Monday, October 19, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is very unimpressed by Comrade Rudd's open door policy towards illegal immigrants

Australia's proposed new Warmist laws will be costly but will not reduce power station emissions

The Greens and Nationals are both opposed to the scheme and new evidence supports their cause. In the odd way that is characteristic of political party names, the National Party represents rural and regional interests

ONE of the more genial aspects of the seemingly interminable debate over the emissions trading scheme is the way the Left and the Right bump up against each other in slightly comic fashion as the circle of debate closes. So, as it stands, you have both the Nationals' Barnaby Joyce and the Greens' Bob Brown vehemently opposed to Penny Wong's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. For completely different reasons, of course. Brown wants it to go further and greener. And Joyce wouldn't want the scheme even if he won it in a pub raffle.

But the intensity of their opposition is just the same politically. Wong will have to persuade them both if the CPRS is ever to become law. Unless, of course, Malcolm Turnbull miraculously convinces his entire party room to vote for an amended version of Wong and Kevin Rudd's proposed emissions trading scheme. Which he won't.

That would see Barnaby and Bob standing shoulder to shoulder against Rudd's ETS at any subsequent double dissolution election. But there's a way to go yet, including this week's supplementary Senate estimates hearings. The Department of the Environment, including Climate Change, is up Monday night and Tuesday. Treasury gets its go Thursday.

With that in mind, left-leaning think tank the Australia Institute has been doing its own research into the Treasury advice underpinning the ETS. In the context of the Left-Right ETS alignment discussed above, what the institute has found will please both Joyce and Brown, albeit for different reasons.

The institute plans to publish the results and analysis of its freedom of information requests to Treasury today as a research paper. According to the institute's executive director Richard Denniss, it should make Senate estimates a little more interesting, come Tuesday and Thursday. Part of what Denniss has uncovered concerns Treasury spreadsheets that underpin work appearing in the departmental publication entitled Australia's Low Pollution Future: the Economics of Climate Change Mitigation. The bottom-line charge is that while Wong has been relentlessly sounding the alarm about the dramatic action needed now to cut carbon pollution, Treasury modelling buttressing the CPRS shows it will in fact have little or no impact on one of the key offenders -- the coal-fired electricity generation industry -- in our lifetime.

Denniss takes up the story: "What she (Wong) doesn't tell us is that her CPRS, complex and impenetrable as it is, does not actually result in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from our coal-fired power stations."

Using graphs taken from Treasury spreadsheets of the CPRS modelling, Denniss argues that when the CPRS comes in there is a slight reduction in the amount of electricity generated from black coal between 2010 and 2020 and virtually no reduction in brown coal electricity -- the dirtiest form of electricity generation -- over the same period.

After 2020, says Denniss, emissions from black coal-fired power stations are actually forecast to rise slightly before stabilising until about 2033. Brown coal emissions are also stable between 2020 and 2033. It's only after 2033 -- that is, in 24 years -- that emissions from black and brown coal both begin to fall rapidly.

Not only that. The decline in electricity generation from black coal is actually driven solely by the introduction of the government's 20per cent renewable energy arget, an entirely different policy instrument from the CPRS. It is the projected increase in the supply of renewable electricity -- unrelated to the introduction of the CPRS -- that will slightly reduce the amount of electricity generated by black coal power stations. The bigger polluting brown coal power stations will be virtually unaffected.

In light of the Treasury modelling, Denniss says: "After the 20 per cent renewable energy target is achieved in 2020 there is no further reduction in the amount of electricity generated by black and brown coal-fired power stations. "This is because the CPRS has no effect on the competitiveness of coal-fired power stations."

"The projected carbon price of around $20-$25 per tonne is significantly less than the cost difference between renewable electricity and coal-fired electricity. While the introduction of a carbon price will reduce the profits of the coal-fired power stations, it will not reduce the amount of electricity they generate."

