Sunday, April 28, 2019

Senate could become Bill Shorten’s best friend

Peter van Onselen is the token Leftist at "The Australian" but he says below what I have been thinking:  Shorten is all hot air when you reflect how unlikely it is that his destructive policies will get through the Senate.  In both Australia and the USA, Senates are a great force for stability and obstructing change of all sorts. 

Van Onselen however adds a speculation about voters being devious, which I think is far-fetched.  He seems to think everybody else is  a professor of politics.  I think the Senate will be Shorten's best friend because it will prevent him from legislating great and impoverishing follies

The Senate could become Bill Shorten’s best friend. With the opposition leader’s tax agenda under significant scrutiny — even though most of it has been publicly known for years — the role of the house of review just might save Shorten from himself.

Australians vote more intelligently than they often get credit for. We know our electoral system and understand that governments don’t always get their way. Not in the upper house where the balance of power is held by minor parties.

Even if Labor wins the election, it can squeal all it likes about the mandate won, yet minor parties in the senate will claim the support they got in the senate is also a mandate to follow their policy scripts — which in the case of a number of the minor parties involves disagreeing with Labor’s plans on negative gearing and franking credits.

If voters think that Shorten’s tax agenda will be blocked then they can use their lower house vote to punish the Coalition for a mix of failures in government — doubling the deficit, changing prime ministers not once but twice, having no serious policy for addressing climate change, you name it.


Shorten wages a laughable battle

He has no idea of what is needed to achieve real growth in the national income

Let’s face it, this election campaign is not exactly a comedy festival. The ratio of groans to laughs emanating from my office is very high indeed.

But I did get a good chuckle last week when Bill Shorten declared he was going to get really, really good lawyers to argue his government’s case to raise minimum wages before the Fair Work Commission.

In the Opposition Leader’s world, the reason we have had low wage growth is dud lawyers. Here’s a tip, Bill: even the best lawyer in the world — I wonder if Amal Clooney is available? — can’t alter the course of wages growth in this country.

Here’s how it works: wage growth is related to productivity growth and inflationary expectations. Productivity growth has been sluggish for some time, so it’s no surprise that wage growth has also been sluggish — around the 2 per cent per year mark. But inflationary expectations are also low. Recall this week’s CPI figure of zero for the March quarter and only 1.3 per cent for the year ending in the March quarter.

In point of fact, real wage growth is actually close to being respectable, seeing that the most recent figures on the Wage Price Index are showing annual growth of 2.3 per cent. It’s the equivalent of wages rising by 4 per cent and prices rising by 3 per cent: it might feel different but it’s the same, at least pre-tax.

And here’s another point to consider. The WPI is calculated for a given job, while ignoring promotions, bonuses and the like. The lived experience for many workers is automatic pay increments (often specified in an enterprise agreement) and the possibility of promotion.

According to Professor Mark Wooden of the University of Melbourne, wages have been growing for many workers at around 3 to 4 per cent per year, rather than the number indicated by the WPI, which is a substantial real gain given the very low rate of inflation.

Let me return to Bill’s howler. Actually, the arguments being put to the FWC have been doing their job in the sense that the last two annual increases in the national minimum wage were 3.3 and 3.5 per cent, respectively. These figures have been well above the rate of inflation as measured by the CPI.

And recall that these increases not only apply to the lowest-paid workers but also to the more than 2.5 million award-dependent workers. (The number of employees covered just by awards has been rising.)

But note also that the decision-makers at the FWC do understand a bit of economics. Last year, the point was made that a much higher wage increase would be detrimental to the employment prospects of the low-skilled, in particular. Nothing Amal Clooney can say will alter this.

In the meantime, we need to acknowledge that real wages are now growing at a reasonable pace but in the context of a very low inflationary environment. It’s not a bad outcome.


Palmer sides with Liberals on preferences over economy fears

This is a great coup. Polls suggest Palmer will get about 5% of the vote.  Redirecting that many votes to the Liberals could well swing the election

Clive Palmer is expected to confirm a national preference deal with the Liberal Party on Monday over personal concerns that Bill Shorten’s tax agenda would damage the economy.

The Australian understands the deal will be sealed after Mr Palmer rejected last-ditch attempts by senior Labor powerbrokers to win support from his United Australia Party, which is on track to decide key seats across the country.

Mr Palmer will also direct preferences to the Nationals in NSW on his UAP how-to-vote-cards in return for Senate preferences, which could deliver him seats in NSW and Queensland.

Asked about the preferences deal, a spokesman for Mr Palmer said yesterday there would be an announcement on Monday.

The Australian can reveal that Queensland Labor senator ­Anthony Chisholm, a right-wing powerbroker, phoned Mr Palmer twice in the past fortnight to discuss preferences. The last call was on Wednesday, the same day Mr Shorten launched a public attack on the Queensland mining magnate and former federal MP.

