A question for Tony Abbott and Clive Palmer to answer.

Yesterday in Parliament, Labor MP Tony Burke asked the Prime Minister whether any companies in which the Member for Fairfax (Clive Palmer) has an interest will be eligible for funding under the Direct Action plan.

Tony on Tony: a air question

Tony on Tony: a air question

Abbott’s response was typical with reference to class envy and exhortations to join Team Australia.

Burke’s question is an important question.

Clive Palmer appears to have sunk any chance of a emission control in Australia for the foreseeable future despite being photographed with Al Gore as the champion of climate change in Australia.  Something Al Gore is properly come to regret.

 We all make mistakes. Sometimes we know we were making them: Al Gore appears with Clive Palmer

We all make mistakes. Sometimes we know we were making them: Al Gore appears with Clive Palmer

Let us not lose sight of the fact that Clive Palmer is an industrialist. He digs coal out of the ground from living. He is a major contributor to Australian and world pollution and he’s just sunk her best chance of getting our emissions under control.

It’s not unreasonable for the Parliament and the Australian public to ask if Clive Palmer stands to gain financially from the legislation his party will support. Normally, it’s called declaring a conflict of interests And is up to the individual to declare.

If joining Team Australia means not asking one of the richest people in Australia if he stands to benefit from legislation he has supported, then Tony will have trouble getting a team on the field for Saturday.

It’s very simple really.

Tony Abbott stands up in Parliament and says: “I spoken to Clive Palmer and he assures me and will assure the Parliament, that no company  owned by or associated with him will  benefit under the Direct Action legislation.”

Clive Abbott then stands up in Parliament and says: “I give my assurance to this Parliament and to the Australian people that none of my companies will benefit as result of my support of the Direct Action legislation.”

I think that’s kind of thing that grown-ups should say.

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Clive Palmer done like a dinner on Direct Action

Clive Palmer looks as if his parliamentary status has been downgraded to “nuisance value only”.

 Clive Palmer: the dinner not the diner on the Direct Action legislation

Clive Palmer: the dinner not the diner on the Direct Action legislation

He certainly made no impact whatsoever on the government’s plans to introduce Direct Action. From posing with Al Gore as the saviour of climate change in Australia, he now says that PUP will support the Direct Action legislation in Parliament. The best we can hope for is a sudden outburst of good sense on the part of the PUP senators.

Palmer certainly hasn’t made any impact on the government’s total and emphatic refusal to consider an ETS. He thinks that having an 18 month enquiry into the effectiveness of ETS programs is in some way committing the government to such programs.

It’s won’t. Greg Hunt says it won’t .Tony Abbott says it won’t. Which bit of won’t does Clive not understand.

The Direct Action scheme is the absolute antithesis of climate change legislation. It pays polluters if they’re prepared to make an effort to stop polluting. But why would they try if they’re making plenty of money emitting oxic gasses and destroying the environment?

The real tragedy of the way the debate has been shaping in Australia about what sort of scheme we  should have is that the question of the appropriate levels of carbon reduction has been completely ignored.

The problem with Direct Action is that it aims to reduce emissions by 5%. Not really worth the effort!

Europe appears to be taking a different approach EU leaders adopt ‘flexible’ energy and climate targets for 2030 and adopting a 40% target by 2030.

It’s a way off but at least they are starting to get the numbers right.

Even some big corporations are throwing their weight behind climate change initiatives.


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Nova Peris: Personal privacy v the public right to know.

Senator Nova Peris has hit back at allegations printed in the Australian media. Nova Peris, NT Labor senator, rejects claims of wrongdoing over alleged affair with Olympian Ato Boldon in 2010.

 Captain's pick Nova Peris was parachuted into the Senate by the captain. Julia Gillard

Captain’s pick Nova Peris was parachuted into the Senate by the captain. Julia Gillard

This is an interesting case of what should and shouldn’t be published and what politicians should shouldn’t do.

Essentially the allegations  against Peris  are that she sought public funding to bring Trinidad and Tobago Olympic medallist Ato Boldon to Australia and this was, in part, for her to continue a sexual relationship with him.

There’s nothing wrong with these two things in isolation, it’s when you put them together the trouble starts.

