Sunday, September 15, 2013

Carbon tax to blame for loss, says senior Leftist

FORMER ACTU secretary Bill Kelty has accused Labor of underestimating Tony Abbott for years, declaring the party's breach of trust with voters over the carbon tax was a bigger cause of its defeat than the disunity cited by senior ALP figures.

Mr Kelty, who is backing Bill Shorten in the mould of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating to become the next ALP leader, said the seeds for last Saturday's loss could be traced back to the failure of Labor to explain to voters why Kevin Rudd was dumped in favour of Julia Gillard in 2010.

"To be honest, I think they lost the election in two points of history," Mr Kelty said.

"They didn't ever explain the change of leadership from Rudd to Gillard. Therefore they didn't lose the next election, but they didn't win it either. So there goes that first downward trend. People couldn't understand why it wasn't explained to them.

"Second, when Julia Gillard actually announced the Greens policy (of introducing a carbon tax), people saw it as a breach of faith, a breach of trust. When people have come to a view that they don't trust you, when you have broken a commitment to them, when enough people believe that, it gives them a great opportunity therefore not to be interested in politics, they just wait until the next election."

Mr Kelty's frank assessment contrasts with a raft of senior Labor MPs, including Tony Burke, Tanya Plibersek and Greg Combet, who have primarily blamed Labor's defeat on the leadership instability and party division.

Mr Kelty said when trust was lost between a government and voters over broken policy commitments, "You can see it".

"With Paul Keating, it was after the budget in 1993. People said: 'I think you have broken our commitment of trust, it's very hard for us to vote for you,' " he said. "When Anna Bligh decided to sell assets and she didn't explain it to the electorate beforehand, then it broke that covenant of trust.

"All the other things don't matter. When that essential covenant of trust between the electorate and those who are elected is broken, it's very, very hard to rebuild."

Asked about senior Labor MPs citing disunity for the defeat, he said: "You just think when that essential covenant of trust is broken, don't blame the media, don't blame all these petty divisions, always look for the fundamental cause. I think you learn in politics that the last thing you break is the covenant of trust."

Mr Kelty said Labor had underestimated Mr Abbott "for some years (and) you should never underestimate your opposition".

"Abbott has a lot of ability and works very hard," he said. "I think the best way to deal with Abbott is to deal with him honestly, combatively and fairly, and recognise his talent and work hard at it - the same way Abbott did against Rudd.

"If you want a lesson, then some of the lessons you get in life is that Howard stood up to Bob (Hawke), and to Paul Keating. He never beat them, in a sense, but he was a campaigner against them, was honorable, and he just worked assiduously at it."

He did not want to be critical of Anthony Albanese but believed Mr Shorten was better-placed to be the next leader.

"If the party wants to look to the next generation, look to the next generation, and I think Shorten is more of the next generation," he said.

Mr Shorten was an "old-fashioned leader, in the sense, that he is more Hawke, and more Keating, and more traditional Labor". "I think he's got to that point in his life where I think he has the maturity and the responsibility to lead the Labor Party," Mr Kelty said.

The process of opening up the leadership to party members had its advantages and disadvantages but "there's no point complaining about it".

'It gives the party an opportunity to give a legitimacy to a new leader," he said.


Coalition takes axe to climate programs

PUBLIC servants are drawing up plans to collapse 33 climate change schemes run by seven departments and eight agencies into just three bodies run by two departments under a substantial rewrite of the administration of carbon abatement schemes under the Coalition.

Coalition climate action spokesman Greg Hunt briefed public servants on the dramatic restructure of the federal climate change bureaucracy before the election was called and yesterday confirmed the Coalition was committed to proceeding with the plan.

Under the simplification, the Department of the Environment and the Department of Resources and Energy will run all of the climate change programs under the Coalition's direct-action program.

The move is forecast to save the government tens of millions of dollars. The Coalition budgeted for savings of $7 million this financial year rising to $13m in each of the next three years for a saving of $45m across the budget period.

The changes will see all carbon abatement schemes run by three bodies: the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, which will be overseen by the Department of Resources and Energy; and the Clean Energy Regulator and Low Carbon Australia, which will be run by the Department of the Environment.

The Climate Change Authority, which sets emissions caps, the Climate Commission, which has conducted research into climate change, and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which funds renewable technologies, are all slated to be abolished under the plans.

