COALition government? So who’s running this country?

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If Australians elected a government owned and operated by coal industry and other fossil fuel interests – a COALition, if you will – and gave it carte blanche, what would it do? Probably attack carbon pricing, environmental markets, renewable energy, rooftop solar, research, independent institutions, efficiency measures – just for a start.

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Just imagine if Australia elected a government owned and operated by the coal industry and other fossil fuel interests – a COALition, if you will – and gave it carte blanche to implement the policies that would best service its interests.

Where would it start?

Well, it would probably identify its weak spots and do something about it. So it would need to ensure that any independent advisory bodies were singing from the same songbook. It would have to do something about the fact that demand is falling for its products. It would need to eliminate its competition. It would have to drop any market signals that worked against its interests, and it would need to remove environmental controls, and ensure that public debate was neutered and that the majority of media were aligned with their interests and ideology.

Having drawn up the major points of a master plan, it would need to leap into action. We managed to find a copy of their “to-do” list.

Energy efficiency

energy_efficiencyLook, the first thing we need to do is prop up demand. Despite all the best predictions, demand has actually been falling for the past five years, and it’s been eating into profits. The International Energy Agency reckons energy efficiency is one of the tools to use to address soaring CO2 emissions. And so do the US and China. But that also means less demand for electricity generation, and climate science is crap anyway, there isn’t a problem to address. So we need to start by unwinding the state-based energy efficiency programs, with the help of the COALition state governments, and drop the national scheme that encouraged such nonsense, the Energy Efficiency Opportunity program, and then we have to bury the energy efficiency task-force recommendations deeper into the bottom draw. It might save consumers money, but it does bugger all for fossil fuel profits.

Rooftop Solar

Many long-promised renewable and low-emission energy programs have been scrapped or cut back in the Coalition’s first budget. Lukas Coch/AAP

The other thing eating into demand is rooftop solar. And the bloody things are doing it in the middle of the day, when the generators used to be able to switch on the gas and diesel generators and push up the price of electricity 10-fold. There’s not a lot of solar, but it’s taking all that cream we built into the business models. Cripes, their debt financing depended on it. So, whoever came up with this silly million solar roofs idea better shut up about it right now. We don’t want to encourage this stuff. And let’s see if we can’t slow down rooftop solar by dumping the small scale certificates. And while we are at it, we should encourage some of our members to reject some solar installation requests, force others to downsize, disallow any exports, threaten them with big connection costs, impose higher fixed charges. And if the bastards want to leave the grid, then we will charge them for that too.

Renewable energy target

The next thing to do is eliminate competition. The coal boys have made clear that wind is forcing down the price of electricity, and if there is any more wind and solar the coal boilers are going to be shut down so long they will start to go rusty. And the gas boys are having enough trouble with gas prices trebling, and even their baseload generators have to be turned into peaking plants. So we need another review and we need an outcome. Last time the RET was dumped even when an independent report said the best idea was to keep it going.

rsz_wyoming-wind-638x435This time, though, we can’t risk confused messages. So lets load the dice and get someone who agrees the science is crap and maybe reckons that nuclear is probably the best solution – that’ll give us another 10-15 years of coal production before they realize how expensive that is. And you better get a couple of fossil fuel lobbyists on the panel too, and that modeling group that EnergyAustralia used to warn that the lights would go out if we had too much of this green energy crap. And the good thing is we don’t need to hurry on this one, because just having a review will stop new investment anyway. Get them to hold the consultations in camera and throw the findings into the Energy White Paper. That’ll take ages to finish.

Emerging technologies

solar_power_towerLook, it’s not just wind energy we’ve got to worry about. It’s all that big solar PV, and solar thermal thingies that they are building in the US, South America, the Middle East, Europe, China, Japan, India and even in Africa, that’s going to cause a problem too. They reckon it’s already cheaper than gas, and if those solar tower thingies with storage catch on. Well, the only thing standing between us and oblivion will be the regulators and the shock-jocks. So we better cut funding for CSIRO alternative fuels research, get rid of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency before they get the costs of these new technologies down even further and the banks start getting big ideas. I mean, even Macquarie Group is thinking about funding solar now, and if Rio Tinto realizes that solar is cheaper than diesel, then that profitable little sideline will be well and truly gone. And don’t get me started on storage, geothermal and wave energy. I mean, imagine if they start using baseload and renewables in the same sentence.

