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Will Australia’s Far Right lose its stranglehold on climate policies?

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Even before the dust settled on the outcome of Australia’s federal election on Saturday, environmental groups and renewable energy promoters were celebrating a significant victory – the departure of far right members of the Coalition and other conservatives who had stood in the way of climate policies and renewable energy.

According to activist group Get Up, eight of the 12 conservatives who lost their seats were “right-wing blockers” who held us back on key issues like climate action” since late 2009, when they first dumped Malcolm Turnbull from the Liberal leadership and replaced him with Tony Abbott.

Get Up named Abbott supporter Andre Nikolic, pro-nuclear advocate Senator Sean Edwards in South Australia, and the independent John Madigan, who chaired the absurd wind farm inquiry in the Senate, as being among its list.

Others noted likely losers were WA Senator Chris Back, Family First Senator Bob Day, and Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm, all of whom have campaigned against wind energy in particular, and climate policies in general.

But it’s not quite as easy as that. While some strong opponents of climate change action and renewable energy are clearly on their way out, others are on their way in.

The Liberal ranks, for instance, include two former policy makers from the Institute of Public Affairs, James Paterson and Tim Wilson, both of whom can be expected to join the right faction. Indeed, right wing commentators set on venting the downfall of Tony Abbott claim that more than half of the Liberal losers in this election were of the “soft centre” that supported Malcolm Turnbull.

And while Madigan, Day and possibly Leyonhjelm are gone, so too are those Senators who helped save the renewable energy target and supported ARENA – Glenn Lazarus, Ricky Muir and Dio Wang.

Senator Jacqui Lambie, who doesn’t think much of wind or solar but likes nuclear, is re-elected and may be joined by a running mate. So too is Pauline Hanson, whose One Nation Party’s policy platform includes having a royal commission into climate scientists.

As Hanson told Nine Network after the election, she has three major concerns – climate change hoaxes, immigration and Muslims. And on those issues she will be well supported by News Ltd columnists like Andrw Bolt, Miranda Devine, Rowan Dean, Tim Blair, Terry McCrann, and many in the Liberal Party.


And Hanson’s 9 per cent vote in Queensland means that her running partner, Malcolm Roberts, may also be elected. For those who don’t know him, Roberts is a former coal miner, and the chief spruiker for something called the Galileo Movement, a climate denying “think tank” that is often quoted by conservative columnists and politicians.

one nationIn 2013, on his own conscious.com.au website, Roberts made a series of claims alleging widespread corruption by key Australian and United Nations science agencies. That’s why he wants a Royal Commission. The broadcaster Alan Jones remains its patron, according to its website.

One Nation may end up with four seats in the new Senate, according to the most dire predictions.

So, will the Far Right’s hold on the Senate be diminished after this election? Truth is, it’s too early to tell. Around one dozen seats remain in doubt and it is not yet clear who can form government, and under what conditions. The outcome of the Senate may not be known for a month.

It would be tempting to think that Turnbull, forced to deal with cross-benchers and independents, may be able to free himself of the “pledge” he made to the Far Right not to shift from the Abbott-era policies that destroyed the carbon price and knee-capped the renewable energy target.

That would particularly be the case if he was to strike a deal with the Nick Xenophon Team, which would likely be pushing for an accelerated shift to a form of emissions trading, but may remain quixotic about wind energy in renewable energy policies.

That may explain why the likes of Bolt, whose name once adorned the Galileo Movement’s supporters board, have called for Turnbull’s immediate resignation. The prospect of an “ABC-Left” prime minister dealing with the subtleties of minority government are all too much for some.

After all, it was the minority Labor government, forced to “co-habit” with the Greens, that resulted in the excellent Clean Energy Future package of carbon pricing, government agencies and ambitious renewable energy targets.

The five MPs likely to sit on the cross-bench all all pre-disposed to clean energy policies. These include Greens MP Adam Bandt, the Nick Xenophon Team’s Rebekah Sharkie, and independents Andrew Wilkie and Cathy McGowan.

Even Bob Katter, the eccentric farmer from western Queensland, lists two massive renewable energy projects at the top of his list of 20 key policy initiatives. “Whilst the two giant projects, the Kennedy Wind Farm and the Pentland Solar Bio-fuels plant, require little financial assistance, they do require a strong government commitment,” he says.

