Tuesday, July 14, 2015
ETU: They are eating our lunch!
Together with the CFMEU, the Electical Trades Union is a major millstone around the neck of Australia's big builders. But a lot of their members work installing home solar panels too. So you can see the reason behind their wail below. Given their past behaviour, they are not going to get much sympathy
The shock decision by the Abbott Government to ban the Clean Energy Finance Corporation from investing in wind or small-scale solar projects has been blasted by the national head of the electricity union.
“At a time when Australia desperately needs leadership on renewable energy, this step is damaging and bizarre,” Electrical Trades Union national secretary Allen Hicks said.
“The government is wilfully destroying jobs in a growth sector and hobbling the ability of the Australian renewables industry to compete on the world stage.”
The comments follow the revelation that Federal Treasurer and Finance Minister had decided to pull the plug on investment in these two sectors by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which the Abbott government has twice attempted to abolish.
“It seems every move this government makes comes at the cost of jobs, money and certainty for industry,” Mr Hicks said.
“We saw them shatter investor confidence with their ideological prevaricating on the Renewable Energy Target.
“Now we are seeing even more political games being played with the technologies of the future. “There is a limit to the amount of nineteenth century thinking the Australian people will endure, and we have well and truly passed it.
“As a nation, we need investment, leadership and growth in the renewable energy sector in order to compete on the world stage and create the jobs of the future. “What we are seeing from the Abbott Government is the exact opposite.”
Curbs on free speech becoming onerous
From the newsletter of Liberal Senator Sean Edwards
If we consider what most fundamentally distinguishes Western Civilisation from the cultural cavemen of the global islamist movement, it’s the free and forceful exchange of ideas and the way those ideas influence the evolution of our society. The recent Federal Council raised once again the issue of Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act and its impact on reasonable debate in Australia.
It’s the public debate of ideas and values that leads to social change and it’s their debate in Parliament that enshrines those changes into law.
But while the latter is protected by Parliamentary Privilege, public debate in Australia is threatened by an overbearing Racial Discrimination Act and its hypersensitive Section 18c. If free speech is muzzled, we can’t be sure our society evolves in the direction the community wants it to.
The freedom of speech debate has never been an argument about limitless speech. Freedom of speech is not absolute and nor should it ever be, as no reasonable person could possibly support, for instance, the expression of views that induce unjust violence or that intentionally mislead for commercial gain or legal advantage. This is really a debate about where we draw the line.
Section 18c draws the line at the point where a statement relating to race is interpreted as being insulting and it offers special redress when it is. Taking this principle to its full logical conclusion, if legal protection should be afforded to hurt feelings on one basis, why shouldn’t it extend equally to a range of other sensitivities such as speech that is insulting on the basis of religion or gender? Why exclude speech that insults someone on the basis of their politics or their class?
After all, it wasn’t racial but religious rhetoric with which pro-islamist rioters intimidated and insulted non-believers in Hyde Park, Sydney.
It wasn’t racial but class rhetoric with which anti-capitalist protestors humiliated and insulted mainstream Australians during the Occupy protests.
It wasn’t racial but political rhetoric with which dock workers intimidated and insulted their colleagues during the waterfront dispute.
Historical examples are plenty but Section 18c also threatens the most important of debates here and now.
The Government plans to specifically recognise Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders in the Constitution but discussion of who is and is not an Aboriginal person for the purpose of this amendment may well fall foul of the law. So Section 18c may literally prevent Australians from commenting freely on changes to their own Constitution.
Section 18d was envisaged to provide a number of exceptions to the sanctions of Section 18c for scenarios like journalism, art and academic debate. However in doing so it invites a judge to decide whether you hold your view “in good faith” and whether or not it is “reasonable” of you to do so before he or she decides whether they’ll let you off.
Australia did not become the civilised, culturally advanced society that it is by chance or by having our thoughts vetted by the judiciary. We got here through an evolution of ideas, values and beliefs and having them validated or otherwise by the best test there is: public debate.
That Federal Council passed a motion calling for removal of the words “offend” and “insult” from the Racial Discrimination Act will, I hope, inspire further attention to the matter from in the Parliamentary Liberal Party.
Other countries 'airy-fairy' on climate change, says Tony Abbott
The Abbott government does not get enough credit for its emissions reduction policies, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said, as he revealed Australia will not announce post-2020 climate targets until August.
Mr Abbott told a media conference on Monday that targets Australia will take to a global climate summit in Paris at the end of the year will not be made public until after a cabinet meeting at the beginning of August.
But he said the difference between Australia and the rest of the world was that "when we make commitments to reduce emissions we keep them". "Other countries make all these airy-fairy promises that never come to anything," Mr Abbott said.
Australia is the only developed country that has given no indication of what level of emissions reductions it is prepared to take on.
The government has previously said it would reveal Australia's targets in July, and an announcement was widely expected this week to coincide with the Major Economies Forum in the United States.