Carbon price

Of course, we have got to axe the tax. That’s a great line we borrowed from the Canadians. Look, if the carbon price stays and companies are encouraged to factor it into their business models and investment decisions, there will be hell to pay. Better to set up some fund, so that these jokers with some do-good projects have to put together a big package and submit it for review by a bunch of public servants. The transaction costs alone should turn most people off the idea, and the bankers won’t have a bar of it. And just to be sure, we better make sure we cut the funds. Come up with a silly name like Direct Action, or something. That will confuse them, and find someone who can pretend we accept the science.

Covering all bases

Look, there are a few other things we need to think about to cover our bases.

We don’t to foster too much informed debate, so best to get rid of the Climate Commission and the Climate Change Authority, get rid of a couple of hundred scientists at the CSIRO and put a bomb through the department of Environment.

We mustn’t allow any international agreements to get too far down the track, so let’s make sure our boys are throwing the spanner in the works at the UNFCCC.

We got to do something about this ACT government plan too. They want to build wind turbines and solar stuff – and they will probably do it cheaply too. It will make the rest of the country look backward. Might have to get some of the senior boys to compare turbines to mushrooms, people will think poison. And maybe call them hideous, or offensive or something.

This divestment thing could be a problem. And we’ve got a banking inquiry, which is supposed to look at systemic risks and all that do-gooder mumbo jumbo, so let’s make sure there is someone who can rubbish the science and keep control of things.

While we are at it, better to have someone in the key business advisory position too. If too many business people start talking about climate change, emissions control, supply chains, and international trade, we’re just not going to be able to get our agenda through.

The environmental changes are good too. Giving environmental controls back to the states (Camo and Bazza are already competing to be the coal state – can we get them on number plates, sunshine state sends all the wrong messaging). Let’s suggest we allow the dredging, this environmental offset stuff doesn’t have to be scrutinized too closely, and maybe we can even give a royalty holiday to allow some of those coal projects to go ahead. Their finances are looking dodgy, but if we get them started, they’ll be hard to stop.

And while we are on environmental stuff, could someone please stop these silly requirements to make houses efficient. We need the heaters and the air-con to be running full bore to make a quid.

And, look, let’s make sure we got the media covered. Most of the tabloids will publish anything as long we give them a day’s break. So if there’s another report on rising prices due to network costs or soaring gas prices, give them a heads up and blame it on green energy. They’ll never read the actual reports.

deutsche abbottAnd let’s make sure the IPA boys and all those in their orbit are included on every policy discussion panel on radio and TV. Even the ABC. We just can’t allow people to have sensible conversations about this stuff. You never know where it will lead to.

So much to do,  such a small mandate, and so little time. Look, Deutsche Bank has pulled funding from the Abbot Point port development! Somebody do something!

(Editor’s note: We should point out that any similarity to actual events is entirely coincidental. Surely, that could never happen in Australia? What? Oh.)

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32 Comments
  1. Keith 5 years ago

    Giles, that’s an impressive list that clearly indicates a competence beyond the Abbott team (think IPA).

    What the LNP hasn’t taken account of is that the position they’ve got themselves into is seen internationally as bizarre and completely unsustainable.

    They can try to enforce their ideology of disenfranchising the weak and poor with the budget, but that is just a parochial issue.

    The climate stuff involves the world and the very survivability of human existence. GDP isn’t relevant when there ain’t an economy.

    Anyway I think there is an increasingly long list of things that are going wrong with this mad ideological stance that denies reality.
    These include:
    i) El Nino is coming. We are breaking the record consecutive days above 22C for May from 9 to probably around 18. Now that’s what I call breaking a record. So climate change isn’t crap.
    ii) California now has year round fire issues (when previously there was a pause in winter).
    iii) Antarctica, long the refuge of the deniers, is waking up in a big way and massive sea level rise is probably inevitable.
    iv) International corporate action is happening. At Deutsche Bank’s AGM the bank said they won’t invest in activities that endanger the Great Barrier Reef (eg Abbott Point coal terminal).
    v) European diplomats are being quite undiplomatic about Australia’s unsustainable position,
    vi) China and India are getting very serious about renewables … by that I mean aggressive programs to implement solar & wind/replace fossil fuels.
    vii) The US military is on the case about fossil fuels.

    Will Tony Abbott be able to ignore the elephant in the room (climate) at the G20? I’m beginning to think not. Blaming Labor in the international community is unlikely to work.

    Who knows maybe even the carbon tax dismantling might get blocked by the senate as people realise that the attacks on education, pensioners, students, unemployed can be paid instead by pricing carbon?

