Five things we learned this week about Tony Turnbull/Malcolm Abbott | RenewEconomy

Five things we learned this week about Tony Turnbull/Malcolm Abbott

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Nearly six months ago Malcolm Turnbull became PM after Tony Abbott was dumped by his own party. What emerged from this shake-up, however, was a shady new composite figure – a Malcolm Abbott, or a Tony Turnbull. Here’s how to recognise him…

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Remember Tony Abbott? He was the leader of the Coalition government who thought that climate change was crap, dismantled the carbon price, trashed the Climate Council, and tried to dismantle the Climate Change Authority, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corp.

Tony Abbott brought investment in large scale renewable energy to a screeching halt by threatening to kill the renewable energy target, and then cutting it sharply, so encouraging a capital strike by major utilities. He also threatened to decimate the ranks of climate scientists through major cuts to the CSIRO. He said he hated the sight of wind farms, and said he thought coal was good for humanity.


Remember Malcolm Turnbull? He was the former Opposition leader who enthusiastically launched the Beyond Zero Emissions Plan for a rapid transition to 100 per cent renewable energy in Australia in 2010, who spoke of the moral and economic importance of acting decisively on climate change, who spoke of Direct Action as “irresponsible” and a “fig leaf” for a climate policy, and who spoke of many fine Liberal policy initiatives in whole sentences.

Nearly six months ago, something strange happened. Malcolm Turnbull became prime minister after Tony Abbott was dumped by his own party. But nothing changed. If the swap had been made by deed poll or a cardboard cut-out, the practical impact on climate and clean energy policies would have been no greater.

The carbon price is still scrapped, the “fig leaf” remains the centrepiece of the great policy misnomer Direct Action; Australia’s emissions are surging to a record high; the capital strike by utilities continues and large scale renewables investment remains at zero; the legislation to repeal the CCA, ARENA and the CEFC has not been withdrawn; coal is still considered good for humanity, and even a solution to hunger; and 300 or so climate scientists have just been told, in the parlance of modern football, to “do one” by the CSIRO and find another job.

Yet, in spite of all this, all Turnbull needs to do to be assured of election victory this year – in the absence of a credible opposition leader – is to make sure he does not actually morph into Tony Abbott. That means woo-ing the “soft centre” who chose to believe – like they did in 2013 – that Tony Abbott would “do the right thing”, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

In fact, Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t even need to be Malcolm Turnbull. He certainly doesn’t need to drop Abbott’s policies, and appears to have made a promise not to. A new composite figure, call him Malcolm Abbott or Tony Turnbull, has emerged.

How do we know this? Here’s five reasons why:

Climate policy remains a fraud: Despite the continuing assertion that “we are reducing emissions”, the government’s own data points to them rising to record levels by around 2030, and independent analysts suggest they won’t peak until 2030. Direct Action remains impotent, unfunded and unstructured. There is no visible path to reach even the government’s modest target of a 26-28 per cent cut in emissions by 2030, even though it has signed on to the Paris climate agreement that will demand it does so much more.

The capital strike on investment in renewable energy investment continues: There have been no investments in major large-scale renewable energy investments in Australia since it became clear that the Coalition would win power in 2013. Now, nine months after forcing Labor and the industry to agree to cut the renewable energy target in May – for the sake of “certainty” – the investment drought continues. The Coalition boasts of the achievements of programs run by ARENA and the CEFC for large-scale solar and the like, but refuses to withdraw legislation for their demolition. It has denuded the ARENA board, and assumes that the agency will not be funded beyond next year.

The science is “settled”, so we don’t need scientists: That’s a neat turn on the “science is crap” argument, but CSIRO’s decision to cut swathes through the ranks of climate scientists, on the basis that the “climate science” is agreed, and on the assumption by its new CEO that it should act more like a Silicon Valley start-up than a government research agency, has stunned scientists. They say that Australia now risks losing its leadership in the field. “I thought I had seen it all before: a new leader, assuming apparently infinite control, driven by narrow and often tired ideological fixations, tampering with a national asset, CSIRO,” lamented Dr Graeme Pearman, a former CSIRO Executive member.