Indeed, one of the constants of this election campaign was that survey after survey underlined overwhelming public support for serious climate change action and ambitious renewable energy targets. The Climate Institute’s surveys found that two-thirds of Coalition and 81 per cent of Labor voters support these goals.

“There is a centre that can support credible climate action and there are extremes with Hanson and others that won’t,” TCI’s chief executive John Connor says. “Only the centre offers chances of political, investor and community stability.”

Connor notes that if the Coalition does manage to retain government, it will need to choose between the extremes and the centre on climate change and on other issues.

“It will also need to choose between scare campaigns and substance. It was bittersweet irony at best to hear the Coalition complain about scare campaigns given its colourful past of wrecking balls, cobra squeezes and distortions regarding the impacts of the carbon pricing mechanism.”

The Coalition’s official climate policy is for review of its current settings in 2017. Connor suggests that date should be brought forward, and the recommendations taken by its independent body, the Climate Change Authority, paid more heed.

Indeed, even in the midst of the Brexit chaos, the UK’s conservative government last week accepted the advice of its own independent Committee on Climate Change, and adopted an ambitious 2030 emissions reduction target.

“Perhaps surprisingly, climate action in the UK and in Australia could be a lifebuoy of stability amongst turbulent political waters,” Connor says.

And he noted this action was supported by big business, banks and investors. The same result, he suggests, would occur in Australia.

“But it will require a clear choice. A choice for inclusive processes, independent institutions and considered deliberation. Not a choice for extremism, scare campaigns or deliberate distortions.”  

  • john

    With out a doubt with these two James Paterson and Tim Wilson being elected, they will be pushing for Clown Shoes to once again take up the mantel of leadership, as is his rightful due according to his self delusional vision.
    I fully expect in the not so distant future we will once again revisit the polling booths to cast yet another vote to elect a new bunch of hopefuls.
    Perhaps because there is such a wide disparity between the different sides of politics it is time to revisit the actual system of government.
    Should we move to a Presidential – Executive type system?
    The present system is supposed to be the Westminster System.
    Under that system ministerial responsibility means you resign when you mislead parliament or your port folio has had a failure.
    In fact this has not been seen to be happening.
    Ministers are not resigning because they mislead or their oversight of some department is lacking.
    It is patently clear why a motley crew of misfits and socially maladjusted people have been elected; because of the deep derisive nature of the message being poured out every day by the shock jocks and their followers in the media.

    • Unfortunately as this was a double dissolution election, we can’t have another senate election for 2 years, just a House of Representatives election. So we are stuck with Hanson and any other One Nation and other Far Right wing Senators for at least the next Senate term and potentially two terms depending upon how the senate decides which senators will receive a 3 year term and which 6 years.
      And we need to face that One Nation legitimately represent a section of public opinion no matter how abhorrent it may be to our moral compasses.

      • john

        I think in a few months once again there will be another double dissolution.

    • neroden

      Presidential systems are way worse. Trust me on this (US citizen here).

      It may look like chaos, but you’re making a lot of progress in Australia. You haven’t had a single government shutdown yet!

      • john

        Ok yes I am across what has happened in the USA and yes it is not pretty.
        However we have also moved into the total opposition of what every the other side puts up type of politics which can be summed up as
        “total opposition”.
        This is not conductive to a constructive outcome for society.

        • nakedChimp

          Only if you still think that the political system is still intact and every participant had the same influence.
          After 50-100 years naked chimps work out how systems work and how they can play them..

  • MikeH

    The fact that Pauline Hanson and possibly Malcolm Roberts are going to be carrying the flag for unhinged climate science denial in the Senate is not necessarily a bad thing given Hanson’s notoriety.

    Leyonhjelm hid his denial behind a libertarian facade. Even Madigan was a more complex character with a bit of social consciousness.

    There is no pretending with Hanson & Roberts if he makes it. Even Andrew Bolt has disowned Roberts – https://independentaustralia.net/environment/environment-display/bolting-like-lightning-from-the-galileo-movement,4390

    It is not as if they are going to appealing to the centre of politics. It shouldn’t take too long before anyone who may still be in doubt realises that climate science denial is the province of far right racist bigots and nut jobs.

    • john

      You think Mate in Strayla not many have much of a clue.