Treasury has responsibility for Low Carbon Australia and the CEFC, while the Industry Department has control over a range of clean technology programs. The Department of Agriculture runs a series of carbon farming programs, while the Department of Families runs household assistance packages, home energy savings programs and the remote indigenous energy program.

Under the Coalition, Low Carbon Australia will be responsible for purchasing emissions reductions under the Coalition's direct action program.

"What we've said is we will commence the merger as soon as the process of appointing the ministry and swearing in the ministry has been complete," Mr Hunt told the 2GB radio station in Sydney yesterday. "To be frank, during the course of the pre-election period, when we were allowed to consult with departments, we laid out the fact that there would be a merger. "We were express and clear and absolute about that, and we indicated we would like it to begin right from the outset. I imagine that the public servants are preparing to do that. Our agenda was clear and open and that is an official process we'll go through as soon as possible."

The moves came as Tony Abbott continued briefings with senior public servants, including the secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet Ian Watt, as he continued his transition-to-government plans.

The CEFC confirmed yesterday it had stopped making loans for energy efficiency and clean energy programs. Staff at the $10 billion green bank are seeking a meeting with the incoming Abbott government as a top priority.

"The CEFC congratulates the new government upon its election and will welcome the opportunity to consult with the incoming responsible ministers," the bank's chief executive Oliver Yates said. "The CEFC has approached the Coalition to engage in consultations about the transition and looks forward to engaging with the new government concerning how its activities can best be supportive of their policy priorities under Direct Action."

The Coalition will need to legislate to abolish the CEFC, which has amassed a $560m investment portfolio and leveraged $1.6bn in private sector investment. But the bank is understood to be lobbying a Coalition government to utilise its staff and assets as part of its Direct Action scheme, and change its investment mandate so it could work within the framework of the Coalition's policy.

An Abbott government will need to legislate if it seeks to abolish the Climate Change Authority, which is proceeding with work on a draft report about emissions reductions targets that is due to be completed next month. In the wake of Labor and Greens declarations that they would oppose the abolition of carbon pricing, Mr Abbott said he expected the parliament to "respect the mandate that the new government has".

"It will obviously be an issue (for the Labor Party) . . . whether it learns from its mistakes and whether it's prepared to accept that it simply got it wrong when it came to these toxic new taxes," Mr Abbott said.


Climate sceptic MP Dennis Jensen wants to be science minister

Coalition MP Dennis Jensen, who is a vocal climate science sceptic, has called on Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott to appoint him as science minister.

"At the moment to be honest I'm feeling under-utilised," said Dr Jensen, the member for Tangney in Western Australia, who has a master's degree in physics and a PhD in material science.

"I think that I've got a lot to offer," he added. "I've got some unique attributes."

Mr Abbott was expected to give the science portfolio to Victorian MP Sophie Mirabella, but she may lose her seat of Indi to the popular independent Cathy McGowan.

Dr Jensen suggests he would be better qualified than anyone to take charge of science.

"I'm not aware of any other scientist [in the Parliament]," he said.

Dr Jensen has made headlines by questioning the scientific consensus that humans are contributing to global warming.

Dr Jensen believes carbon dioxide is contributing somewhat to global temperatures, but not as much as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is suggesting.

Moreover, Dr Jensen does not think governments should be taking urgent action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

"In the climate area there is appeal to authority and appeal to consensus, neither of which is scientific at all," Dr Jensen told Fairfax Media on Thursday.

"Scientific reality doesn't give a damn who said it and it doesn't give a damn how many say it."

It was wrong to accept the view of the 97 per cent of climate scientists who agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely caused by human activities, because "the argument of consensus . . . is a flawed argument," Dr Jensen said.

The colourful Englishman, Lord Christopher Monckton, who toured Australia to debunk the "bogus science" of global warming, was closer to the mark, Dr Jensen suggested.

"Most of the stuff [Lord Monckton] says is entirely reasonable," Dr Jensen said.

"Some of it I don't agree with but on the whole a lot of what he says is in my view correct."

Dr Jensen also commended the work of Richard Lindzen, professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Professor Lindzen is known as one of the most qualified global-warming sceptics in international science.

Dr Jensen said if he were appointed science minister, his vision for science in Australia would centre on encouraging more young people to study science and fixing up the funding model of the Australian Research Council to encourage more innovation.


