Today’s Australian has devoted its entire Letters section to energy policy and the use of renewable as a part of climate change policy. My letter is published below and other letters are attached and are in a similar critical vein. They include one from Professor O’Brien (Adjunct to WA University), a physicist who has long been a critic of the so-called “consensus” on climate change - one of those many academics who do not subscribe to the “group” view which has prevailed for the last 30 or so years and whose views have been swallowed hook line and sinker by many political and business leaders.
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!).
My Commentary yesterday suggesting “Turnbull Must Go” has produced some critical responses and has also revealed media bias in favour of Turnbull. This comes from the comments made last night and in today’s media. But before turning to those I should note that George Christensen has resigned as chief whip in the National Party so that, he says, he will be freer to comment on Turnbull government policies. While this follows the resignation of Senator Bernardi as a member of the Liberal party, Christensen indicated that he would stay as a member of the National Party in the lower house. A loss of his vote there in a motion of no confidence would now mean however that there would be equal numbers for each side, a potentially ungovernable situation.
Today’s Newspoll shows that, despite Turnbull’s very recent decision to start attacking Shorten more aggressively, the Coalition’s polling has dropped a further percentage point (to 45/55 on a TPP) and Turnbull’s personal polling has dropped sharply to 29/59 satisfied compared with 33/54 last time. This has occurred after Shorten was not only unable to state the estimated cost of Labor’s 50% target for renewable energy but also announced that he would try to reverse the decision by Fair Work Australia to slightly reduce penalty rates even though he had previously supported a review when he was minister under Labor! With Labor on the back foot, the Coalition’s polling ought to have improved.
As we get closer to the resumption of Parliament on Tuesday 7 Feb, many have increasingly wondered what issues the Turnbull government will prioritise in the New Year and how it will react to the new Trump government in the US. In today’s Herald Sun (see below), Terry McCrann suggests that Turnbull has offered few indications of the policies he intends to pursue actively and gives the impression that he is ill prepared to handle the new policies which Trump has indicated he intends to pursue in the US. This confirms, McCrann says, what he said back last April when he wrote that “Turnbull was a complete dud”. Perhaps Turnbull will make his position clearer in his promised major address on February 1.
In my last Commentary on 8 December I asked “How Long Can Turnbull Stay as PM?” That question has become even more pertinent after Friday’s disastrous meeting with the Premiers and the apparent confirmation in the media that Turnbull was behind the move to have an emissions intensity scheme examined in the 2017 review of climate change policy announced on 5 December. Today’s media is replete with reports of the meeting and the events surrounding the 5 December announcement but an exposition by Laurie Oakes in Herald Sun and Daily Telegraph captures the “thrills”(see attached “Oakes on Turnbull”). Bear in mind though that Oakes has probably embellished the story.
The outcome of the imminent last two weeks of Parliament will set the scene for the Christmas- New Year period during which changes in our political leaders may be foreshadowed or possibly even occur. The most prominent change in Australia in this period was probably the overthrow of Bob Hawke as leader and PM by Paul Keating on 19 December 1991. This occurred after a long period of rivalry between the two Labor leaders. The election of Trump as President and the raising of expectation of changes in government policies around the western worldhas also set the scene for possible leadership changes around the world.
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.
The black out in South Australia (which still exists in parts of the state) has produced disputes about whether this is simply “the weather” or something more substantial. The Premier of South Australia is reported as attributing it to extreme weather causing towers to collapse but neither he nor his Energy Minister have made any justifying news releases so far. By contrast, the Herald Sun’s business editor, Terry McCrann, has made it clear that the weather was not extreme and that the blame lies with the structure of the electricity net work including the extensive reliance on renewable energy to meet demand (40%) (see attached McCrann on SA Blackout).
Whether the Coalition will have enough seats to form government remains unclear and it is by no means certain that it will be able to remain in government. But one or two certainties are clear. Most importantly, the governing of Australia will be much more difficult, perhaps as difficult as it was under Whitlam when the initial budget was put together by Whitlam and his Deputy on their own. The Turnbull government has already introduced a budget but that has still be considered by Parliament. Labor will doubtless argue that Turnbull’s bad election result means that this budget needs to be revised. As Terry McCrann points out below, any budget now needs to alsotake account of the likely reduction in Australia’s AAA credit rating.