When words like spineless and gutless fail! Turnbull’s capitulation to climate sceptics

When he was first elected to parliament, I had a sneaking respect for Josh Freudenberg. He seemed to be intelligent rational and forward thinking politician. Rare in this Coalition government as it now turns out.

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I also thought he would be an excellent Minister for the newly appointed Malcolm Turnbull who initially appeared to be the Renaissance Man of Australian politics. Freudenberg’s decision to review the Direct Action policy was the kind of initiative that I would have expected of him. It also looked as if Malcolm Turnbull had made a decision to get rid of the hopelessly inadequate Direct Action policy and institute something that might work.

 The pigs were waiting on the tarmac, fully laden and ready to go.

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 But his decision only lasted 24 hours. The Trolls came out from under their bridge and stomped him into submission. Presumably with the acquiescence of the PM.

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Katharine Murphy of The Guardian is angry: On climate policy and power prices Turnbull is talking rubbish.

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“A report by firm called Jacobs that was commissioned by the energy networks industry, in cooperation with the CSIRO, to look very carefully at Australia’s climate policy options.

The firm looked at which policy would allow Australia to meet the emissions reduction obligations it ratified the Paris international climate agreement with the least impact on households.

The answer was very clear. It was an emissions intensity trading scheme. the report found that  if you set up a technology-neutral emissions trading scheme in the electricity industry, and allow trading to happen, there’s an implicit subsidy for low-emission power generation, and that delivers lower prices (an average saving of $216 a year) for consumers than some of the alternatives.”

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Wattle Point wind farm. Photo credit: David Clarke.

We should be very clear what this woefully abject surrender to the rabid right climate deniers in the Coalition actually means. It means that Australia will not meet its completely inadequate target of reducing emissions 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2030.

In the light of the failure of Freudenberg’s initiative, it is worth reading Malcolm Turnbull’s speech to the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference

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 Malcolm Turnbull struts his stuff on the international stage

When historians come to write the history of the unfortunate, but inevitable, downfall of Malcolm Turnbull, they will struggle to find reasons for his descent into the slough of political inertia. They will itemise his abject and craven surrender to Tony Abbott and the far right of the Liberal part. But that will only be part of the story.

They may find that there was something more interesting than this, some deep and significant psychological failure in the man that appeared to have made him completely inadequate for the task

 

 

Will Donald Trump’s phone call to the Taiwanese President create diplomatic problems for the US?

Bigly.

The People’s Republic of China has not recognised the Taiwanese government since it was established in 1949. Most countries do not officially recognise the Taiwanese government either but managed to conduct trade and diplomatic relations under the radar as it were.

Taiwan became the Republic of China when the Kuomintang was driven out of mainland China in 1949 and invaded Taiwan. Since then, China’s government has insisted that it is part of China and should be reunited, forcibly if necessary

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Chinese general and statesman Chiang Kai-Shek (1887 – 1975)  the founder of modern Taiwan.

 Some commentary has indicated that this is a bold diplomatic move by Trump that heralds a new era in relations between the US, Taiwan and China. And also that it is part of the new carefully crafted strong line on Chinese/US relations.  It wasn’t just a diplomatic blunder it was part of a carefully thought out plan.

If it was, then the plan omitted to consider one important element in relationships with China: the Chinese don’t like losing face and embarrassing them in front of the international community and turning nearly 75 years of diplomatic policy on its head with one phone call has done exactly that.

The Chinese government will be deeply offended.

As I said, Bigly.

So far, the Chinese response has been muted and for very good reason. They are waiting for Trump’s inauguration and at that point, there will be some huge payback for Trump’s  heavy-handed behaviour.

Expect something on Inauguration Day or very shortly afterwards.

And is also highly likely that the Chinese will craft a response that is disproportionately strong, just to send a message.

Something like putting pressure on the Philippine government to close the US bases in the Philippines and replace them with Chinese bases.

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 US warships in Manila bay.

Or delaying the  five new military bases that are scheduled for 2016; Antonio Bautista Air Base, Basa Air Base, Fort Magsaysay, Lumbia Air Base, Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base.