    So how does he dig his way out of the list that you’ve laid out?

    • Mags 5 years ago

      It is a really good point that the cuts in the budget largely don’t need to happen if the carbon and mining taxes are left in tact. We are surviving them, we are not all starving and the economy is still strong, so I wonder who would rather go the budget way instead of maintaining the status quo, which is working just fine???

      • Keith 5 years ago

        Mags,
        Given the intensity of feeling about the vindictiveness of the budget, between now and June 30 is a good time to provide some alternatives like leaving the mining tax intact (fixing it!) and keeping a price on carbon.
        It does require a huge pushback from the ruling view pushed by the LNP (and of course the Murdoch press, IPA, fossil fuel lobby) ….. but voters are important and if they make enough noise …. who knows?
        There has already been some hope expressed here that the RET may be hit less hard than it might have been because solar groups are threatening to lobby aggressively in marginal seats if the RET gets trashed.
        A good time for people power and sanity to prevail.

    • Tomagain 5 years ago

      Keith said: ” Who knows maybe even the carbon tax dismantling might get blocked by the senate as people realise that the attacks on education, pensioners, students, unemployed can be paid instead by pricing carbon”. This plus keep the half -hearted mining tax and ditch the Paid Parental leave, and, you can have a fully-funded budget that doesn’t screw the poor.

    • Pete 5 years ago

      Keith, you say “GDP isn’t relevant when there ain’t an economy.” I would say the economy isn’t relevant when there ain’t an environment.

      • Keith 5 years ago

        Pete,
        We are saying the same thing!

  2. Ian Lett 5 years ago

    It would be funny if it didn’t ring true. And it seems the Abbott government is not guided by ideology, so much as by vested interests. Chief amongst those interests is fossil fuels. Conservative ideology would say leave it to the markets and get government out of the way. However much of what Giles has listed as what a COALition would do, is interfering in the market. Direct Action is a big government interference, rather than relying on a carbon market, such as the cap and trade model planned under the former Labor government.
    I see the news each day and I see another group disenfranchised by this government. The scary thing is to realise who their friends are.

    • JohnOz 5 years ago

      Australia’s “T” Party is just doing what most right wing governments do; talk about the “free market” while making the policy settings to suit their biggest donors or those groups whose power they dare not challenge.

  3. michael 5 years ago

    Imagine if the coal/gas industry went fully activist, risked cutting their nose of to spite their face, and shut down all coal/gas power production for a period. As a thought exercise, what would the outcomes be short term? (would obviously cost them a bomb, but desperate times call for desperate measures, right?)

  4. David McInnes 5 years ago

    Giles, I suggest you try and get this published in the mainstream press – it would create quite an impression

    David McInnes

    • Tomagain 5 years ago

      Agreed, Giles, get it into Fairfax.

  5. Peter Castaldo 5 years ago

    Another two to add to the mix is, to bring in laws to forbid
    organisations pushing for boycotts and divestement. I seem to remember
    reading some articles about that a few weeks back. Also use TPP to
    force governments not to interfear with the profitability of a
    multinational based on pricing in moral ethical or environmnetal
    externalities.

  6. Alan Baird 5 years ago

    I think we need to fit in more with the Abbott agenda and work alongside them to bring on the end times which would align us to a Tea Party style gestalt, a similar group to the Liberal Party, but which resides in another country as you may know.
    For a start, we need to start praying a lot soon, so this time when El Nino kicks in and Oz starts to crispen just like last time, we’ll have stolen a march on John Howard who really only invoked the power of prayer when ENSO was really entrenched, crops totally ruined, and it took AGES for it to work, heaven being so distant and all. Luckily, we have a government that thinks the way it does and with great foresight has taken money away from the CSIRO (really inconvenient types who tend to be irritatingly in favour of crap like like climate change) and sent it to the folks who can assist with PRAYER, which really works and is direct acting. This bold stroke more than anything else says TEA PARTY! Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition! And if this turns out to be a real quality El Nino, with imports of wheat being a wonderful new phenomenon, we can always offset them with coal. I’m beginning to like this new Australia. It’s a lot more interesting, in a Chinese kind of way.

  7. Pedro 5 years ago

    Giles, dont forget a plan B, just in case those bloody politians change their minds. Fund another political party like PUP.

  8. Chris Fraser 5 years ago

    Ah, yes. Well put together. Is it a deep national conspiracy … or a frightening coincidence ??