Ato Boldon of Trinadad

Ato Boldon of Trinadad

Senator Peris reportedly said she was getting the money for his trip through the “indigenous grants mob” and that he would not have to pay tax on his payment.

Nothing wrong with that, it was part of a programme to support indigenous athletes: exactly what you would expect an indigenous Olympic gold medallist senator to do.

The difficulty is that number of news papers have published what are alleged to be emails between Peris and Boldon in which there is a suggestion that the two of them were having/would be having an affair.

Nothing wrong with that either.

In fact, this is  where the fine line between what should and should not be published needs to be drawn. The details of what Peris and Boldon were intending to do if, and when, he visited Australia are private matter and should never have been published in the press.

It should also be clear that  by all reports Boldon had done an excellent job in Australia. In addition, the Australian Sports Commission has said that the funding for the athletics program which Boldon took part in had passed an independent audit.

The difficulties that Peris now finds itself in is that his support for Boldon and her relationship with him have now been linked in a very damaging way.

Are there any other parallels to this in public life?

You Betcha!

Remember Tony Abbott’s daughter Francis  and the scholarship worth $60,000  which was awarded by an  institute chaired by Les Taylor, a long-time donor to the Liberals, who gave Mr Abbott gifts of clothing in February 2012 and April 2013.

 Bridget, Tony and Francis Abbott at Golden Slipper Day. Because the father is the Prime Minister the Abbott girls have been given opportunities and advantages denied to most Australian  young women

Bridget, Tony and Francis Abbott at Golden Slipper Day. Because the father is the Prime Minister the Abbott girls have been given opportunities and advantages denied to most Australian young women

Let’s give everybody the benefit of the doubt over the merits of awarding of the scholarship and remember that Abbott has declared the gifts of clothes on the pecuniary interest register.

The problem is, as is the case of Nova Peris, when you put these two things together that it looks very damaging for the people concerned.

The Australian public is significantly disillusioned with its politicians. Rightly so and for a  large number of reasons, one of which is politicians using their influence to gain personal financial/personal advantage.

Tony Abbott should have known better. Nova Peris should be given the benefit of the doubt as a first-time offender.

It is unlikely that the Australian media is going to learn any lessons from this unfortunate affair.

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Joe Hockey chokes on pizza and red tape

The great Jo Hockey pizza saga Red tape ruins Joe Hockey’s pizza is an interesting example of the way the news can be manipulated.  It is quite remarkable. Hockey clearly had a meltdown in public when he wasn’t getting his own way. So the spin doctors are very quickly made this little temper tantrum into the Treasurer’s crusade against red tape. It’s not. Hockey is losing the plot and recent media cover it that Tony Abbott is considering promoting Malcolm Turnbull to Treasurer is probably not helping.

Joe was upset that he couldn’t rearrange the tables outside the pizza shop to suit his particular family configuration. The shop owner only had a permit for the seven cheers on the street. Joe wanted eight so he rang the local mayor.

 Joe Hockey can take up quite a lot of space even when he's not eating pizza

Joe Hockey can take up quite a lot of space even when he’s not eating pizza

While Joe is getting his knickers in a twist about red tape, it’s important to examine some of the principles involved in this little hissy fit.

Hockey decided to pull rank, he is the Treasurer so he should be entitled (heavens there’s that word again) to do whatever he likes, including, it would appear shouting at the local mayor over the telephone to get the seating arrangements changed in a local street front cafe. It’s a form of bullying really.

Remember the 2008 episode where NSW MP Belinda Neal got upset in Iguanas Waterfront at Gosford (Could it have been the seating arrangements?) and demanded four waiters be sacked, allegedly yelling, “I could have this place shut down” and, “Do you know who I am?”

 Belinda Neal:  not afraid to  throw her weight around

Belinda Neal: not afraid to throw her weight around

Later Prime Minister Kevin Rudd instructed her to take anger management classes.

Neal quite rightly got savaged over her behaviour in the restaurant and later lost preselection for this and other significant misdemeanours. Hockey by comparison is everyman’s champion against red tape as result of this little dummy spit.  Don’t expect anybody be telling him that it is not dignified for the Australian Treasurer to be shouting down the phone over the seating arrangements in pizza parlour.