And the reason emissions from black and brown coal-fired power stations plummet in 2033 also has nothing to do with the CPRS. According to Denniss, Treasury has simply assumed that in 2033 we will invent clean coal and that, having invented it, it will turn out to be cheap. Further, it assumes that between 2033 and 2043 we can replace or retrofit every coal-fired power station in Australia. Despite the fact that it takes five years to plan and build a normal one, Treasury seems to think we can replace them all in 10 years.

Based on his analysis of Treasury figuring, Denniss wants three questions thrown at the Treasury and Climate Change bureaucrats this week: first, is the government aware that Treasury modelling shows that emissions from black and brown coal don't fall until 2033? Second, is the government aware that they only fall after 2033 because of the assumed invention of clean coal? And finally, can the government describe the "transformation" of the coal-fired power industry that results from theCPRS?

All good questions. And all ones that Joyce and Brown would like asked. For different reasons, of course.


More illegal immigrant boats bound for Australia

URGENT talks were under way last night between Canberra and Jakarta over responsibility for a suspected Australia-bound asylum-seeker vessel carrying 79 passengers that had issued a distress message off the Indonesian island of Sumatra. HMAS Armidale was sent to help and was last night alongside the boat -- one of three new vessels found heading for Australia -- said a spokesman for Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor.

Last night, the question of which nation was responsible for the boat and its occupants had not been settled. Under maritime law, if the vessel was in international waters, responsibility would fall to Australia.

The boat, whose identity was not given, radioed a distress call giving its position as 548km "north-northwest" off the Australian territory of Christmas Island and 222km off Java. The distress signal was picked up by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which sent the Armidale to intercept the boat. Asked which country was going to take responsibility for the boat and those aboard, a senior government official told The Australian last night: "They're still trying to work that out." None of the passengers were in danger and the vessel was regarded as seaworthy, a spokesman for Border Protection Command said last night. A photograph of the boat released last night appeared to indicate the vessel was of Indonesian origin.

Mr O'Connor last night said another boat, thought to have 39 passengers and three crew aboard, was intercepted yesterday near Ashmore Island, off Australia's north coast, after being spotted by an RAAF aircraft.

Meanwhile a third refugee-crammed vessel was yesterday reported to be in distress 200 to 300 nautical miles from Malaysia. The Malaysian navy has taken charge of that vessel but few details have been released on its whereabouts. Unconfirmed reports say the total number of asylum-seekers on all three boats is more than 310.

It is understood the asylum-seeker boat near Malaysia is off the west coast, but few other details were given. Its last stated position could put its location either off Bangka Island on the approaches to the Sunda Strait, or west of Aceh in the Indian Ocean.

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard told the Nine Network yesterday the location of the boats off Indonesia and Malaysia put them within the areas of those countries' responsibility. "They are in the Indonesian search and rescue zone and in the Malaysian search and rescue zone, so our (Australian) role is to assist if our assistance is asked for or required by the Indonesian or Malaysian authorities, but they (Indonesia and Malaysia) are the ones in control of the efforts there," Ms Gillard said.

The latest boat sightings come as Kevin Rudd seeks a new strategic compact with Indonesia to halt the flow of asylum-seekers. As reported in The Weekend Australian, the Prime Minister heads to Jakarta tomorrow for talks with his Indonesian counterpart, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, on greater Australian support for Jakarta's long-term resettlement of asylum-seekers. The Rudd plan envisages Canberra funding the cost of Indonesian naval arrests of asylum-seekers, and cash to fund additional detention centres to be administered by the UN-backed International Organisation for Migration. Australia would boost training and intelligence sharing with Jakarta, including military and police co-operation.

The visit comes after an appeal by Mr Rudd for Indonesia to intercept a boatload of 250 Sri Lankan asylum-seekers believed to be bound for Australia. Moored at the Javanese port of Merak yesterday, the asylum-seekers abandoned their 52-hour hunger strike.

The Australian Greens say they want Mr Rudd to urge Indonesia to sign the UN Convention for Refugees, to ensure asylum-seekers who end up there receive fair treatment. Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said Australia needed to work with its regional neighbours such as Indonesia and Malaysia to ensure fair treatment for asylum-seekers.