Mr Abbott was asked about Australia's likely target after New Zealand revealed its target of 30 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030 – a figure condemned by climate experts as not ambitious enough to avoid the globally agreed 2 degrees of warming.
"I'm not going to speculate in advance of a decision by the cabinet and the party room," he said. "We flagged that we would finalise our position about the middle of the year and we've got a party room meeting coming up at the beginning of August.
"I'm not going to flag any final position in advance of due process and proper consideration."
But he gave an assurance the figure reached by the government would be a "strong" one. "We'll take a very strong and credible position to Paris," Mr Abbott said.
"This government doesn't get enough credit, Australia doesn't get enough credit, for the emissions reduction work that we have already done.
"We don't get enough credit for the environmental protection that has already been achieved and, while I'm on the subject, let me again congratulate [Environment Minister] Greg Hunt for his work in getting the Great Barrier Reef taken off the World Heritage Commission endangered list."
Australia's emissions are the highest per capita of any country in the developed world.
Erwin Jackson, deputy chief executive of the Climate Institute, said Australia and Japan were the last two developed economies to formally announce post 2020 targets, although Japan has given some indication of what its target will be.
"But the core issue is the target will need to be strong and it will need to be credible if it's to be a foundation for stable and effective climate policy in Australia," Mr Jackson said.
The independent Climate Change Authority has urged Australia to adopt an emissions reduction target of 30 per cent on 2000 levels by 2030, which is equal to 36 per cent on 2005 levels
When compared with other developed nations, the recommendations would put Australia ahead of the US, which has a 26 to 28 per cent target by 2025 and well in front of Canada's 30 per cent target on 2005 levels by 2030.
They would place Australia roughly on par with Germany and Switzerland, but behind Britain.
Australia's current target is to reduce emissions by 5 per cent on 2000 levels by 2020, which is roughly equivalent to a target of 13 per cent on 2005 levels by 2020.
The Climate Council said only Canada, which withdrew from the Kyoto Agreement, was not on track to meet its current emission reduction promises.
Mr Hunt, who has previously said the government would reveal its new targets in July, said on Monday the announcement would be "in the coming weeks". He suggested Australia's target might surprise people and that it would be bigger than some expected.
"We are actually ahead of where I had hoped to be. We are in a remarkably strong position," Mr Hunt said.
"We will have a strong and I think more ambitious target than others would have previously expected. So I couldn't be more pleased and more delighted."
Australia became the first country in the world last year to axe a price on carbon when the government repealed Labor's carbon tax and replaced it with Direct Action, a policy to pay polluters to reduce their emissions.
The first auctions under the Emissions Reduction Fund took place in April, with the government pledging $660 million out of a possible $2.5 billion for 144 projects.
It is unclear when the second round of auctions under the scheme will occur.
Competition with a vengeance
People have been moaning about the Coles/Woolworths "duopoly" for years. It is no more. It has been defeated by capitalism
WHEN Wesfarmers boss Richard Goyder suggested the tax affairs of rival supermarket chain Aldi be “looked at” last month, he possibly didn’t expect this.
The usually secretive German discounter has opened its books to show its sales and pre-tax profits have more than doubled since 2010, giving Woolies, Coles and independent rivals more reason than ever to be concerned.
In a submission to the government’s Senate inquiry into corporate tax avoidance and minimisation, Aldi issued a three-year snapshot of its accounts between 2010 and 2013. In that time, its pre-tax earnings surged from $121 million to $261 million, while sales ballooned from $3.14 billion to $6 billion, The Australian reports.
Aldi already claims an 11 per cent slice of Australia’s $90 billion grocery market, with major expansion plans for South Australia and Western Australia in the pipeline.
The growth figures put Aldi’s much bigger rivals in the shade, particularly Woolworths, which has suffered a slump in sales in recent years, coming second to Coles in the battle for the weekly grocery shop.
The Senate submission, made by Aldi CEO Thomas Daunt, shows Aldi’s total revenue rise from $3.139 billion in 2010, to $3.52 billion in 2011, $4.16 billion in 2012 to reach $4.998 billion in 2013.
Its average pre-tax profit grew 31 per cent between 2010 and 2013, compared to 13.8 per cent for Coles and just 7.13 per cent for Woolies, according to The Australian.
Mr Daunt hit back at suggestions by Mr Goyder, head of Coles parent company Wesfarmers, that Aldi might be dodging some of its Australian tax responsibilities by pointing out that the Australian Taxation Officie had given the company a “low risk” rating under its risk differentiation framework for GST and income tax.
“The actual income tax paid by the Aldi Australia Group over the four-ear period to 31 December, 2013, is $238 million, which represents an average of $60 million per annum over the same period,” Mr Daunt said.
“Aldi … does not engage in the inappropriate pricing of international related-party transactions for the purposes of artificially reducing taxable profits in Australia.”