Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraThe Coalition brigade is assembling, readying for the final march to a place it once regarded as enemy territory and poisoned ground, too dangerous to approach.
Josh Frydenberg waved the flag on Friday. Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, a conscripted officer, is reluctantly falling (sort of) into step. Angus Taylor will be purchasing the requisite boots.
Scott Morrison, the general, will announce the arrival. But not until the details of a deal, heavy with technology and trade offs and pay offs, are landed with Joyce.
The Prime Minister wants – “needs” would be a better word – Australia to support a 2050 net zero emissions target at the November Glasgow climate conference.
No if or buts or qualifications. No having to say net zero “preferably” by 2050, as the government has been doing.
Morrison and Joyce have been talking at length about this imperative, because without the Nationals the journey – which seems so short to outsiders but so very arduous for the Coalition – cannot be completed.
Frydenberg on Friday delivered the blunt message that if Australia doesn’t step up to world expectations on climate policy, it will have trouble getting the capital it needs from overseas, in sufficient quantity and at the cheapest cost.
The Treasurer’s speech was focused on finance, rather than the environment as such. He pitched his push for the firm target so as to appeal in hard-headed economic terms. It’s the markets (not the greenies) that are requiring us to do this, was the message.
Frydenberg is battle-hardened for the task. As energy minister, he was then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s lieutenant when they carried the standard for a National Energy Guarantee, the NEG.
That succumbed to an ambush from a group of rebel troops, leaving Turnbull mortally wounded. Morrison has better armour; anyway, the Liberal sceptics aren’t heard from nowadays. The noise comes from Nationals.
On Friday morning Joyce did his bit on ABC radio. His doubts were evident, as he pointed to power price rises and collapsing energy companies in Britain.
But he came through with the vital central line. Asked, “do you support net zero by 2050?” he replied, “I’ve got no problems with any plan that does not leave regional areas hurt”.
Later in the day he said: “Now, when people say do you support it and they don’t tell you how they’re going to do it, they’re opening themselves […] to a crisis like they’re experiencing in Europe, like they’re experiencing in the UK”.
Joyce will have problems with some of his followers, especially his one-time staffer, now senator, Matt Canavan, who can remind his leader how he not so long ago trashed the target.
But he’ll get plenty of loot for the Nationals in the final package. Even Frydenberg seems to have stopped worrying about the appallingly high cost of political living these days.
In Washington, Morrison was asked whether the government had made a decision on net zero.
“No, if Australia had made such a decision, I would have announced it,” he said. “Australia has not made any final decision on that matter … we’ll be considering further when I return to Australia the plan that we believe can help us achieve our ambition in this area”.
While the army’s destination seems clear, there’s still work to be done, and the Nationals say the actual map is yet to be laid out on the table.
But if anything were to derail the expedition now, it would be a shock to everyone – including Morrison, and no doubt to Joe Biden and Boris Johnson.
Morrison would be left in an intolerable position for Glasgow. Frydenberg made a point of noting 129 countries have committed to the 2050 target.
The PM would also be hobbled at the election, with climate an issue especially in the leafy city areas and independent candidates gearing up to run in various seats.
Embracing the 2050 target is a minimal requirement for a nation’s Glasgow policy, but the United States, Britain and other climate frontrunners are focused on countries being more ambitious in the medium term.
What Morrison and Joyce do about that will soon become the big question.
Scott Morrison will announce $A2 billion over a decade for a Climate Solutions Fund, as the government seeks to counter criticisms that it is not doing enough towards dealing with climate change.
The money will extend the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF), set up under the Abbott government’s “direct action” program, which at present has only $226 million uncommitted in it. More than $2.3 billion has now been committed under the ERF.
The new money – which will be about $200 million annually starting from January 2020 – will be used to partner with farmers, local government and businesses to reduce emissions. The government gives as examples
Remote indigenous communities will be assisted to reduce severe bush fires.
Small businesses will be supported to replace lighting, air
conditioning and refrigeration systems to cut energy costs.
Farmers will receive assistance with revegetation and drought-proofing.
Local communities will receive help to reduce waste and boost recycling.
In a Monday speech, part of which has been released ahead of delivery, Morrison defends the government’s record on climate and attacks Labor’s policy as irresponsible.
The speech will contain further environment announcements beyond the $2 billion.
Climate change was an issue to the forefront in the Wentworth
byelection, the loss of which threw the Coalition into minority
government. It is considered a potent issue in Victoria, where the government has several seats at risk. In the high profile contest in Warringah, NSW, independent Zali Steggall, Tony Abbott’s main opponent, is running hard on it.