Leftist corruptocrat comes unglued

THE state's biggest housing project has collapsed after the Planning Minister, Kristina Keneally, admitted she acted unlawfully in approving the 7200-home Hunter Valley proposal. On the eve of a court challenge by residents opposing the Huntlee New Town project near Branxton, Ms Keneally and the developer of the $1.8 billion complex have conceded the minister's approval of the concept plan and a rezoning application breached planning laws.

Her concession sounds the death knell for a project the planning department had ranked last of 91 potential housing development sites in the Lower Hunter, and which was approved only after the Labor Party donor behind it hired the lobbyist and former Labor minister Graham Richardson.

On Thursday the department wrote to lawyers acting for the Sweetwater Action Group, which represents opponents of the project, conceding ''the minister took into account irrelevant considerations'' when approving Huntlee, that ''there was a reasonable apprehension of bias on the part of the minister'' when granting approval and that the approvals "should be quashed". The letter, obtained by the Herald, was sent four days before a court case due to begin today and says the department and the developer, Huntlee Holdings, will agree to the court making orders to stop the building of homes for 20,000 people.

Revelations that the Government acted unlawfully comes on the day the upper house inquiry into planning will resume. Huntlee was conceived and backed by one of the biggest donors to the NSW Labor Party, Duncan Hardie's Hardie Holdings, a part owner of the project.

Ms Keneally's admission appears certain to unravel a host of agreements for other new estates in the Lower Hunter, which the Government wants to take an extra 160,000 people by 2031. Others under threat include developments with Hardie Holdings for Sanctuary Villages, near Cessnock, and with Coal & Allied for Catherine Hill Bay and Gwandalan, and nearby sites at Minmi, Link Road, North and South Stockrington and Black Hill.

Once the court approves the orders, the Huntlee land will revert to rural zoning. Approval for a new development would require the Government again to declare it a state significant site.

In rezoning the land in January and approving the concept plan a month later, Ms Keneally breached the law because her predecessor, Frank Sartor, had signed a separate land-swap memorandum of understanding under which Huntlee would give almost 5900 hectares of its conservation land to the state as part of the project approval. In August, the Land and Environment Court's Justice David Lloyd, said such land-swap deals were ''land bribes'' when he overturned planning approval for another big Labor donor, Rose Group, to build 600 houses at Catherine Hill Bay. Justice Lloyd said that deal, under which Rose Group gave the Government conservation land, meant the minister might have appeared biased when approving the project.

Electoral Funding Authority records show that in the four years to the election last year, companies associated with Duncan Hardie donated $174,600 to NSW Labor and Rose Group, gave $143,500.


Human rights platitudes

Janet Albrechtsen

THE Left has a gift for using clever language to push its causes. The trick is to start with a literal truth, a platitude so steeped in emotion it tugs on the heartstrings of human nature, something that just about every sane person will agree on. But what makes the use of a literal truth so seductive is the way it is used to hide a substantive untruth. A bit of intellectual rigour lifts the cloak on these dishonest word games. Just a few quick examples before we move to something far more serious.

Last Thursday evening I was a panellist on ABC1’s Q&A program. On the left side sat Todd Sampson, a successful advertising executive who appears on The Gruen Transfer, also on the ABC. Like any good advertising executive, Sampson, who is also the co-creator of Earth Hour, knows how to use an emotional platitude to get a response.

When the emissions trading system came up for discussion, he said that “we care” about the environment so “we want to lead” the way in Copenhagen. He gave politicians a serve. People wanted them to “do something”, he said. The audience cheered. These are the kind of sentimental platitudes more at home with a wide-eyed teenage girl who has just finished reading The Catcher in the Rye.

Look at how Sampson cleverly uses a literal truth to convey a substantive untruth. The literal truth that “we care” about the environment is used like a bait. If you accept that bait, then maybe you will swallow the rest of what he says, hook, line and sinker. It is true that people care about the environment. The substantive untruth is that Australia should be out in front, leading the world on climate change with ambitious targets to reduce emissions.