It still works on the assumption that the world has not changed: Paris, it seems, has taught the Coalition nothing. The Australian government still assumes that markets for its commodity-based economy will continue, when all the evidence points to the contrary. In India, Adani has conceded that the $16 billion Carmichael coal project in the Galilee Basin won’t get developed without a rebound in the coal price. The Indian energy minister concedes solar is cheaper than coal, and an Indian company has proved that by scrapping plans for a coal plant and asking to build a solar plant instead. Adani itself is building the biggest solar plant in the country. Elsewhere, China has revealed a stunning fall in coal demand, Vietnam is backing off from coal, the emerging economies are spending more money on renewables than developed economies and on fossil fuels.

Corporations are learning the hard way: All through corporate Australia, big energy companies are writing down billions of dollars from recent and current investments in fossil fuel projects – be it shale gas in the US, deep water developments off the coast of Australia, coal seam gas projects in NSW, coal mines all along the east coast, or the giant LNG plants in central Queensland. Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, has warned of the “systemic risk” of fossil fuel investments becoming stranded assets. Australia seems particularly exposed to this, given its corporate and economic exposure. But when the Senate voted for an inquiry into carbon risk in Australia, who voted against it? The party of Tony Turnbull.

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  1. lin 5 years ago

    Talcum Muppet is working hard at becoming Arse-Hat of the Year, sabotaging Paris as much as possible, then continuing Tony’s work on his return home.
    Technically, these guys cannot be as stupid as they act, so someone must have some very powerful dirt on them to convince them to humiliate themselves in such a public way.

  2. johnnewton 5 years ago

    I wonder how long it will take the wet Libbies and the twitchy Labbies thinking of switching to realise that Turnbull is a complete fraud?

    And there’s room for a real progressive party to sneak in between the two and do very well at the next election.

    • Biker56 5 years ago

      Ask di Natalie about GMO before you wave that banner too much!

      • johnnewton 5 years ago

        Biker, it’s spelt Di Natale, and why don’t you ask him yourself by going to the Australian Greens policy page. The misinformation about his/our position comes from a News Corp journalist, and we certainly trust them don’t we?”

        • Biker56 5 years ago

          ABC interview actually. Where it was reported that he claimed there was no proof of problems when there is a great deal of proof!

          • johnnewton 5 years ago

            Hi folks,

            I was asked a couple of questions on GMOs in a wide ranging interview a few months ago, which were reported this week.

            To be clear, we have not changed our policy.

            A high evidence threshold must be met to demonstrate that there are not any negative impacts of GMOs before we would consider supporting their use. The best evidence available tells us that GMOs have not yet been proven universally safe for our environment, agricultural systems or human health.

            The evidence that worries me most is the risk GMOs pose to our natural environment, the increased use of herbicides that often accompany GMO use, the contamination of neighbouring (non-GMO) crops and the lack of strong food labelling requirements to protect consumers rights – not to mention the appalling behaviour of agri-giants like Monsanto!

            In recent times, our Greens MPs particularly Senator Rachel Siewert have been very vocal about our concerns that regulators haven’t been properly scrutinising new GM technologies.

            We will continue to advocate for strong regulations of GMO use in Australia.


    • MaxG 5 years ago

      I used to be a life-long red voter… switched to Green for good… read their agenda, policies… spot on… but the majority finds them to radical… while I find them not radical enough.

      • johnnewton 5 years ago

        Max, the saving grace for the Greens is their four principles. Every problem, every policy can be run through them. Which makes them rational rather than revolutionary.

  3. Rob G 5 years ago

    I get tired of hearing from friends and colleagues that we’ll see the “Real Turnbull” closer to the election. His position exists because of the lame approach he takes towards CC, I wouldn’t risk my vote on that “fingers crossed” approach. I also find the media’s never ending love affair with MT to be unhelpful. Somehow commentators on the Drum and similar shows and papers say he has Shorten beat on climate change, innovation etc leaving the ALP nowhere to go. Huh? Who are they kidding? Remove him and the LNP collapses as a party. We need voters to understand that voting him back in will be like another round of Abbott – minus the stupid comments.