 The Philippines is a central plank in the US defence  against Chinese expansion in the South China sea and disruption to the plans for the new military bases would be a major diplomatic coup for the Chinese government. Ample payback for a phone call to the Taiwanese President.

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You yewdie,  Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen must be happy about Trump’s phone call
Philippine President Rodrigo Détente is every bit as unpredictable as Donald Trump and given the unpopularity of the US military bases with the Filipino people, he might just start cosying up to the Chinese.
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Or perhaps taking advantage of Trump’s criticism of Boeing Corporation and their profit margins on Air Force One to start shifting away from American Boeing aircraft to European Air Buses.
 Just recently Mr Trump tweeted: “Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!”
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 The Chinese may argue that if Boeings are too expensive for the US president, they are probably too expensive for the Chinese.

So who is running the Government?

The Turnbull government appears to stumble from one self inflicted crisis to another. Having turned the Backpacker tax into a matter of national economic emergency, it now fails to stick with a mere announcement of a pending review.

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 Malcolm Turnbull, not drowning, not even waving

After two days of vocal opposition from the Coalition backbench, Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has been forced into a humiliating U-turn on climate change policy less than 48 hours after releasing details for a pending review.

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Further stoking Coalition pressure, Tony “No sniping” Abbott declared on Tuesday night that “we’re against anything that’s a carbon tax or an ETS by stealth”.

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And here are his supporters.

Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi, freshly returned from three months at the United Nations in New York, said transitioning to an emissions intensity scheme was “one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. It is not in the Australian national interest for the government to chase policies that ingratiate it with the Greens. To get back on the right economic track, we need the cheapest electricity in the world.”

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He’s back. Cory Bernardi garners political support

West Australian MP Andrew Hastie said his overriding concern was the cost of living for families and asked: “Why would we unilaterally, economically disarm [by adopting a price on carbon]?

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Andrew Hastie and his political supporters

South Australian MP Tony Pasin said that given the current economic climate, “the government should be doing all it can to put downward  pressure on the cost of electricity generation to reduce the power bills of hard-working Australians”.

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Standup star Tony Pasin breaks them up in Parliament

NSW MP Craig Kelly said it was fair enough for Mr Frydenberg to leave “everything on the table” as the review was undertaken but then added: “I do not see how any form of carbon trading scheme would put us at a national competitive advantage”

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Craig “I’m with Tony” Kelly

Another MP, who asked not be named, said “There is very real concern among colleagues that this goes down a track we were promised we would not go down.”

0617_WVinvisibility.jpgFaceless Man has colleagues who are not only faceless but silent.

And this volte-face was achieved before the real heavyweights came out from underneath their rocks.

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Is Josh Frydenberg simply a maverick? Did he take this particular announcement to Cabinet before he made it?

If he has any support within the coalition it has been strangely silent. The normal expectation would be that the Prime Minister would support his ministers in situations like this.

But he hasn’t and he appears to be leaving the running to Tony Abbott.

As I said yesterday, the decision to cut the Green Army was equivalent of giving Dan Carter a free kick in front of goal.

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This one is like giving 110kg Dane Coles the ball 15m from the line.

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Comment from Katharine Murphy in The Guardian

What an extraordinary capitulation.

Just 24 hours of controversy from entirely predictable quarters and a carefully calibrated process to try to engineer a truce in Australia’s utterly wretched climate politics has been all but abandoned by its architects.

Josh Frydenberg has gone in the space of 24 hours from saying quite clearly the government would consider an emissions intensity trading scheme for the electricity sector to trying to pretend he said no such thing.

Axing the Green Army – Good economics? Maybe. Good politics? Certainly not.

At the time, it looked as if establishing the Green Army was just a stunt. It certainly wasn’t going to be making a significant contribution to reducing the effects of climate change in Australia.

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 The Green Army at work picking up rubbish in a park

 But, it had some green credentials and got unemployed kids into the workforce. Now the Turnbull government is thinking of axing it and in doing so with the support of the Greens don’t think it’s much of a contributor to reducing carbon emissions.

What Malcolm Turnbull has done for Tony Abbott is like giving a free kick to Dan Carter in front of the goalposts.

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Australia’s environmental sector wants the Turnbull government to explain its plans for significant changes to major programs, including savings of more than $350 million from axing the Green Army – Tony Abbott’s much-hyped employment project.

Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg all but confirmed reports on Monday that the government’s Expenditure Review Committee had decided to kill off the program in this month’s budget update, saying savings were required from across government.

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Josh Frydenberg pictured was most of the women in the Federal Liberal party

You would have expected a response from Abbott who is desperate for any opportunity to show that he is not a complete political irrelevance.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott says axing the Green Army would “hardly be a smart move for a centre-right government”.

Mr Abbott and his supporters have frequently voiced concerns that the former prime minister’s legacy is being trampled on by Mr Turnbull and his skills are not being used by the government.

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It’s rather quaint to see the way Abbott is trying to massage his image by using the phrase “a centre-right government” as if he is a member of it. If Tony Abbott is “centre-right”, then Malcolm Turnbull is a Trotskyite.

Headshot of Russian Revolutionary political leader and author Leon Trotsky (1879 - 1940), 1930s. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Leon Trotsky (1879 – 1940), 

Does Malcolm Turnbull have any idea what’s going on?

Two separate headlines from the same addition of The Age

The Coalition will consider a form of carbon pricing for power companies as part of a long-awaited review of Australia’s climate policies, Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has confirmed.

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 Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull looking appropriately gormless

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is expected to speak with the global head of mining giant Adani on Monday amid mounting speculation the government will contribute $1 billion for a railway line to serve the forthcoming Carmichael coal mine .

On one hand, it is good that the Turnbull government is considering changing its totally-discredited Direct Action policy.

But then, it considers facilitating and financing a hugely polluting coal mine.

Clearly, the left-hand and right-hand are not in touch very much.

And there goes the Green Army:

Malcolm Turnbull set to axe Tony Abbott’s Green Army environmental program

Plibersek loses the plot on school funding

In attempt to defend one of Julia Gillard’s less intelligent decisions, Opposition spokesman on education, Tania Plibersek has tried to defend the indefensible.

There is no compelling case to cut funding to “over-funded” private schools and redistribute the money to disadvantaged schools, Labor education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek says.

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In an interview with Fairfax Media, Ms Plibersek it was “absolutely the right decision” for the Gillard government to promise that no school would be worse off under the Gonski funding reforms – a commitment that a Gonski review panelist, Ken Boston, says blew out the cost of the reforms and entrenched inequalities between schools.

The Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, has said he has “deliberately” not made the same promise, leaving room to cut funding for some schools in a new funding deal from 2018.

If you had to think of ways to alienate your voter base, you would be hard pressed to come up with a better one than has. Well, maybe slashing pensions and welfare or increasing negative gearing concessions may come close.

Anyone who has cast a critical eye over the government funding of the richest and elite schools will see that they are funded at the disproportionate and exceptionally generous rate above the state schools. They don’t need the money. All of them have vast assets and considerable cash reserves, unlike most state schools.

It is a case of very clear social inequality and it is something that the Labor party should not be supporting.

Now, clearly the  hard-heads in the Labor Party have worked out that a 2% lead in the polls is probably not going to be sufficient to win them the next Federal election and one of the clear ways to make an improvement is to get rid of terminally unpopular Bill Shorten.

Plibersek would have to be on the short list, along with Albanese and Dreyfus but saying things like this will not enhance her chances.

 

Snout still in the trough: WA Liberal MP takes wife to golf tournament and charges taxpayers

A Turnbull government MP who charged taxpayers for flights to his own wedding has reported spending nearly $2000 for his wife to travel to a golf tournament in Queensland.

Western Australian Liberal MP Steve Irons said he attended the December 2015 Australian PGA event on the Gold Coast to study “golf tourism opportunities” – reporting the trip as “electorate business”, despite representing the marginal Perth seat of Swan.
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Serial travel rorter Steve Irons and wife Cheryl

Now in fairness to Irons, all of this is “within entitlements” which means that nothing can really be done to stop this kind of behaviour and clearly the opprobrium of his first offence has not deterred him.

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It seems that some members of the parliamentary capable party have learned nothing from scandals surrounding disgraced ex-speaker Bronwyn Bishop.

It is probably too much to expect that Malcolm Turnbull will read the riot act.