There has been debate over whether Australia could on present policies meet its Paris target – that Abbott set – of reducing emissions by 26-28% on 2005 levels by 2030.
Morrison has repeatedly said this will be reached “in a canter”. But the annual UN Environment Emissions Gap Report, released late last year, had Australia among a number of countries that are not on track to reach their 2030 target or have uncertainty based on current projections.
Morrison’s announcement will shore up Australia’s effort.
Moderate Liberals, in particular, have been pressing for more action from the government on the climate front.
In his speech Morrison says: “Our government will take meaningful, practical action on climate change, without damaging our economy or the family budget.
“Our Climate Solutions Package will ensure Australia meets our 2030 emissions reduction target – a responsible and achievable target – building on our success in comprehensively beating our Kyoto commitments”.
He says that Liberals and Nationals “don’t believe we have to choose between our environment and our economy.
“We acknowledge and accept the challenge of addressing climate change, but we do so with cool heads, not just impassioned hearts”.
The government’s 2030 target is the equivalent of cutting per capita emissions by about 50%, one of the largest cut of any G20 country, Morrison says in his speech.
The target is not “a slouch” but nor is it reckless, he says. In
contrast. Labor’s 45% target would require “more than three times the amount of emissions reduction by 2030”.
Modelling by BAEconomics confirmed Labor’s target would put a
“wrecking ball” through the economy, slashing jobs and wages and
increasing wholesale electricity prices, Morrison says.
Malcolm Turnbull has announced the government will shelve any move to implement the 26% reduction in emissions because it cannot get the numbers to pass legislation in the House of Representatives.
The desperate attempt to quell the rebellion in his ranks comes as Turnbull’s leadership is under mounting pressure, with speculation about a leadership bid sooner or later from Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.
But Turnbull told a news conference that Dutton had been at Monday morning’s leadership meeting and “has given me his absolute support”.
“I enjoy the confidence of cabinet and of my party,” he declared.
In a package of changes to the National Energy Guarantee, Turnbull announced the government would move for extraordinarily strong measures to be available against companies that do not give consumers a fair deal, including ultimate divestment.
The government has retreated from Turnbull’s Friday compromise move of implementing the 26% reduction target by regulation. That idea, aimed at denying critics the opportunity to cross the floor, sparked a fresh backlash from Coalition MPs who thought it would make it easier for a Labor government to increase the target.
“Our policy remains to have the emissions intensity standard in the legislation,” Turnbull said at a news conference.
But “as John Howard said, politics is governed by the iron laws of arithmetic and in a House of Representatives with a one seat majority, even with strong support in the party room, if a small number of people are not prepared to vote with the government on a measure then it won’t get passed. So that’s the reality.”
He said the government would bring the target legislation forward “where and when we believe there would be sufficient support in the House of Representatives and obviously in our party room to progress this component of the scheme”.
Turnbull has been frantically seeking any means to pacify his critics, as Tony Abbott and other hardliners are determined to use the energy issue to try to bring him down.
However, it is unlikely his latest move will satisfy his most trenchant opponents. Critics such as Eric Abetz are broadening their attacks on Turnbull to call for government policy changes in other areas, including immigration.
Turnbull admitted he had not personally spoken to Labor to determine whether it would support the emissions legislation, which would give it the numbers in the House.
The shelving of the emissions legislation could cause the Labor states – yet to sign off on the National Energy Guarantee – to walk away from the broad NEG scheme.
Under the initiatives to try to drive down electricity prices announced by Turnbull, a “default market offer” would be set, from which all discounts would be calculated.
“Consumers will be able easily to compare offers from different companies and recognise when they’re being ripped off or when they’re getting a fair deal,” Turnbull said.
He said the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission estimated that for average customers on an inflated standing offer, the savings on moving to a new default market offer could range between $183 and $416 a year. For the average small to medium business the move could save between $561 and $1457.
Turnbuil said the ACCC would be given new powers to “step in where there has been abuse or misuse of market power.
“In the most egregious cases of abuse, additional powers will be conferred on government to issue directions on operations, functional separation and even, as a last resort, divestiture of parts of the big power companies,” Turnbull said.
At his news conference, where he was flanked by Treasurer Scott Morrison and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg, Turnbull rejected a reporter’s suggestion that he had just delivered Tony Abbott’s policy. Abbott has wanted the emission target dropped and Australia to walk away from the Paris climate agreement.