    • Askgerbil Now 5 years ago

      Chris,

      It is neither a conspiracy nor a coincidence.

      The State Governments of New South Wales and Queensland include estimates for royalties from coal in their budget forward estimates.

      Each has estimated these revenues to grow sharply and indefinitely.
      Queensland’s budget for instance is relying on coal royalties to double about every 4-5 years.

      Extracts of these budget estimates and the related statements by the Queensland and NSW Treasurers are here:
      http://blog.gerbilnow.com/2014/05/coal-means-money-ask-icac.html

      • Chris Fraser 5 years ago

        Sh*t ! Now i definitely think it’s a conspiracy ! Those coal market optimists in the respective state Treasuries ought to get out more … or at least get out of bed with miners.

      • JohnOz 5 years ago

        Estimated NSW and QLD coal royalties for 2013-14 are estimated to total $3.6 billion. But Australia’s government subsidies to the fossil fuel industry (including mining and agriculture fuel tax rebate) totals just under $11 billion per annum.

        Am I missing something here or is this just a circus?

  9. Les Johnston 5 years ago

    Love the “COALition Government.” Could replace it with Fossil Government. However, COAL is a winner because is fits the project approvals being handed out by COALition Governments across the nation. I suspect there are a few members within the COALition who are having a hard time reconciling the direction of Abbott with their informed intellectual knowledge.

    So much of the COALition policy flies in the face of economic rationalists and establishing and maintaining a free market. Propping up the fossil industry will cost all Australians much more in the long run. Hopefully, very soon, the COALition will shed its cloak and embrace the renewable energy century.

  10. coomadoug 5 years ago

    Giles
    You should have a seat on the ABC in some format and debate these points with one of the government puppets. Surely that would be great stuff.

  11. Wes arnott 5 years ago

    How much would fed govt save by scrapping subsidies to big coal,
    network gold plating, and old utilities?

  12. Eclectic Eel 5 years ago

    Giles, Great to see that the dark ages looming with the Abbott government can be countered with a little creative enlightenment. Well done. A dose of satiric ridicule is the perfect antidote for the ridiculous.

  13. José DeSouza 5 years ago

    If I were to give an example of gallows humour to anyone, I’d show this witty article of yours, Giles.

  14. Sandi Keane 5 years ago

    Giles, good to see you get your dander up on this one. A re-run of Avatar would be timely? Australia is heading to an oligarchy just like the U.S. Abbott’s policies are about appeasing his paymasters. Good to see John Hewson lobbying to stop all political donations. It’s a subject I write about frequently but I despair of ever seeing msm take it up. Good on you. Keep it up!

  15. John Silvester 5 years ago

    We have a government that is setting the course going forwards by only looking backwards.

  16. Murphy 5 years ago

    IPA needs sending back to where it came from.

    Be like Gough: 75 radical ideas to transform Australia – http://www.ipa.org.au/publications/2080/be-like-gough-75-radical-ideas-to-transform-australia

  17. mike flanagan 5 years ago

    Giles, I do love it when you oil that keyboard up!

  18. Rob 5 years ago

    Great article, terrific comments and good news about Deutschebank, but much further to go.

    They have said they won’t fund Abbot Point because UNESCO are worried about the dredging. We need them saying, “we won’t have anything to do with the development of new coalmines because everyone knows they will cook the planet and they’re about to become stranded assets”.

  19. JohnOz 5 years ago

    Good one Giles.

    You just forgot increased compensation for fossil fuel generators going out of business. What about increasing the GST rate, or better still extending it to food and healthcare so we can pay these poor fossils to stay afloat and continue the pollution??

  20. Zvyozdochka 5 years ago

    Brilliant.

    I guess you had to leave out the bit about coal business seemingly having a tight donor/project-approval relationship in certain states.

  21. Vic 5 years ago

    Some sort of FUD scheme to demonise home insulation wouldn’t go astray either.
    And if we could get the taxpayers to foot the bill for such a scheme that would be just dandy!

  22. JohnOz 5 years ago

    Giles,

    The G20 are having their “Energy Sustainability Working Group meeting #2” in Sydney from 29 May 2014 to 30 May 2014.

    As a member of the press are you able to obtain access to the meeting? If so it would be a great place to drop this piece onto the participants. Economic viability and energy sustainability are the key themes of the G20 meeting in Brisbane in November this year. The government needs to be called out on their hopeless approach in these areas.

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