To a certain extent Hockey is right, it will be wouldn’t have hurt to put and extra chair out on the footpath. But the local Council has the right to decide how much of the footpath local shop owners can take up with tables and chairs.

It’s a matter of balancing the interests of pedestrians and pizza-eating politicians.

And that’s the point.

Joe Hockey’s definition of red tape is anything that inconveniences him. The fact that the red tape may put a curb on the unfettered behaviours  of politicians and big business was not something the article chose to discuss.

But we should be careful of the Abbott government’s desire to cut red tape. Often law, regulation and what is term to “red tape” is often the protection that the average citizen has against the likes of Belinda Neal and Joe Hockey who use their positions as public officials to bully people who are often not in a position to defend themselves.

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Palmer sells out on ETS

Clive Palmer has secured an 18 month inquiry into potential benefits of an emissions grading scheme in return for letting the Direct Action climate change policy go through the Senate, something he promised he wouldn’t do.

 If Clive Palmer got such a good deal from  Greg Hunt,  why isn't he looking happier?

If Clive Palmer got such a good deal from Greg Hunt, why isn’t he looking happier?

That’s a great idea Clive, what we need is some more research and giving Bernie Fraser’s team 18 months to do it is also such a great idea. A good undergraduate student could knock this off a couple of weeks.

 Bernie Fraser looks  thrilled at  heading up 18 months enquiry into something that everybody except  Greg Hunt understands

Bernie Fraser looks thrilled at heading up 18 months enquiry into something that everybody except Greg Hunt understands

So in 18 months the inquiry is going to come back and say that emission training schemes work, they been working all round the world the last 15 years and they will work in Australia. But the government won’t be paying any attention

As Environmental Minister Greg succinctly put at

“It will never happen. This is not and will not be a carbon tax or an ETS. There is zero revenue in our scheme. We have no plans, no intention and no belief that that will change.”

The government is under no obligation to accept the recommendations of Frazer’s inquiry.  What they have effectively done is sidelined the issue for 18 months. The government line will be “We’ve commissioned an enquiry into the ETS. We are waiting on its findings.” In the meantime, the disastrously expensive Direct Action policy will be passed through the Senate.

The most depressing thing about Palmer’s latest backflip is that the Government now has the measure of this completely unpredictable and  irresolute politician. He has proved to be a hopeless negotiator and the government is running rings around him.


Expect more scenes like this as the Government effectively sidelines Clive Palmer.

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Australian troops are not in Iraq.

Australia has sent elite troops to Iraq but it seems the Iraqis don’t want them.

Australian special forces unable to join fight against Islamic State until lraq issues visas

The real situation seems to be somewhat different:

Iraq’s Foreign Minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari reportedly said earlier this month that Baghdad was “absolutely against foreign military bases and the presence of foreign military forces”. “Yes, we did ask for help, but it concerned air cover,” he said. “The question of sending troops in was discussed several times and we were very frank and stated clearly that we are completely against the deployment of foreign troops on our territory, as it can cause justifiable fears and concerns among the Iraqi population.”

The Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, won’t comment because it will “let the enemy know what we’re doing”. These are weasel words but they can be translated: “They don’t want us. We using the visa story as a cover for a policy that has gone badly wrong. It was never a good idea and it’s my job to cover up the Tony Abbott.”

 Australian troops fly out of Australia but  not into Iraq

Australian troops fly out of Australia but not into Iraq

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Abbott introduces Carbon Tax

Shock, horror and awe. The Abbott Government announcement that it will index the petrol excise levy: Petrol tax via the backdoor will hit both motorists and servos has been greeted by predictable outrage. But more on that later.

First some history: Fuel excise stopped being indexed for inflation in 2001 in a gutless political decision on the part of John Howard before the general election. This meant that the effective rate of the excise has been reducing and is now about 28% lower in 2014 dollars.

 John Howard: capping fuel excise seemed like a good idea at the time

John Howard: capping fuel excise seemed like a good idea at the time

The problem that Abbott is facing in reintroducing the indexation of the levy is that it is a part of this legacy from the Howard era and, in particular, from Peter (tax cuts) Costello.