“Our energy policy remains the same, but we are not going to present a bill into the House of Representatives until we believe it will be carried,” Turnbull said.
“We obviously need the support of sufficient of our colleagues to get it passed and that means, you know, substantially all of them.”
On Paris, he said: “We are parties to the Paris Agreement and the government has committed to that”.
The president of the Queensland Liberal National Party, Gary Spence, is urging MPs from Queensland – a vital state at the election – to replace Turnbull with Dutton.
Meanwhile, Western Australian Liberal senator Linda Reynolds strongly backed Turnbull, telling Sky she “absolutely” believed he would be prime minister at the election.
Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce welcomed the government’s crackdown on power companies saying it was a good outcome. He was particularly pleased with the divesture power, which meant “if you play up, we can break you up”. Turnbull had shown his “capacity to listen”.
Throwing his weight behind the revised package, Joyce said “it’s a great move today.” Asked on Sky about the leadership, he said “I don’t think changing prime ministers looks good.” He also dismmissed Spence’s call for a move to Dutton saying the parliamentary wing should not be confused with the branch members.
UPDATE: Nationals enthusiastic about revisions but energy industry is critical
The Nationals have swung in strongly behind the revised package.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and his senior ministerial colleagues held a joint news conference to back the enhanced measures to attack high prices.
Nationals who previously had been dissidents, including former prime minister Barnaby Joyce, made separate supportive comments.
The fact the backbench Nationals have been brought back into the tent is important for Turnbull, because it leaves the Liberal hardliners more isolated.
The Nationals are particularly enthusiastic about the commitment to embrace the ACCC recommendation for the government to underwrite investment in projects for new dispatchable power undertaken by new players.
Although the recommendation is technology-neutral, the Nationals see this as a pathway for new coal projects. Nationals deputy leader Bridget McKenzie said: “I’m not afraid to say the C-word: coal, coal, coal is going to be one of the areas we invest in.”
Queensland Nationals backbencher George Christensen, said: “We have a new energy policy thanks to a band of ‘Liberal National rebels’ who stood firm and fought for common sense.”
Christensen said: “What has been announced this morning puts price reductions first and foremost, so pensioners struggling to pay their power bills come before the ‘feel good’ Paris Agreement.”
Another Nationals backbencher, Andrew Gee, welcomed “plans to abandon the National Energy Guarantee”. “It shows that if you stand up and be counted you can actually make a difference, but it’s disappointing that it took this long”.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten labelled Turnbull “truly a white flag prime minister”. “Every day it is a new policy
from the government, a new policy not designed to lower energy prices but just for Mr Turnbull to keep his job from his enemies,”
“Mr Turnbull has demonstrated that he is not the leader this nation needs. Real leadership is about fighting
for the principles you believe in. Real leadership is about not always giving in to your enemies every time they disagree with you,” Shorten said.
Labor states and the ACT were scathing.
Victorian Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said: “I’m not sure Malcolm Turnbull knows what the NEG is anymore – or if it still exists.”
“We’ll carefully consider whatever energy policy emerges out of the infighting going on up in Canberra.”
Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said “what we are seeing today is energy policy in free fall”.
The ACT minister for Climate Change, Shane Rattenbury said the federal government had now completely capitulated on emissions and climate change, and abandoned the Paris Climate Change commitments.
“The NEG is dead. It was hailed as a policy to address the ‘trilemma’ of prices, reliability and emissions reduction. Instead, Federal energy policy is being determined by the worst, climate change denying elements of the Liberal Party,” Rattenbury said.
The Australian Energy Council’s chief executive, Sarah McNamara, criticised the government’s announcement, saying it “has left the most critical policy, the National Energy Guarantee, in limbo.
“Re-regulation of electricity prices and aggressive market interventions are not the long-term answer to high energy prices,” she said.
“The NEG and policy stability remain the long-term solution to bringing down prices.”
McNamara said that “replacement investment demands bipartisan policy and the lack of it remains the biggest drag on the energy market.”
“This is policy with no consultation,” she said.
“Re-regulation has the very real potential to damage competition and confidence.”
McNamara said increasing the ACCC’s powers to allow divestment of private assets was not supported by the ACCC’s own report.
<!– Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. –>
The Council represents 21 major electricity and downstream natural gas businesses operating in competitive wholesale and retail energy markets. They collectively generate the overwhelming majority of electricity in Australia.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has done a backflip on his proposal to put the emission reduction target into legislation, in the face of rebel backbenchers threatening to cross the floor.