Sampson’s substantive untruth is clear enough. Just ask a coalminer in the NSW Hunter Valley who may lose his job to a scheme that will make no difference to global warming whether he thinks Australia should lead the way on climate change.

The same kind of emotional, but intellectually vacuous, belief explains Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel committee said the new US President gives us “hope for a better future”. We can all agree on the literal truth of the importance of hope. Hope tugs at our heart. But there is no substance behind that cliche: nothing yet achieved by Obama, nothing but teenage-like infatuation with everything Obama represents, as opposed to the cold reality of his incomplete record.

Now for something more serious. When Frank Brennan released his report recommending a federal human rights act for Australia last week, supporters of an HRA used more of their literal-truth word games to hide substantive untruths.

The emotional bait this time, and an incontrovertible truth, is that we all care about protecting human rights. Then they slide seamlessly from a truth to a falsehood by claiming that Australians support the introduction of a federal HRA.

George Williams, a long-time advocate of an HRA, said of the response to the Brennan report: “Australians spoke not only in overwhelming numbers but with a clear voice, with 87 per cent supporting a human rights act.” Brennan said much the same thing on this page last Friday. Catherine Branson, from the Australian Human Rights Commission, said: “The Australian people want it; the Australian government should now accept that and act on it.”

These statements are untrue or, at the very least, completely untested. There is no evidence that Australians support an HRA in overwhelming numbers. Even the numbers that Brennan and his cheer squad rely on are deceptive. The figures are set out in the final appendix to the Brennan report: of 35,014 submissions, 27,112 were what Brennan calls “campaign submissions” (more than 25,000 came from GetUp! and Amnesty International supporting an HRA). That leaves 7900 other individual submissions and 4200 submissions opposed to an HRA.

In other words, put aside the orchestrated campaign activists and more than half of submissions were opposed to an HRA. If there were overwhelming support from Australians for an HRA, supporters would happily put their proposal to the Australian people. Yet they are opposed to hearing from that democratic voice.

In justifying their refusal to hear from the Australian people, supporters resort to yet another literal truth to convey yet another substantive untruth. Brennan says the HRA is “just an ordinary piece of legislation”. Ordinary laws don’t require a referendum. It would be un-Australian, he says. Strictly speaking, an HRA is a normal piece of legislation. But the con is clear enough. The entire rationale of an HRA is to operate as a super-statute, dictating how every piece of existing and future law will be interpreted. No other law does this in the way an HRA will. British judges in the House of Lords have described their Human Rights Act - on which Brennan’s model is based - as an extraordinary law in its reach and what it asks of judges.

So don’t succumb to the seductive word game that Brennan has suggested a modest reform that will merely encourage a dialogue between the courts and parliament. We all like dialogue. It sounds so damn reasonable no one could object. But, again, this is a blatant falsehood. When you grant courts the power to declare a piece of legislation incompatible with a list of ambiguous rights, the courts are given the power to define the ambit of social and political issues that ought to be decided by the people.

Just ask former prime minister Tony Blair, who introduced the British act. It did not take long for Blair to ‘fess up that the act had led to a battle between the courts and parliament. Once again, the numbers reveal the substantive untruth behind the claims of those advocating an HRA in Australia. As of January this year, since the British act came into effect on October2, 2000, 26 declarations of incompatibility have been made by British courts. While some were overturned on appeal, the British government has never had the political courage to reject those that remained. Those pushing for an HRA know that.

In February this year, Brennan conceded that the Victorian Charter of Rights - another model for his proposed human rights act - was “a device for the delivery of a soft-Left sectarian agenda”. Emotional calls for a simple dialogue are a deliberate ruse to hide that pursuit: the fundamental transfer of power to unelected judges. The real view of those campaigning for an HRA is to hell with old-fashioned democracy. You will never hear them utter that literal and substantive truth. But if they think this debate will continue without others applying a bit of intellectual rigour to their seductive and deceptive arguments, they are mistaken. For starters, watch this space.


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