    • david_fta 5 years ago

      Remember “Real Julia” ?

      At least she forced the Catholic Church to hide George Pell in the Vatican, and embarass themselves with the lie George is too sick to face his past. They’ve sent a “medical report” to Canberra to claim this – a medical report that Canberra will keep secret.

      Speaking of secret reports, apparently Tony Turnbull wants us all to believe that there’s a secret volume (a “sealed section”) of the Heydon Commission report that means we need an Australian Building and Construction Commission. Well, maybe we do – if and only if a Federal ICAC is established by Constitutional amendment (so the politicians can’t vote it back out).

    • Biker56 5 years ago

      Nope, your “mates” could not be more wrong! What you see is the “real” MT. Being a comms technician I can tell you that the LNP NBN was always going to be a pigs a#se. Ask anyone who’s involved in comms! MT all over!

      • Chris Fraser 5 years ago

        Biker, putting aside the politics … is the portending, or at least very possible conversion of MT Fibre 1.0 to FTTP going to be much more expensive if it were a new NBN Co. project ?

  4. John Saint-Smith 5 years ago

    I used to wonder why someone like the man we all assumed Malcolm Turnbull to be, would have thrown his lot in with the Liberals. He seemed like a nice fit for Labor – a millionaire with a progressive social agenda, and a genuine environmental conscience. But in truth, he was just another tax minimizing millionaire with a sleazy sales pitch.
    Now, we have seen the true colours of his turned bull coat – True blue with a nice streak of yellow (Apologies to Sweden)

    • charybds 5 years ago

      He has never had anything but his own ambition as an agenda .. all the rest is a pretty sales pitch which disguises an amoral grub.

      • Biker56 5 years ago

        Just about sums him up. Never been any different. Check the Costigan RC and the “Bottom of the Harbour” scheme or HIH. There’s more, just draw your own conclusions!

  5. JeffJL 5 years ago

    And just to prove that Malcolm Turnbull is actually Tony Abbott we have the farcical situation of him showing confidential documents today at an interview about the leaking of cabinet documents. The political satirists in Australia are still out of a job.

  6. john 5 years ago

    Malcolm can not make any move, because he is so aware of the hard parts of his party who will demote him.
    This was his experience before and there is no way he is going down that track again.
    Just remember the last person to hold the position is staying on.
    Possibly a PM who can be regarded as the worst undeforming PM in history.
    So yes Malcolm can be regarded as a disappointing person in the office.
    Do I see this changing perhaps after the election and hopefully the dead wood is not elected otherwise am afraid the same dismal policies will be kept.

    • charybds 5 years ago

      cognitive dissonance.

  7. Chris Fraser 5 years ago

    Perhaps they are all the same – a never ending string of big egos butting heads – with a passion not so much for Governance – but for their own career prospects. An endless-loop sideshow to real life, punctuated by the occasional leadership spill. They worked quite hard at making politics unpopular … and with some regret i think they’ve succeeded.

  8. Farmer Dave 5 years ago

    Fabulous summary, Giles, and alas intensely depressing – because it’s true. “By your actions shall you know them” is the quote, I believe, and that is the strength of your piece – you have documented the actions and inactions of this government which conclusively demonstrate the extent of their captivity to the unreal groupthink of the fossil fuel industry and its fellow travellers. It is at our collective peril that they ignore reality.

    I’m not sure that anything short of massive civil disobedience is going to make them change.

  9. Jenny Goldie 5 years ago

    Bravo Giles for summing it up so well. I cheered the return of Malcolm to the leadership but am now wringing my hands in despair. This Coalition is truly, truly appalling. Who’s to blame for the CSIRO cuts though? Larry Marshall or Christopher Pyne or buck-stops-here Turnbull?

