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What we’re reading: Scrutiny for ex energy ministers, defence mans up on climate

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In what may frustrate the plans of outgoing former energy ministers Ian Macfarlane (Coalition) and Gary Gray (Labor), Greens deputy leader and climate spokesperson, Larissa Waters, has penned a compelling argument in the Guardian on why we should ban political donations from mining companies – and retired ministers from working for them.

“In Australian politics, there is a revolving door that swings round and round, fuelled by money and self-interest,” Waters writes.“Into it go former politicians and their staffers and out pop even more highly paid mining company executives and fossil fuel lobbyists.

“The list of former politicians and staffers who’ve scored cushy positions in the fossil fuel sector is depressingly long… The revolving door in part explains why there has never been a coal mine or gas project refused under our federal laws.

“The massive political donations, made by this desperate industry trying to cling on through taxpayer subsidies, make up another reason for the tick-and-flick approach.”

The story includes a version of that “depressingly long list” of former pollies turned mining executives. It includes another former energy minuter Martin Ferguson, who now works for the oil and gas lobby. It’s worth a read.

In defence of climate action

Leonardo DiCaprio is not alone in trying to get climate change higher on the political agenda this week. The Australian military has put the issue front and centre in the latest defence white paper, declaring it a “major challenge for countries in Australia’s immediate region.”

The SMH reports that the new guidelines for Australia’s future defence position make multiple references to the near-term risks global warming will pose to some of our fragile neighbours.

“Climate change will see higher temperatures, increased sea-level rise and will increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events,” the report says. “These effects will exacerbate the challenges of population growth and environmental degradation, and will contribute to food shortages and undermine economic development.”

The “shift in urgency” of the message was also noted by retired army major and climate campaigner Michael Thomas:

“Whereas the 2009 defence white paper stated the likely strategic consequences of climate change would not be felt until after 2030, this [paper] notes that climate change will be one of the key drivers that will shape the strategic environment ‘to 2035’,” he said. “This implies that climate change is not a far-off threat for tomorrow’s generals. It is here to be dealt with today.”

Fresh hell for nuclear hope

One month after the last reported delay to EDF’s “final investment decision” on the Hinkley point nuclear plant in Somerset, the Financial Times is quoting “people close to the company” as saying that senior figures at EDF are pushing to delay final approval for the already long-delayed £18 billion project for up to a year as the company seeks new investors.

According to the FT, “the major stumbling block for new investors is that none of the projects employing the EuropeanPressurised Reactor design is up and running. Two under are construction in Finland and France but are years behind schedule and billions over budget.” Meanwhile, here’s what’s happened to EDF’s share price.

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