The new plan is for the energy target – a 26% reduction to carbon dioxide emissions for the electricity sector – to be set by an executive order of the minister. Such an order cannot be disallowed.
The stunning retreat emerged as the energy issue threatened to turn into a crisis for Turnbull’s leadership, and the government worked on measures to reduce power prices to meet the demands of Coalition dissidents.
Cabinet Minister Peter Dutton remained conspicuously silent on Friday in face of a report that conservatives in the Liberal party were urging him to challenge Malcolm Turnbull within weeks.
A report in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph injected leadership speculation into the centre of Turnbull’s already highly difficult battle to curb a backbench rebellion over the government’s National Energy Guarantee (NEG).
The government has consistently refused a demand from the Victorian Labor government that the target should be set by regulation not legislation.
The executive order would be accompanied by an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission report to parliament on the price impact of the target.
If Turnbull had gone ahead with legislation, and enough backbenchers had crossed the floor to defeat the bill, it would have amounted to an effective vote of no confidence in his leadership.
While some of the backbench rebels will be satisfied with the price package, it is not clear whether this will include Tony Abbott and his hardcore supporters, who want to bring Turnbull down and have smelled political blood.
Tuesday’s Coalition parties meeting will discuss the new proposals.
On another front, Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack is facing mounting criticism of his performance, as the Nationals federal council meets in Canberra at the weekend. The energy issue is likely to be front and centre there.
Despite his public silence, it is understood that Dutton on Friday privately told Turnbull that he was comfortable with the government’s energy policy.
The backbench critics have had two major areas of concern. They did not think the NEG plan did enough to reduce electricity prices. And they were unhappy with the 26% target for reducing emissions in the electricity sector being legislated.
But the retreat from the target being enshrined in legislation will not be enough to satisfy those who want Australia to walk away from the target altogether and pull out of the Paris climate agreement.
Up to 10 backbenchers had threatened to cross the floor on the emissions reduction legislation.
The report about Dutton followed his interview with Ray Hadley on 2GB on Thursday in which Hadley challenged him over whether he was “blindly loyal” to Turnbull.
Dutton said he gave his views privately as a cabinet member and wasn’t going to bag out his colleagues or the Prime Minister publicly.
“If my position changes – that is, it gets to a point where I can’t accept what the government’s proposing or I don’t agree – then the Westminster system is very clear: you resign your commission,” he told Hadley.
The Telegraph report said Dutton was being urged to challenge Turnbull “on a policy platform of lower immigration levels and a new energy policy focusing on cheaper bills rather than lowering emissions.” Conservative MPs had told the Telegraph “a ‘torn’ Mr Dutton was considering his options,” the report said.
Asked on Nine whether Dutton was going to have a crack at the leadership, Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said “absolutely not.”
Pyne also rejected the suggestion the government was on the ropes. In an obvious reference to Abbott and his supporters, Pyne said: “The polls are about 50-50 and there’s a lot of hyperventilating going on, and there’s a few people I think who are trying to put the band back together from the late 2000s, noughties.”
Finance minister Mathias Cormann said he had not heard any talk of some conservatives urging Dutton to challenge.
Cormann, a fellow conservative who is close to Dutton and said they had had four walks this week at 5.30 am, told Sky,: “We are both very committed to the success of the Turnbull Government and to winning the next election.
“We strongly support the Turnbull leadership of course and we want to see the Coalition government successfully re-elected early next year when the election is due.”
The prices package would be based on recommendations made in the recent report of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
The government has been briefing that Turnbull is willing to take a “big stick” to companies to ensure consumers get better deals.
The government is looking at cracking down on how companies bid into the wholesale electricity market and secret contracts between different players.
There would be closer scrutiny of energy companies buying and selling electricity internally between their own generation and retail companies at inflated prices.
This would put the contracts of “gentailers” under attention to ensure transfer prices did not disadvantage consumers. The ACCC said high transfer prices “raise concerns about the potential for substantial profit to be allocated to the wholesale businesses.”
The ACCC has also urged more transparency on direct contracts between retailers and individual generators, proposing these be put on a public register.
Among other changes being discusssed are:
providing the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) with powers to deal with manipulation of the wholesale market.
requiring the reporting and disclosing of over-the-counter trades (in a de-identified format) to make available important market information.
<!– Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. –>
expanding the AER wholesale market monitoring functions to include monitoring, analysing and reporting on the contract market.