    • charybds 5 years ago

      Murdoch ..
      The Liberal party is merely a frontice piece for the IPA. Do some research on its history and the people involved … all will become clear.
      You may also become cognizant of the steady infiltration of our agencies (including the ABC) by people with close ties to the IPA ..

      • John McKeon 5 years ago

        ” … infiltration of our agencies (including the ABC) by people with close ties to the IPA.”

        … like fossil fuel shill Tom Switzer ….

  10. Brian Wilshire 5 years ago

    The former Australian Dep’t of Climate Change website was
    removed early in 2015. It contained a document that attempted to answer points made in
    Ian Plimer’s book, “How to Get Expelled from School”.
    Page 32 of the
    .pdf has the (Vostok Ice Core) heat/C02 revelation, where they admit
    that, for the last 800,000 years, heating events have preceded increases
    in the atmosphere’s C02 levels, and therefore could not have been
    caused by C02. In so doing, the department destroyed the historical
    foundation of their global warming theory. Game Set and Match. C02 does
    not cause dangerous heating of the planet. The looming Ice Age is a
    different matter… has the document.

    • John McKeon 5 years ago

      “… heating events have preceded increases in the atmosphere’s C02 levels, and therefore could not have been caused by C02.”

      Same old … same old … DENIER talking point.

      Whether consciously or not … (and with what massive levels of cognitive dissonance one can only wonder) … you are, Brian, part of the massive public relations SPIN campaign by fossil fuel interests to preserve their share price as best as they can manage.

      CO2 IS a climate forcer: see

  11. howardpatr 5 years ago

    Malcolm Abbott or, as he is also known, “Cayman Turnbull”.

    His clothes are rapidly falling off.

  12. Doug Cotton 5 years ago

    It’s climatology “science” which is fraudulent and not based on correct physics because none of them (unlike myself) is qualified in physics. There’s AU $10,000 reward for the first to prove me wrong – explained at and in my linked websites, peer-reviewed papers, videos and book available on Amazon.

    • Doug Cotton 4 years ago

      The land based data is manipulated by incorrect “homogenization” based on weather stations affected by urban crawl. There is also selective elimination of weather stations that don’t show enough warming. Raw data from some Australian stations in Northern Victoria for example shows no warming in over 100 years. Only satellite measurements are reliable and, as is to be expected, they show no warming since 1998. There is, however, long-term warming of about half a degree per century since the “Little Ice Age” but it can be expected to become about 500 years of long-term cooling before the end of this century if past natural cycles continue.

      However, regardless of any warming, carbon dioxide cannot be the cause as there is no valid physics that can give any reason for such. The infant science of climatology (in which there are few with qualifications in physics) has abused the laws of physics and ignored the prerequisites for such laws to apply.

      Their first fundamental error was to assume that, in the absence of so-called “greenhouse gases” (1% water vapor, 0.04% carbon dioxide and some others) the Earth’s surface temperature would have been the same as that about 5Km up into the troposphere. This ignores the effect of gravity which (as has been discussed since the 19th century) forms a stable equilibrium non-zero temperature gradient in every planet’s troposphere. Now, in the 21st century, experiments with centrifuges and vortex cooling tubes demonstrate centrifugal force also creating a radial temperature gradient for the same reason that gravity does. Furthermore, a correct understanding of the process of entropy maximization in physics enables us to explain why this happens as gravity acts on molecules between collisions. So there is no need to explain the warmer surface temperature with radiation, and radiation is not the cause thereof.

      The second fundamental error is that, in their unnecessary attempts to explain the fact that the surface temperature is warmer than that 5Km above, climatologists have incorrectly assumed that they can just add together the flux of radiation from the Sun and about double that flux from the colder atmosphere. The latter can have no warming effect what-so-ever on the warmer surface, whilst even the solar radiation does not always raise the existing surface temperature, especially in winter and in the early morning and late afternoon. Once again, we can confirm that radiation can not be compounded like that with a simple experiment. We can measure the temperature to which a single electric bar radiator will raise an object and then see if several such radiators achieve the results that climatologists would like to see. They don’t come anywhere near doing so.

