Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Tony Abbott seeks international alliance to restrict  climate policies

Tony Abbott is seeking a conservative alliance among "like-minded" countries, aiming to dismantle global moves to introduce carbon pricing, and undermine a push by US President Barack Obama to push the case for action through forums such as the G20.

Visiting Ottawa for a full day of talks with the conservative Canadian Prime Minister and close friend Stephen Harper, Mr Abbott flagged intentions to build a new centre-right alliance led by Canada, Britain and Australia along with India and New Zealand.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper both say there is no need for carbon pricing to combat climate change.

All five Commonwealth countries now have "centre-right"-leaning governments but it is Mr Abbott's personal and philosophical closeness to Mr Harper that the Prime Minister regards as most important.

The combined front would attempt to counter recent moves by the Obama administration to lift the pace of climate change abatement via policies such as a carbon tax or state-based emissions trading. It is a calculated attempt to push back against what both leaders see as a left-liberal agenda in favour of higher taxes, unwise interventions to address global warming, and an unhealthy attitude of state intervention.

Mr Abbott's first visit to the US has begun on a shaky note after he characterised Mr Obama’s new push to reduce carbon pollution as a copy of "direct action" being pursued in Australia. Mr Abbott is due in New York on Monday local time.

Speaking at a media conference on Tuesday from the Canadian capital Ottawa along-side the anti-carbon tax prime minister Stephen Harper, Mr Abbott said the he was encouraged at the new US approach of requiring coal-fired power stations to cut emissions by 30 per cent by 2030, because it did not place a price on carbon but used regulation to cut pollution.

"We think that climate change is a significant problem, it’s not the only or even the most important problem the world faces but it is a significant problem and its important every country should take the action that it thinks is best to address emissions," he said.

"I am encouraged that President Obama is taking what I would regard as direct action measure to reduce emissions, this is very similar to the action my government proposes in Australia."

He said it was import that policies to address output did not "clobber the economy" while not helping the environment.

The comments were immediately backed up by Canada with Mr Harper declaring there was no chance of any country acting for the planet if it involved costs to its economy.  "It's not that we don't seek to deal with climate change," he said.  "We seek to deal with it in a way that enhances our ability to create jobs and growth, this is their position.

"No country is going to take actions that are going to deliberately harm jobs and growth in their country,  we are just a bit more frank about that than other countries."

The uncompromising attitude of both leaders suggests neither is inclined to yield to pressure from the US to revive the issue of climate change ahead of next years’ climate summit, nor back any international coordination such as additional regulations or a trading scheme.

Last week, Mr Obama flagged regulatory changes aimed at influencing US states to adopt aggressive market interventions to address global warming - a move that has attracted criticism on the right that Mr Obama is acting now only because he is not seeking re-election.

US officials have also been pushing Australia - so far unsuccessfully - to include climate change on the agenda for November's G20 meeting in Brisbane.

In a statement certain to raise eyebrows in the US, Mr Abbott, who is to meet Mr Obama in the White House later this week, underlined his opposition to carbon pricing. "There is no sign - no sign - that trading schemes are increasingly being adopted," he said. "If anything, trading schemes are being discarded, not adopted."

Before leaving Australia, Mr Abbott said the G20 summit in November was primarily about economics and the United Nations was the place to discuss climate change.

"I'd be surprised if climate change doesn't come up as part of the G20," he said, though climate change will figure in discussions about energy efficiency.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten took aim at the Prime Minister's "flat-Earth views", accusing him of being out of touch with Australians and world leaders such as Mr Obama. He told Fairfax Media that climate change was "not just an economic issue, it is a security issue and it is absolutely an economic issue".

But Mr Shorten said that Mr Obama, along with other world leaders, had clearly recognised that clean air, low pollution and new technologies would be good for the global economy and job creation.

He said Mr Abbott "shouldn't shirk the issue when he meets President Obama later this week, and he shouldn't shirk the issue at the G20 later this year".

While mooted as a potential member of Mr Abbott's new coalition, British Prime Minister David Cameron has been vocal about the need to tackle climate change, describing it in February as "one of the most serious threats that the world faces". Britain, through membership of the European Union, and New Zealand both have emissions trading schemes in place.


NSW Nationals agree to plan for partial privatization of electricity infrastructure

The New South Wales Nationals have signed off on a deal to back the Baird Government's plan to partially sell off the state's electricity infrastructure.

The Nationals have agreed to a partial privatisation provided the company Essential Energy is kept out the mix.

National and Liberal MPs were bunkered down for hours of separate discussions this morning, ahead of joint party room meetings this afternoon.

The ABC understands the Nationals party room meeting was heated, but they were offered a trade-off for their support.

It is understood a separate meeting of Liberal MPs offered no opposition to Premier Mike Baird's plan.

Mr Baird says 49 per cent partial privatisation will unlock $20 billion for infrastructure, extensions to WestConnex and a second harbour rail crossing.

He says the transaction would raise around $13 billion and attract $2 billion in funding from the Federal government.

We’ve outlined our vision for NSW. We now need a mandate to go ahead with the transaction.

"The NSW Liberals and Nationals have agreed to lease poles and wires so we can continue rebuilding NSW."

The Government has also announced it will construct Sydney Rapid Transit (SRT), a 30-kilometre rail line to speed up travel for commuters, and three new underground stations in the Sydney CBD.

It says SRT will see 60 per cent more peak-hour trains, allowing an extra 100,000 people to travel per hour.

The Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner says $6 billion of the transaction will be allocated to projects in the regions, such as improving water security and roads.

"We can fix the roads that currently when it's wet are impassable to removing (whether it's) stock or other agricultural commodities," he said.

"We can fix the roads that are currently killing people at a frightening rate."

The State Opposition leader John Robertson says Labor will not be backing the plan.