Costello regarded himself as a great Australian Treasurer. Despite Howard's obvious adulation, he wasn't

Costello regarded himself as a great Australian Treasurer. Despite Howard’s obvious adulation, he wasn’t

Had Costello not taken the easy option and passed all of the benefits of the booming economy back to taxpayers  as tax cuts during his time as Treasurer, the budget would not be facing the structural  problems it faces today. Abbott is now facing the consequences of this political profligacy and economic shortsightedness.

Some definitional issues. 

(i) Abbott is already arguing that this is not a new tax but merely an indexation of an existing one. He is yet to run, but will certainly soon run, the argument that it’s not a tax at all, it’s a levy.

There are a number of other things that also aren’t taxes: co-payments, imposts, co-contributions, tariffs, duties, tolls,  contributions,  tributes, tithes, charges and fees. So Abbott has a lot of wriggle room before he imposes a new tax.

Nonetheless, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and fucks like a duck, it’s likely to be a duck. In this case, the impact on the motorist is exactly the same, regardless of the weasel words that are used to describe it.  So this boils down to breaking the promise of no new taxes.

(ii) This is a tax on carbon consumption and is likely to have effect similar, but lesser, effect to that of the now-abolished Carbon Tax. It will  put up the price of  petrol and to some extent limit demand and usage. Some people will not be able to avoid the  increasing cost of petrol, particularly if they live in areas not well serviced by public transport. But we can expect to see some decline in petrol consumption, particularly as the price increases get steeper.

The financial impact

This will be the real killer. The levy is currently $.38c per litre and will be increased by the inflation rate every six months. This means that the rate of the levy, not just the levy itself, will be increasing.

Modelling suggests that this increase will initially be $.06c per litre bit rising to $.13c a litre in the next decade. On top of this there is the 10% GST. The modelling suggests that, all things being equal, the price of petrol (which is around $1.40 per litre now) will rise to just under $2.60 in the next decade. This will translate into approximately $80 a week in increased petrol costs. That’s $4000 a year. And in keeping with Abbott government policy, this cost will impact most on lower socio-economic groups.

This dramatic increase is due to the compounding nature of the tax at the Abbott government is imposing.

What petrol prices will do in the next decade

What petrol prices will do in the next decade

The financial impact of this particular tax increase will be greatest for the transport companies, people who rely on vehicles for their business and motorists. Hardest hit will be motorists in the socio-economically depressed outer-urban areas which are often badly served by public transport. Early reports indicate that the farming and mining sectors will be exempt this tax, another example of the Abbott government’s socially regressive policies and mate-protection.

There will also be an inflationary effects from these increases as they flow through into  broader economy.  Expect food prices to rise as transportation costs go up

 Is this a good policy?

It depends on which side of the petrol browser you’re standing.

Given the way the Abbott government has introduced this tax, by regulation rather than legislation, it must be passed into law by the federal parliament within 12 months. Otherwise, the money must be repaid. But not to the motorists: to the petrol  companies. This tax is levied on the petrol companies, not the motorists. The fact that the cost is passed directly on to the motorist by the petrol companies is a irrelevant. So if you’re a petrol company, this tax could be a real windfall.

If you’re a motorist and you’re thinking of the hip pocket, this is a very bad policy.

if you are a motorist living in the burbs, this tax will hit you hard

if you are a motorist living in the burbs, this tax will hit you hard

If you’re the Federal Treasurer, you will be seeing far more revenue flowing into the already overstretched budget, so this is a very good policy.

If you’re an environmentalist  (and we assume that the Greens are full of environmentalists) and concerned about the consumption of fossil fuels, you will see any tax that limits consumption as a good thing.   If you’re environmentalist, you may be scratching your head in bewilderment at the climate change-denying Abbott government introducing a tax like this but don’t take it as a change of heart.

If you concerned about the state of our democracy, and were alarmed at the decision to send troops to Iraq not being debated in Parliament, you will be equally dismayed by the Abbott government sidestepping the democratic processes when it can’t get its own way.

 Should this policy be supported by the Greens and Labor?

Certainly the Greens  should support it.  It’s a very green policy, albeit introduced by the very un-green Abbott government. The Labour Party should also support it for the same reason but won’t because the political advantages of attacking a “great big new tax” are far too great for Bill Shorten to resist.

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