  13. Greg Smith 5 years ago

    The problem with most green types is that they are totally devoid of common sense. This includes the above column and its author.

    The difference between MT and Abbott is huge. Just because MT doesn’t make an instantaneous jump to what you would like him to say, or his positions to be, you suggest that he is no different than Abbott.

    Basically MT can look to the future whereas TA was wedded to the past. That’s good enough for me, I have patience, and I trust his judgement.

    Give the man some time and common-sense support, rather than continually blasting him. I think you’ll be surprised!

    • Pedro 5 years ago

      Hi Greg

      Can you please explain what common sense was used by the Turnbull government in dramatically reducing the Climate scientists at CSIRO? These are the people most able to predict and quantify what climate impacts we will all be facing going forward. How is defunding the CSIRO going to contribute to “innovation”?

      LNP voters need to get some “common sense” and let the party they voted for know that it is unacceptable to not have a climate change policy, to attack the clean energy industry by crippling the organisations that support it, and to stop blindly supporting the FF industry when it is clear that it is in structural decline. Or is the only ‘common sense’ used by LNP voters all about reducing their tax??

      • Greg Smith 5 years ago

        AsI understand it, some 110 out of 350 job losses will be in the climate change area. A far larger number are apparently in the area of CCS. When the facts change, you should change your mind. Just as CCS has proven futile and expensive (and loved by Abbott) it is a waste. Nobody likes any reduction is spending in any area, but in a time of constrained budgetary resources it is necessary. Turnbull has accepted climate change as real and humans as a contributing factor. He has said that CSIRO focus should shift to addressing the solutions to climate change rather than further proving it. He also thinks that the skill set required may be different and that that a sustained focus on STEM education by our universities and government institutions are the way forward.

        If you think this equates the LNP under Turnbull with the government under Abbott, well – you’re devoid of common sense too.

        Give the man a chance. He is constrained by a number of factors, but is light years removed from Abbott. He’s the best thing to come along in Australia in a decade or so!

        • Pedro 5 years ago

          Climate change has been proven and the CSIRO does not need to prove it, but collecting data and testing theories is key to refining our understanding and refining climate models. This sort of work is decadal in nature and is a process of continual improvement. Solutions to climate change were discussed at the Paris climate summit and are political. I come back to policy. How is LNP under Malcom different than under Abbot with regards to climate policy? We are 6 months out from an election and I don’t see that the LNP has a vision.

          Happy to give Malcolm a chance, and was very pleased he became the Prime Minister, but he has to put out clear policy and vision before I can use what little common sense I have to judge him and the LNP. I far as I can see it is the same old “Abbott” LNP with a different front man.

  14. RSABOERSEUN 5 years ago

    LOL how easy we forget the facts, the fact that climate change is a UN hoax, that is why Tony dismantled it, the fact that we still need baseline power at least until solar panels can work in the dark and for that we need Coal or Nuclear Power stations. Only very recently a new battery system came onto the market that helped solar power a little bit to store some of their abundance of energy. The fact of the matter is until a sufficient storage system is developed, well a system of sufficient size and capacity is still to be developed and until then Solar energy is not viable as base line substitute to coal. Even without Government sponsorship the Battery that is capable to store enough energy for a small home was developed, thus negating the argument that Government is needed in this matter. As a matter of fact Governments and in particular BIG Business is know to buy patents that can make giant leaps in technology and lock it away.
    I am glad Tony took charge and stopped the wasting of our tax money on a hoax that would have cost us Jobs (and did) and much more over time and would not have made one bit of a difference. If you want to blame the government for something it is the fact that their policies cost us our manufacturing industries, again following the guidelines with UN initiated free trade agreements that has very little if any benefit to Australia. Large companies are allowed to get away with declaring massive profits and not pay any taxes? Yes there a loads you can blame these politicians incompetence for, development of new technologies and the natural developments in the climate is not under those.