Qld.: Another Labor Party white elephant

Anything rather than build a new dam, was the thinking

PETER Beattie says the Bligh Government made a "tragic error of judgment" in the way it handled the creation of the water grid, saying he "steamed" in LA at the time.

The former Premier has also called on the State Government to resurrect the controversial Traveston Dam project.

"I've got to be frank with you, I was disappointed with a number of decisions the Bligh Government made in relation to water," he said today in Brisbane.

"I'm not hiding it anymore.  "I didn't say anything when the Bligh Government was in office out of loyalty to the party.  "But frankly, the coordinator general who was operating it, didn't supervise it properly.  "If Ross Rolfe was there, there wouldn't have been problems in the desalination plant."

Mr Beattie said Ms Bligh's biggest failure was the decision not to appoint his former Coordinator General Ross Rolfe to oversee the project.

"The Bligh Government didn't appoint him and they appointed someone else - it was a tragic error of judgment, in my view," he said.  "I think Anna made a terrible mistake in getting rid of Ross Rolfe.  "I just sat there and I've got to say I steamed in LA.

"You cannot build a water grid unless you've got a person with brains building it."

He also took aim at the Newman Government, labelling it a "whinger brigade".

"They've taken every opportunity for the last 18 months to whinge about something Labor has done," he said.

"My question is when are they actually going to do something about these issues?"

The former Premier said the water debacle was the result of a "series of bad decisions", adding he was "yesterday's fish and chip wrapper".

"It started under the Bligh Government, it's continued under the new government - when it comes to water, both of them have stuffed it up," he said.

He said he was "happy to accept any responsibility, without any difficulty, for the water grid up until (he) retired in September 2007".

"I understand the politics of smear, but the bottom line is my water grid included the Traveston Dam, which was cancelled by the Rudd Government," he said.

Mr Beattie said it was time to build the divisive Traveston Dam.

"With climate change, they are off their cotton-picking minds if they don't build the water grid as I intended it initially," he said.

"They should build the Traveston Dam, they should build, as far as I'm concerned, the water grid as I intended it.

"If they built that, that would be a serious investment in infrastructure for Queensland's future."

Earlier, a $2.7 billion water recycling scheme will remain mothballed, unless there are customers for it, Premier Campbell Newman says.

As revealed by The Courier-Mail, the Western Corridor Recycling Scheme is shaping up to be a bigger fiscal folly then the health payroll, four years after its completion.

Premier Newman said the scheme was to blame for the "high water bills" now hitting householders in the hip pocket.

"A whole lot of work was done in the crisis period of the drought and we can see now that was money wasted," Mr Newman said.

"I imagine at the moment the recycled water scheme, unless there are customers for it, industrial customers, can only be mothballed."

The Beattie government's Western Corridor Recycling Scheme was mothballed last month, and State Parliament has been told it is "defunct" and shaping as a bigger fiscal folly than the Queensland Health payroll debacle.

Completed in 2009, the business linked three water plants and was the linchpin in the $6.9 billion water grid that was designed to drought-proof Queensland.

Water Minister Mark McArdle said although the recycling scheme produced water for power stations, none of it made it to drinking supplies.

"The scheme has been an unmitigated disaster,'' he said.

"Proper planning did not take place. Because of the incompetence of the Beattie government, Queenslanders will be paying for it for years."

Mr McArdle said he was shocked at the costs.

While it was projected to produce water for less than $1000 a megalitre, costs last year soared to $4419/Ml. The scheme has so far cost $113 million to operate.

It was a white elephant and mothballing it would save millions, Mr McArdle said, adding it was "most unlikely" it would ever be used again.

He said the three "advanced recycling plants" in the scheme were Luggage Point and Gibson Island in Brisbane and Bundamba at Ipswich.  Gibson Island at Murarrie was already under shutdown.

The plants took wastewater from Brisbane and Ipswich and produced 232Ml of purified recycled water a day. It was to be used in cooling towers in power plants at Swanbank, Tarong and Tarong North but even that was stopped when it was found the water produced was corroding equipment.

The Beattie government said the water grid was necessary to meet increased demand due to population growth, climate change and the "worst drought in recorded history".

State Auditor-General Andrew Greaves also criticised the scheme, saying there was no "rigorous assessment" of the cost. In a report to Parliament Mr Greaves said the benefits outlined by the Beattie government were "overstated".

"Better planning may have avoided the need for such drastic and costly action," he said.


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