    • andyfromedinburgh

      Rather have them ranting about climate than the race hate. At least with climate Australians are seeing the light and will push them back to the nutty policy margins. The key for Turnbull and perhaps now Joyce if he really is converted is to push on for Regional benefits.

      • solarguy

        One of the saddest things this election, is Tony Windsor didn’t get up to beat Joyce. Common sense didn’t rule in New England!

        • MaxG

          Look at the result… there is no common sense — what I have been saying all along. Same old, same old …

      • john

        Do you really think that is true have you read the policy of the total nutters just being elected?
        Perhaps i should paste in here the policy
        Hold a Royal Commission (or similar) into the corruption of climate science and identify whether any individual or organisation has misled government to effect climate and energy policy.
        Remove all subsidies and financial advantages offered to the renewable energy industry and make them compete on an even playing field with other energy sources.
        Support reliable, low-cost power generation. This has previously been Australia’s strongest competitive advantage.
        Establish an independent Australian science body replacing the UN IPCC to report on climate science. It will be the beyond politicisation and be the basis of Australian policy on insurance and response to weather events.
        One Nation will oppose all taxes levied on carbon dioxide, be it a flat carbon tax or a floating emissions trading scheme…
        Abolish the Renewable Energy Target (RET) and support practical cost-effective research into energy efficiency, reliability and dependability.
        Cancel all agreements obliging Australia to pay for foreign Climate Action and payment to the United Nations and foreign institutions…
        Remove from the education system the teaching of a one-sided view of climate science. Teaching of climate science will begin in secondary school and will be based on the scientific method of scepticism until proven.
        Environmental impacts to be assessed on the use of empirical scientific evidence, not activists or non-government organisations pushing ideology and political agendas.
        Review the Bureau of Meteorology to ensure independence and accountability for weather and climate records, including public justification of persistent upward adjustments to historical climate records.
        Review the CSIRO to ensure independence and accountability and determine whether funding has influenced the direction and results of CSIRO’s positions on the climate claims. Funding from the UN in particular will be probed for an agenda not consistent for what is best for Australians.
        Ensure that all climate, energy and environmental policy decisions, requiring a scientific component, are based on the scientific method and empirical evidence. All decisions will be based on an economic, social and environmental assessment with environmental issues not automatically put ahead of humanity or economic realities.
        Support renewable energy that does not impact on the environment and encourage research in the ability to store energy at affordable cost to households and businesses.
        The wind industry must compensate all residents who have been proven to suffer from Wind Turbine Syndrome and any residents where the presence of wind turbines have negatively effected the price of their home.

        • wmh

          If only this policy of allowing solar to compete on a level playing field came true.

          “Empirical scientific evidence”, “humanity (or) economic realities” all point away from subsidised coal, black lung disease and CO2 towards virtually free solar energy.

          Over the last 6 years my solar array has offset all my electricity consumption, with zero maintenance.

    • Harry Twinotter

      I guess someone in the Senate has to get the Conspiracy Theory vote, considering the mess the Senate election is in.

  • trackdaze

    Way to go queensland ditch palmer for hansen.

    • john

      Yes a brilliant decision one moron for another.

  • michael

    sorry guys. the optimism inherent in your question is patently misplaced. already clear to me from turnbull’s unprecedented angry post election midnite we wuz robbed rant signals his clear shift to hard ground on the right. he sees this as his only chance of hanging on to the leadership. (mistakenly i think because they will roll him anyway). vale ‘the real malcolm that so many had been hoping we would see; he was never there!

    • solarguy

      Unfortunately Mal is a polictical moron.

  • Stewart Rogers

    How long to finally axe the RET? I’ve been waiting a while.

    • john

      Which part of the RET do you find in fault?

      • Stewart Rogers

        I don’t believe in any government subsidies. Retailers shouldn’t be forced to buy certificates. It should be up to the consumer if they want renewable power. It’s only a couple of years before it becomes viable on its own feet.

        • john

          It is viable now.
          For the consumer putting PV on your roof is a total win win end of story.

          • Stewart Rogers

            I agree, which is why we don’t need ANY STCs to be given out. So no need for RET. Unfortunately the only way I can end it is by sending donations to the anti-renewable lobby groups which I will continue to do. It will likely be gone this year or next year.