Today in Australian politics there was a stoush over butlers and pillows between the Queensland Premier Campbell Newman and Kevin Rudd. It all seems a bit too much Campbell (he started it), trying to deflect attention from his own pay rise issues I’d suggest.
Earth Hour is to be held this Saturday (March 28) between 8.30 pm and 9.30 pm. All you need to do to take part in Earth Hour is simply turn your lights off for the hour between 8.30 pm and 9.30 pm on March 28.
Earth Hour began as an annual event in Sydney in 2007, when an estimated 2.2 million buildings switched off their lights for an hour. This year Earth Hour is going global for the second year and is giving people the opportunity to ‘vote’ for either the Earth or global warning. By switching off the lights for an hour a person can ‘vote’ for fighting global warning.
Organisers of Earth Hour are hoping some 1 billion people will ‘vote’ for the Earth and hope to be able to give world leaders 1 billion ‘votes’ for the Earth at the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009. The conference is the forum in which world leaders will determine policy to supersede the Kyoto Protocol on Greenhouse Gas reduction.
For more on Earth Hour visit the official website at:
However, is Earth Hour a colossal waste of time? What is really being gained by turning the lights off for an hour once a year? All other electrical devices are still on and a lot of people go for alternative lighting devices that also pollute the environment. Other than awareness of global warming (which I would suggest everyone knows about now and either believes or does not believe – turning off some lights won’t change anyone’s mind on global warming), what does Earth Hour really achieve?
The following Blog post makes for interesting reading:
Am I against reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions? Am I against reducing Global Warming and other associated disasters? Am I anti-environment? The answer to those questions is no! I’m just simply saying Earth Hour is little more than tokenism by most people who are against the Rudd government Greenhouse Gas Emissions reduction policies and other policies that actually aim to make a difference.
The project aims to set up recharge stations for electric cars at workplaces, homes and shopping centres. It is thought that some 250 000 recharge stations will be built in the project. Such projects have already been set up in Israel and Denmark.
Macquarie Capital is to raise $1 billion to build the recharging network, with AGL to supply renewable energy for the project. Better Place will actually build the network.
Should the project go ahead and the infrastructure be built, motorists will be able to dump petrol and diesel vehicles and move to electric ones. This will of course be a great relief from rising fuel costs and help protect the environment from further greenhouse gas emissions.
The ‘Kevin 07’ campaign has been waged and won with victory for the ‘true believers.’ After 11 ½ years in opposition, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) has swept to victory in the Australian national election, with the former Prime Minister (John Howard) loosing his own seat in the process. Not only has Kevin Rudd and the ALP swept John Howard and the Liberal-National Party government from office, it has now also seen off the leadership of John Howard, Peter Costello and Mark Vaile, along with several other high ranking Coalition ministers.
In the wake of Kevin Rudd’s 6% swing against the Howard government, the Liberal and National Party Coalition is in disarray and will now need to rebuild following it’s decimation in Saturday’s national election. The Coalition has lost government, its leadership, many party MPs and will loose its Senate majority in July 2008.
Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Brendan Nelson have all declared themselves as being contenders for leadership of the Liberal Party, and we are yet to hear who will stand for the National Party Leadership. Whoever does win leadership of the opposition parties, they face what is potentially a two-term opposition period (at least) given the extent of the Rudd victory.
Australians are now looking forward to the end of Workchoices and other draconian industrial relations legislation brought into being by the Howard government during their final term. There are also great hopes for the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol on CO2 emissions, as well as other climate change and environmental initiatives. Progress is also expected in many other key areas including health, education, refugees, social welfare, infrastructure, federal-state cooperation, defence policy and overseas intervention, etc.
The Australian electorate expects much from the new Rudd government and I for one do not expect that this trust will be in vain. Kevin Rudd is a man of great intellect, determination and action, and I think Australia will be delighted with his approach to government and leadership in the coming weeks and months.
Already Kevin Rudd has begun his role of leadership, along with deputy Julia Gillard, visiting a school today in order to get his education revolution under way immediately. He has also accepted an invitation to Bali in the next week or so to attend a conference on climate change and CO2 reduction targets. Already he has begun work on ratifying the Kyoto Protocol on Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Targets. This is a wonderful first fruit and a sign of what is hopefully to come.
Australia is a great nation, with a great economic track record in recent years ~ however, our reputation as being a compassionate and just people has suffered in recent times. I for one will welcome a return to a more just and socially responsible government and nation.