem justifiable.