"Anyone who believes that they're only going to sell 49 per cent and the rest isn't going to be sold is living in a fool's paradise," he said.

"We all know, everyone knows that once privatisation starts in a sector it doesn't stop until it's finished."

Anyone who believes that they're only going to sell 49 per cent and the rest isn't going to be sold is living in a fool's paradise
NSW Opposition leader John Robertson

"I can understand why Nationals MPs have said they don't want Essential Energy sold," he said.

"That's because they've got real concerns about the proposal.

"But if it's OK for Essential Energy to be exempted, then why should we be selling Endeavour, Ausgrid and Transgrid?"

Sydney Business Chamber spokeswoman Patricia Forsythe says it will benefit businesses across the state.

"The announcement from the Premier is exactly what business has been seeking," she said.

"We would say it's exciting and it's visionary and it does show the benefits that will flow if the Government is successful with the partial sale of the electricity transmission network."


OECD boss praises Australian budget for gradual return to surplus

The head of the world's leading economic agency, Angel Gurria, has praised the Federal Government's recent budget, calling it a 'sustainable, durable solution' to deficits.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's secretary-general says that the budget highlights a serious commitment to maintain Australia's stable government finances.

"We have seen with very great interest, and I think really with great expectations, that they are dealing very directly and decisively with the budget deficit," he told ABC television's The Business program.

"Mr Hockey has gone for a surplus in 2023, giving himself 9-10 years for a surplus. I think it's good timing, in a sense not overloading or frontloading too much at a time when recovery is still firming up."

Mr Gurria also praises the Federal Government's preference for spending cuts over tax increases in its first budget since taking office last year.

"You [Australia] went for 80 per cent cuts, one-fifth tax increase. We're always saying you should at least keep it balanced, this is a more sustainable, more durable type of solution. Once you cut the expenses it stays low, with taxes there are certain temptations," he said.

"It also tells the economic agents that in the medium and long term this situation moving into a balanced budget, or somewhat surplus budget, will allow Australia in the presence of growth to reduce its debt-to-GDP ratio."

Mr Gurria forecasts Australia will see a growth rate of about 2-2.5 percent this year, moving towards a 3 per cent growth rate next year.

The most recent official figures put Australia's growth for the year to March 31 at 3.5 per cent, while the Reserve Bank's latest forecast is for 2.75 per cent growth in 2014.

The OECD says the eurozone is improving overall, but is fragile with the downside risks still there.

"2014 is going to be better, and 2015 we have forecast it's going to continue to reaffirm this trend, but all modestly better, a modest improvement, nothing to write home about," added Mr Gurria.

For emerging economies, the situation has reversed, with countries including Brazil, South Africa and Mexico slowing down, and China holding at about 7.5 per cent growth.


Helmets for everyone!

To those who have experienced the sense of freedom and the exhilaration of breeze in their hair, riding a bicycle—how confining and claustrophobic the idea of a helmet! But cycling without a helmet is something about which Australians only can dream. “I ride a bike and I never wear a helmet ...” remarked a leading British neurosurgeon at the 2014 Hay Festival in Wales, UK.

Our public health authorities regard cycling as inherently dangerous and risky. Every transport jurisdiction obliges cyclists to wear a helmet, although the Northern Territory exempts those over the age of 17 on footpaths and cycle paths. States introduced mandatory helmet laws in the early 1990s in exchange for ‘black spot’ road funding from a Federal Labor government.

The Queensland government’s recent response to its Parliamentary Inquiry into cycling epitomises a prevailing wisdom about Australia’s helmet laws. It rejected a series of its Inquiry’s modest recommendations to relax them, including a 24-month trial along the lines of the Northern Territory’s model with an exemption in streets with speed limits up to 60 kph.

Australia’s helmet laws are unique—apart from New Zealand’s which followed Australia’s in 1994. In most countries, use of bicycle helmets is voluntary or applies only to children; although laws with exemptions apply in some North American state and provincial jurisdictions and in Finland and Spain.

Epidemiological evidence of the impact of helmet laws on head injuries is doubtful. Despite a similar hourly risk of death from head injury for unhelmeted cyclists and motor vehicle occupants, only cyclists must wear head protection. So far as the effect of Australia’s helmet laws deters cycling, they reduce the health benefits that come with cycling.

Analysis of data after helmet law was introduced in NSW revealed that head injuries fell 40%.It is impossible to determine, however, whether this could be attributed to increased helmet wearing or reduced cycling because of the helmet law.Non-head injuries fell by almost as much as head injuries, suggesting the main explanation was reduced cycling.

Helmet laws impose costs on cyclists associated with purchasing helmets and the inconvenience of wearing them. A cost-benefit analysis of helmet law analysing injury rates before and after its implementation in New Zealand shows that for adults, helmet costs outweigh the value of health savings.

In the Netherlands, where use of bicycles is the world's highest, helmets are a heresy. In Amsterdam the probability of death from a cycling accident for an average cyclist is once each 63,368 years. Hence, even if it were possible to show that use of cycle helmets may reduce relative risk, absolute risk of mortality without them remains extremely small.

Australia’s regime of mandatory helmet law for cyclists is discriminatory, inefficient and infringes personal autonomy. It is another manifestation of public health zealotry. Apart from violating the principle of personal choice on helmet use, evidence supporting compulsion remains in contention. Many Australians nevertheless are accustomed to accepting encroachments on personal liberty. They have no experience of the alternative.


1 comment:

Paul said...

"Many Australians nevertheless are accustomed to accepting encroachments on personal liberty. They have no experience of the alternative."

The money shot. I find many younger people can't even conceive of a life without regulation of everything they do or say. They think Big Brother watching is the normal way of things and they not only accept it, they celebrate the presumed security it gives them.