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Rinehart attacks as Turnbull capitulates on carbon price

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In a week that started with a glimmer of hope on federal climate policy, things have very quickly gone south again, leaving observers in no doubt where the power lies in Conservative government decision making on climate and clean energy.

On Monday, the potential dumping of Abbott-era climate policies and the flagging of a range of new mechanisms, including an emissions intensity baseline and credit scheme for the electricity sector, suggested Malcolm Turnbull was finally having the courage of (some of) his convictions on climate change.

turnbull paris

On Tuesday, the CSIRO and Energy Networks Association released a major national report reaffirming that a 90 per cent renewable electricity grid by 2050 was not only eminently doable, but could save the nation – and consumers – billions.

The report also put a lie to the conservative campaign against wind and solar, saying Australia could reach renewable energy levels in the high 90 per cent without compromising the reliability of the grid.

It should have provided ammunition for the Coalition’s campaign for cheap energy and security. The answer, the CSIRO and network report told us, lay not in coal or gas, but wind, solar and storage. And this in a week where Arctic ice levels have reached a record low for November.

Come Wednesday, however, the Coalition had performed a neck-breaking reverse backflip on any promise of a any sort of carbon pricing scheme, caving to pressure from the party’s defect chief minister, Corey Bernardi, who described it as “economic suicide” and like “ripping a scab off an old wound.”

“It’s ultimately up to the Prime Minister,” Bernardi told 2GB radio. “He’s got to put a definitive statement out that says we are not going to have an emissions trading scheme.” Tick.

Then you have environment and energy minister Josh Frydenberg – who has been left looking rather silly after Turnbull’s rapid about face – simultaneously expressing hope that UNESCO doesn’t put the Great Barrier Reef back on the endangered watch list, while negotiating for his government to chip in half the costs of the $2.2 billion rail project connected to the giant carbon bomb that is Adani’s Galilee Basin coal mine and port.

(L-R) Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Australia's Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg speak to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING

Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg speak to the media after ratifying the Paris climate deal.

Meanwhile, in Victoria, an example of what happens when governments don’t bow to pressure from Australia’s powerful fossil fuel lobby has started playing out.

The Australian reported on Wednesday that the Gina Rinehart-backed gas ­explorer Lakes Oil was suing the ­Victorian government for $2.7 billion damages over the state’s recently legislated ban on coal-seam gas exploration.

The paper said a writ was filed in the Supreme Court on Tuesday by Lakes, a junior gas explorer that is 20 per cent owned by Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting.

Lakes told the Australian Sec­urities Exchange last night that the August ban on onshore ­exploration­ was unjust and ­unlawful, and that it had caused ­“significant losses to the company and its 11,000 longstanding shareholders’’.

The company is seeking $92 million for past expenditure on its exploration permits and more than $2.6 billion in “lost future earnings’’.

The company said its claim was based on a “fundamental legal principle that a party, having given a thing with one hand, is not to take away the means of enjoying it with the other.”

Interestingly, the legal move followed Monday’s “crisis meeting” between the nation’s top gas suppliers and federal industry minister – and former environment minister – Greg Hunt in ­Melbourne.

Hunt, who has described state bans on exploration as “negligent”, told the meeting that “blanket” moratoriums on gas ­fracking meant the country would face supply constrictions when there “is no shortage of supply”.

Monday’s meeting is to be followed by Friday’s Council of Australian Governments meeting where gas supply and prices will be part of broader discussion on energy sec­urity sparked by the South Australian electricity blackouts – another subject on which the Coalition has been vocal.  

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  • DevMac

    The US can look to Australia to see what their future holds for climate policy under Trump.
    Malcolm Turnbull’s name should be synonymous with total failure of potential.

    • david_fta

      Malcolm Turnbull’s name should …

      You mean Fizza ?

      • DevMac

        or squib.

  • howardpatr

    The RWR(religious)NJs win out again.

    Perhaps Lucy has decided that her Malcolm is a better pick than any of the alternatives available in the Liberals and that she will therefore continue sharing his “power and glory” as long as she can.

  • howardpatr

    Many Reneweconomy will enjoy this cartoon; it really sums up the LNP and their supporters, like the IPA:-

    http://www.canberratimes.com.au/photogallery/act-news/david-pope-20120214-1t3j0.html

  • Peter Campbell

    What is the point of Turnbull if Bernardi calls the shots?

    • onesecond

      Being a more likable puppet of the fossil industry to lure uninformed voters in?

    • solarguy

      Turnbull is spineless. He has allowed himself to be a puppet of the far right. He had the power to ditch those wankers after winning the election, but thought it safer not too. Gutless.

      • Peter Campbell

        He could have shown some audacity when he first became PM and was high in the polls. Then he could have done it after scrapping back in after the election. He might still read the riot act but his authority is diminishing every time he accommodates the nutters. Why oh why won’t he deliver a rousing speech denouncing those who would deny the science of climate change or sensible middle of the road tolerance? The bottom line seems to me that the LNP are now exposed for having a majority of nutters. It seems they are not the moderately right of centre party with just a few loopies in the ‘broad church’ that many suppose them to be.

      • trackdaze

        Might be time for malcom and a few sane others to defect and form a stable middle government with…um labour?

        • solarguy

          Perhaps he could do that, I don’t know, it would certainly be the right thing to do. But say if he did, he would serve out his full term as PM, but will never have the chance to be PM again even if he forever more stayed as a Labor member or Lib for that matter. The worm could turn, but there is more chance Trump going big on RE.

  • Chris Fraser

    Haha …. and at the first whiff of grapeshot notice how all the old defences come out, projecting their own phobias onto Labor ?
    It was a brave thing for Frydenberg to say anything, before Senator Banana cut off his head before 4 o’clock. Cabinet Minister phooey ! He really ought to know his place …

  • Geoff

    Surely every politician knows any support for a Carbon Tax or derivative is a death zone for them.
    Malcolm is done and dusted over Carbon Tax now for a second time.
    Man he has got to be the slowest learner on the planet.
    Some bookies reckon Gina will break ground before Adani in Galilee.
    There is a lot of expertise with both mining Giants.
    Should generate foreign reserves for many decades.
    Just hoping now Bob Brown will stick to his word and lay down in front if the bulldozers at Galilee. Gotta be a Win Win for is all?

    • Crikey. Wishing the death of someone? What a nasty man you are. You’re out of here.