Tony Abbott must have a small team of people hidden away somewhere in Canberra whose sole task it is to think up stupid ideas for him to pursue with his normal aggressive energy.
They picked a real doozy with the ABCs Q&A program and the campaign against wind farms is picking up the same kind of momentum. Gay marriages proved to be a real winner as well. And the threat to shirt-front Vladimir Putin got him international press coverage. The boys and girls are earning their keep.
The Age reports that “Tony Abbott has dramatically escalated his war on wind power, creating a new cabinet split and provoking a warning he is putting international investment at risk. Fairfax Media can reveal the government has ordered the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation not to make any new investments in wind power projects.
Analysts say $8.7 billion is expected to be invested in wind power in the next five years, while the corporation has invested about $300 million in wind projects to date”
The best that he and Treasurer Joe Hockey have been able to do to justify this ridiculous position is that wind turbines are, according to Abbott, “visually awful” and according to Hockey are “utterly offensive”.
No discussion of the relative merits of wind power and solar energy. Certainly, no recognition of the fact that neither of these power sources produces carbon emissions. No discussion of the sustainability of Australia’s continued reliance on the coal industry. Just “I don’t like the way they look” and that’s it. The tragedy is that these two have a major influence on Australia’s energy policy.
Not liking the way something looks is a very poor basis for deciding national policy on an industry that is, or could be, central to Australia’s future prosperity. Particularly with the writing on the wall for the coal industry as large consumers of coal like India and China move away from coal towards renewable sources.
But lurking under this particular exercise in idiocy is the fact that the government wishes to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and its $10b budget. Fortunately, the troglodytes have been unable to get this through the Senate.
The CEFC is currently helping to finance a $280 million wind farm with ANZ at Taralga in NSW. The project will power 45,000 homes and it most recently facilitated a finance package in June for a $450 million wind project in Ararat, western Victoria and has a number of potential wind projects in its pipeline of potential investments.
This is likely to provide more stimulus to the economy than the tax cuts provided to small business from purchases under $20,000.
The situation provides a golden opportunity for Bill Shorten to establish his credentials in the energy debate and to shift the political debate away from the Royal commission and on to some larger issues where Abbott is vulnerable.
He could affirm Labour’s support for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, indicate that Labour will lift the renewable energy targets and begin planning for a future that doesn’t include coal.
I fear that we may wait in vain. Shorten has been mortally wounded by his appearance before the Royal commission. He is now preoccupied with maintaining his tenuous grip on power within the Labour Party and taking strong and visionary positions on important issues may not be on the horizon.