    • Pedro 5 years ago

      The only fact in your statement below is that you are a conspiracy theorist.

      “LOL how easy we forget the facts, the fact that climate change is a UN hoax”

      Good luck with your world view. I hope your home is at least 10m above sea level.

    • Farmer Dave 5 years ago

      If you really think that “climate change is a UN hoax” how do you explain the fact that the greenhouse effect (the way in which carbon dioxide traps heat) was discovered many decades before the UN was established?

      • RSABOERSEUN 5 years ago

        Very easy mate it is a natural occurrence, It has been happening for millions of years, overall for the last 500 or so we are in a cooling phase. yes we have a bit of a warmer phase at the moment but looking at it over a longer period it is barely a blip on the chart. Years ago they drilled in the Arctic ice and determined warmer and colder periods since time began it is nothing new. It has been very much hotter but over the last million or so years we are in just about the coldest phase in about 5 million. This propaganda is just one of the Hoaxes that has been used by the powers that be to get countries to waste money on stuff they cannot change to facilitate their agenda of destabilising countries so they can get people to more easily be open to a world wide centralised government governed by the UN but under Jesuit management. Read some of my posts on the subject on facebook or do your own research there is lots on youtube and on other sources on the internet. Never trust what you read in one source find multiple sources to give you both sides then you decide. I find RT News on the web fairly accurate and the radio , TV, and news papers are all under control of 6 major companies and they lie through their teeth to the same end. Always look for the bit of info they do not tell you about, that normally changes everything.

  15. onesecond 5 years ago

    Vote Green

    • Vernham 5 years ago

      I have that in my garden, I mow/cut it down it and walk all over it why would I vote for it.

  16. John McKeon 5 years ago

    Humanitarian Solar says “CO2 is not my field, so I’m unaware if there is historical evidence or not.”

    News Flash: Historical CO2 data is foundational in establishing the connection between climate sensitivity and atmospheric levels of CO2. For example, ice core data from Antarctica.

  17. Rob 5 years ago

    The COALition is clearly in bed with the mining industry. The mining industry makes generous donations to the party and the party protects and fosters the mining industry’s interests. Heck, some ministers even apparently spend their holidays with friends who are high up in the mining industry. So what chance have we got of the COALition making objective decisions about what is in Australia’s best interests when it comes to energy policy. Of course they’re going to help out their mates. That’s what mates are for! Of course they’re going to protect their mates’s interest by making it hard for their mate’s competitors. Of course they’re going to undermine anything that might be detrimental to their mate’s business like those pesky scientists at CSIRO who keep reminding us that we should stop burning fossil fuels as soon as possible. To do otherwise would be un-Australian………mate!

  18. riley222 5 years ago

    Jeez didn’t this bring the critics out.
    Hasn’t anyone noticed the change in tenor since Turnbull got top spot.
    Maybe I’m reading the comments wrong but most of them sound like petulant kids raving on cause they didn’t get everything on their wish list right now.
    Reality check. Turnbull is OZ’s best hope for progress on the renewables front, he is a believer operating in a difficult environment. He is not going to put himself in political danger with policies that stop him as an operator, we have to be patient. If Turnbull prevails at the next election , and I don’t just mean re other political parties, then he will have room to move.
    The realistic alternative is ??.

  19. John McKeon 5 years ago

    Excellent summation, Giles.

    To new readers, don’t miss every edition of is a great one stop shop, but of course as any experience web surfer would know, it doesn’t take long to find links to all sorts of sites, some shit, some excellent, and all kinds in between.

    The public relations campaign against climate science has been very well funded by fossil fuel interests, so we are not surprised at the number of “stink tanks” pushing shit on the public.

  20. MaxG 5 years ago

    These two guys in the picture: are they dumb and dumber? 🙂

    • John McKeon 5 years ago

      Are you scanning left to right or right to left?

  21. Vernham 5 years ago

    But haven’t many from the renewable energy supporting field of scientists and their hangers on said the Science is settled on the issue of climate change? How come now when they may find themselves without a job they change their minds?

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