          • john

            Why do you have to send donations to anti-renewable groups?

          • Stewart Rogers

            Since I don’t want to pay renewable subsidies. If you read the articles on reneweconomy you will see we’re missing the deadlines to meet the GWh target the RET mandates. Soon electricity prices will spiral out of control. As a business owner I pay an extra 1 cent or so per kWh for green schemes and I simply want them axed.

          • john

            As a business owner as i am i find that difficult to understand.
            OK i am across what your saying.
            Yes written into the ramifications to do with not meeting the targets there is a penalty.
            Will it effect you?
            Possibly.
            However here is how it can be mitigated, the suppliers have to pull the finger out and get moving this is not rocket science.

          • Stewart Rogers

            Let’s axe the RET and let Australia grow a bit faster. No need for this useless red tape when we account for 1% of the world’s emissions. Anyway, I believe I will get my way shortly.

          • john

            I think you are not self centered.
            As a first world country we have to pull our weight.
            In fact it is not going to cost you.
            As was proven by the last inquiry in fact the RET has been beneficial to the price of power.
            Frankly the more zero cost energy put into the system the better for you and I.

          • Stewart Rogers

            Alright, regardless debating is not going to change either of our views. With Hanson + NXT + Lib Dems (possibly) + Libs + Lambie in the senate I think we will see the end of the RET. Some happy news for me at least after a largely bleak election outcome.

          • john

            yes ok

          • john

            We will be shortly back to the ballot box.
            Yes Malcolm should have never called a double diss.
            Rather a bad decision frankly.
            As to the others the elected ones rather like herding cats I feel.

          • stalga

            The LNP have diminished numbers in the Senate and a larger crossbench. They now need 9 of the 10. NXT have 3 senators. You are dreaming.

          • Stewart Rogers

            You realise you only need a majority LNP + Cross bench to likely get stuff through and a lot of the crossbench are climate skeptics. Cry harder.

          • Barri Mundee

            There will be a bunch of Greens senators who will not let RET changes go through. That will make the climate sceptics like you squirm.

          • Stewart Rogers

            I’m not a climate sceptic. I believe renewables will be cheaper without government assistance long term. There is no need to waste money.

          • stalga

            I REALLY don’t enjoy engaging in “discussions” of this nature. You seem to have overlooked NXT policy on renewables in your giddy excitement. That information is contained in this article, did you overlook it? That and the fact the counting isn’t over AND it is increasingly unlikely either party will gain a majority in the lower house.

            One thing that does “alarm” me is posters on forums like this who use terms like “alarmist” and ” sceptic”. Good day to you.

          • Barri Mundee

            Better for well targeted federal spending on much needed infrastructure if you are concerned about growth. Demand drives business more than tax.

          • Carl Raymond S

            You are a loose cannon. Take a good hard look at the Keeling Curve and read up on ocean acidification. Do you really want to bequeath a planet to your children where the ocean eco system could be destroyed in a blink (as few as 13 years)?
            Turning the Keeling Curve around is urgent – or there can only be one outcome.

          • onesecond

            You are aware that you pay far more for the indirect subsidies to fossil fuels? If all those are axed then axing the RET would be ok because fossil fuels don’t stand a chance on a level playing field. As long as the subsidies to fossil fuels go on and on, axing the RET would be clinically insane.

          • Ian

            You perceive that you are paying an extra cent a KWH for renewable energy and you whinge like as stuck pig. Shame on you. I hope you have a beach side home when climate change causes sea level rise.!

          • Barri Mundee

            So you probably do not approve of small business tax write-offs do you? That’s a subsidy.

          • Stewart Rogers

            That’s simply instant depreciation. Learn what a subsidy is. All taxes should be lower, all spending should be lower.

          • Barri Mundee

            You can call it what you like but its a subsidy that can be given or withdrawn depending on government policy and priorities.
            BTW, if all spending is lower we would end in recession. I think you could do with some macroeconomics lessons.

          • Barri Mundee

            And so are NG concessions. We have the most generous concessions in the world.

          • Stewart Rogers

            Let me guess, Singapore is in recession, Switzerland is in recession, New Zealand is in recession? They all spend less and have less taxes. I can’t wait till our credit rating is lowered from “AAA”. We need a wake up call. You’re clearly clueless.

