New prime minister Scott Morrison has ended the experiment of combining the energy and environment portfolios, and appointed one of the country’s most prominent anti-wind campaigners as energy minister, and a former mining industry lawyer as environment minister.
Morrison on Sunday unveiled his ministry, two days after pipping the ultra-conservative candidate Peter Dutton as head of the Liberal Party.
He named Dutton numbers man Angus Taylor as energy minister, and Melissa Price – a former mining company lawyer – as environment minister, and in doing so appeared to abandon any efforts to seek emissions reductions in the electricity sector, or anywhere else for that matter.
Morrison said Taylor – previously the Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber security – would be the “minister for getting energy prices down.” Adding later, when asked about emissions and the future of the National Energy Guarantee: “It’s about reliability, price, keeping the lights on and getting prices down.”
Remarkably, that is almost exactly what Taylor told 2GB shock jock Ray Hadley nearly a fortnight ago: “The obsession with emissions at the expense of reliability and affordability has been a massive mistake, Ray,” Taylor said. “I do think that we’re at a point now where we can get that balance right.”
The appointment of Taylor – along with the retention of Dutton as Home Affairs Minister – seems to be Morrison gift of appeasement to the “shock-jock” Gods that are as suspicious of him as they were of Malcolm Turnbull. Taylor is one of the shock-jock favourites.
Taylor has campaigned against wind farms – both near his family’s property near Nimmitabel and elsewhere – for years, but came to prominence in 2013 when, as the pre-selected member for Hume, he spoke at the so-called “wind power fraud rally” in Canberra.
The poorly attended rally – barely 100 people – in front of parliament house in Canberra was organised by an anonymous and particularly nasty and hate-filled website called “Stop These Things”. Radio commentator and fierce renewable energy critic Alan Jones was host.
The rally was addressed by several Coalition MPs – the only other speaker still in parliament is Craig Kelly, the outspoken chair of the backbench committee on energy.
Taylor’s views are no less extreme than Kelly’s, although better articulated. His particular beef is against wind farms, but he doesn’t seem to like renewables of any type very much, describing the RET as “industry pork-barrelling on steroids.”
He was one of the loudest voices calling for the end of the renewable energy target, way back in 2013, and has called state-based targets “crazy, crazy …. insane.” He was a key supporter of Peter Dutton’s push to be PM.
Taylor is considered a hero by Stop These Things (which refers to environmentalists as “greentards” and other charming names) for his relentless opposition to wind farms.
“Never in the field of political conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few,” the website said last year in reference to Taylor’s campaigns against wind energy.
It also described him as the “wind industry’s worst nightmare.” Environmentalists do not disagree with that.
— simon holmes à court (@simonahac) August 26, 2018
Taylor insists he is not a climate skeptic, but he has also described anthropogenic climate change as “the new climate religion,” telling Parliament that “religious belief is based on faith, not facts. “The new climate religion, recruiting disciples every day, has little basis on fact and everything to do with blind faith.”
He also claims he is not against renewables, but told the “wind power fraud rally” that wind energy was causing communities across Australia to “tear themselves to pieces… cousins versus cousin, brothers versus brothers, for massive subsidies to the wind industry, facilitated by the federal government.”
RenewEconomy ran a profile of Taylor back in 2014, written by Yes2Renewables and listing his campaigns against wind, in particular, and renewables in general; including his opposition to the ACT government’s 100 per cent renewable energy target, and his inflated claims about the impact of subsidies.
RenewEconomy also dissected a report released by Taylor back in 2013, arguing for the RET to be scrapped. We pointed out its inconsistencies, its inflated cost estimates for subsidies, and how certain aspects contradicted findings from the original report. The title of that story was: “The dangerous thinking behind the Coalition’s renewable energy policy.”
Morrison, his new boss, is infamous for waving a lump of coal in parliament last year, and for comparing the Tesla big battery in South Australia to the big banana. His new chief of staff was deputy CEO of the Minerals Council of Australia for more than six years.
There’s another couple of interesting aspects to Taylor. His grandfather (on his mother’s side) was the chief engineer responsible for the original Snowy Hydro scheme, and Taylor has spoken with enthusiasm about Snowy 2.0.
The federal government now owns 100 per cent of Snowy Hydro and the dream of the 2,000MW pumped hydro scheme may not be lost with the departure of Malcolm Turnbull.
Taylor also shares a common work history with the ACCC chair Rod Sims, who holds similar views to Taylor on renewables, subsidies and fossil fuel generation.
Both were senior executives at Port Jackson Partners. Taylor did his thesis for his Master of Philosophy on competition policy, although his focus was on pubs and breweries in the UK.
Sims has now become a sort of defacto “energy Czar” following his report into energy prices, and outlining how consumers have been ripped off by networks, generators and retailers.
But his solutions are considered extreme – including the proposal for price caps, write-downs of network assets, the abolition of subsidies to small-scale solar installations, and a government underwriting scheme for new “dispatchable” generation.
The Coalition has taken this to mean coal, and while people like UK billionaire Sanjeev Gupta suggest it could dramatically reduce the cost of solar and storage, the rules and design of the scheme will effectively decide the winning technology.
Price, from the WA mining town of Kalgoorlie, had served as deputy to former energy and environment minister Josh Frydenberg, who is now Treasurer and deputy leader of the Liberal Party.
She worked as a lawyer with Clayton Utz, specialising in the mining industry, and with mining company Crosslands Resources.
Karen Andrews is the new minister for industry, science and technology.
Tony Abbott does not get a ministry, but could hardly be more pleased with Morrison’s moves on energy and the environment. So much for having no influence. Disgraced former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce is named special envoy for drought assistance.