          • andyfromedinburgh

            Very good.. I agree. Somehow the subsidies and tax incentives of the past are ignored. Donations whether by the individual or the corporation buys influence, past present and future. We live in a world of compromise thank goodness.

          • Carl Raymond S

            Spiral up or down?
            If grid prices go up, more will exit the grid. Solar puts downwards pressure on prices, especially when paired with storage.

        • andyfromedinburgh

          But what about negative gearing then? Surely that is also a subsidy?

          • john

            NO you miss the point when you have a huge tax problem getting a tax write off is not a subsidy it is a cost of business which you can claim. It is about time you went got a bank load and put it into some kind of purchase then you can claim the cost of the interest and the ongoing cost of doing what every you put your money into plus the loss of selling it.

          • Stewart Rogers

            Here are all the green charges I have to pay in my latest electricity bill. Most people don’t have commercial bills that split each component.

          • Stewart Rogers

            Negative gearing is not a subsidy. You pay tax on earnings not revenue. Gearing is simply a benefit from increased expenses.

          • neroden

            Make no mistake, being able to deduct costs is a subsidy. When I pay individual income tax, I can’t deduct my living expenses (why not? I think I should be able to.)

            As long as this is the case, being able to deduct business expenses *is* a subsidy — one which goes only to businesses, which discriminates against individuals.

            Sure, it’s a subsidy I approve of, but it’s dishonest to pretend that it isn’t a subsidy.

            And yes, there are business tax systems which tax businesses on their gross revenue. Consider yourself *subsidized* that you don’t live under one of them.

          • Stewart Rogers

            It’s not a subsidy… That’s like saying every expense is a subsidy. If taxes were 0 you wouldn’t get a net benefit.

          • Chris Fraser

            True, why do certain people dismiss subsidies given to one but not the other ? Negative gearing not a subsidy ? Maybe it’s not if you’re negative gearing …

    • solarguy

      Why would you want that?

  • johnnewton

    Katter is already demanding that Adani go ahead

    • john

      Good luck with that lame duck idea over $70 a tonne landed into India totally not able to sell the product.
      Forget any of the rubbish about being held up in any court the project will never get finance because the figures do not add up end of story.

    • nakedChimp

      Katter can demand things all day long.. what he get’s is a totally different matter.

  • Chris Fraser

    The G-G doesn’t have to agree to run a Royal Commission to please every nut-case. Also the terms of the RC have to make sense.

  • solarguy

    Giles, something wrong with this website. Not all the comments can be seen. Can you deal please.

    • which ones?

      • solarguy

        There are 34 comments only 9 can be seen.

  • Macabre

    Lots of time for John Connor, but the idea that a hung parliament and diverse senate will shift the Coalition to the centre is born in cloud cuckoo land.

    If Turnbull has a choice of teaming up left or right he will be forced to the right. If the only choice is left, then the party will dump him before accepting a transition to renewables.

    We are in a tumultuous time politically – the UK is currently leading the way, but 3 un-elected Australian PM’s (plus changes from elected to un-elected state premiers in Victoria and NSW) in the last few years has set the tone for what happens next. The political stage is not so much broken, as totally mangled.

    • neroden

      There’s a split in the right wing, however. The coal companies, oil companies, and other diehard climate deniers are on one side. The banks and other big businesses are on the other. Who do you think is going to win that split? Turnbull can make a big-business appeal on renewable energy policy, if he chooses to…

      • Macabre

        It is human nature for those who feel threatened by change to fight a lot harder than those who are advocating change. I am not “inside” this issue, but looking in from the outside, it is clear that the fossil fuel lobby has much greater influence over the Coalition than more forward thinking businesses. I personally do not see this changing any time soon. Turnbull seems to have no mandate from within his party to lead – he is merely their mouthpiece.

  • solarguy

    Well Giles, there’s 50 comments now and only one is partially visable?

  • solarguy

    Giles, there are 51 comments on this article, however can only see MikeH, What’s wrong.

  • Geoff

    The sooner someone puts a bullet in Hanson’s head the better.

  • john

    I really fear for the country after this election where absolute nutters are elected.
    Perhaps we need and IQ test that is higher than 50.

    • Brad

      Thats a good plan, that should get rid of all the greens from the senate