Mr Palmer is believed to have ended the calls promptly and would not enter into specifics about his preference intentions.

This followed approaches from Shorten ally and union leader ­Michael O’Connor, who met Mr Palmer on the Gold Coast last week on the ALP’s behalf to seek a preference deal with Labor despite Mr Shorten’s animosity towards Mr Palmer. A spokeswoman for Mr Shorten denied he had been with Senator Chisholm when he had called Mr Palmer ­because they had been in different ­cities.

Labor sources said the party was more interested in finding out what arrangements Mr Palmer had come to with the LNP, and the Coalition more broadly, than doing an ALP-UAP deal.

The source said Labor would secure a preference swap deal with the Greens, which meant it would have been unable to accommodate any UAP call for a general deal. “The bigger question is what deal has Scott Morrison done with Clive Palmer? If he has done a deal, it is a deal to get Clive Palmer at least, and possibly one of two of his friends, into the parliament,” the Labor source said.

A Coalition-UAP deal would make it difficult for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Queensland candidate, Malcolm Roberts, to secure a Senate seat.

Glenn Druery, the so-called preference whisperer, said he believed the race for the sixth Queensland Senate seat would be between Mr Palmer and Mr Roberts, with the former’s massive advertising spending and an LNP preference deal giving him the edge.

The Australian can also reveal the federal Liberal Party deal will include a preference arrangement for the NSW Nationals in most seats, potentially delivering the UAP a Senate seat in that state. One Nation is running in only one NSW seat that the Nationals are also contesting, Hunter. A Nationals source said they would preference One Nation ahead of Labor in that seat.

One Nation NSW leader Mark Latham said Senator Hanson was in charge of preference arrangements. But he said he could not understand how the Coalition could do a preference deal with Mr Palmer and be reluctant to do one with One Nation. “The One Nation (preferences issue) is a hangover from 25 years ago,” Mr Latham said. “In most (policy) areas, Palmer’s beyond the pale.”

Former Queensland premier Campbell Newman backed the Liberal Party’s decision to preference UAP ahead of Labor and said the Coalition should not be scared of adverse public reaction to the move.

Mr Newman, who had a bitter falling out with Mr Palmer shortly after coming to power in 2012, said he believed the UAP leader was on track to win a Senate spot and was likely motivated to do a preference deal with the Coalition to prevent Mr Shorten from forming government.

Animosity between the pair was aired as recently as last week when the UAP leader alleged in court documents that the 2012 fallout had fuelled a federal government vendetta against him. Mr Palmer said the court action against him was partly motivated by his push for a Senate inquiry into the Newman government in 2014, shortly before the Liberal National Party was voted out.

Mr Newman, who admitted Mr Palmer’s campaigning against him had contributed to his government’s demise, yesterday scoffed at the allegations and said a preference deal with the UAP was a smart move for the Coalition.



Three current articles below

Warmists in government won’t save the planet but will destroy our economy

Herald readers, be independent, always, and please reconsider the false equivalence you read a week ago in a column by your esteemed scribe, Peter Hartch­er. He was tackling what is not only one of the most crucial issues for this nation’s economic and environmental future but also a central policy battleground in the federal election campaign.

Yes, it is climate change. And we are going to ventilate some fundamental facts that might be confronting for Herald loyalists. I wouldn’t question your love for Earth — it is the best planet we have observed so far and the only one of much use to us. It is useful to assume everyone in this debate cares about the planet because self-destruction is not a wise motive to ascribe to your political opponents. But the hard truth is that even if you accept the most alarming claims about the planet being in peril, it is not within the remit of you or your nation to save it. Those Earth Hour dinners, where you drive the Range Rover to the Hunter to eat Coffin Bay oysters by the light of red gum embers, may or may not be carbon-negative but they can’t help the planet.

Virtue signalling is fine to the extent that it encourages virtue but you wouldn’t want a sense of moral superiority to overwhelm awareness of futility. You need to know that global carbon emissions will increase this year by more than a billion tonnes, or more than double the total annual emissions of this country. You need to know that if we made the ultimate sacrifice and shut down this country in January, any benefit to the planet would disappear by July. For all the goodwill in the world, try to imagine how much good your Pious, I mean Prius, or subsidised solar roof panels are doing for the global environment. You need to keep all this in mind when Labor leader Bill Shorten tells you his uncosted plan to double the nation’s renewable energy target and emissions reductions goals will save us money by cooling our “angry” summers and reducing our natural disasters.

Logic reveals an entirely oppos­ite reality — that whatever the costs and complications of Labor’s dramatically more ambitious plans, they cannot and will not lead to any improvement in the climate because global carbon emissions will continue to rise.

So let us get back to Hartcher’s column, which I fear might have prompted sage nodding from some. Here is the main thrust of his argument uncut:

“When Tony Abbott was prime minister, he ordered more Australian strike aircraft and troops into Iraq. Not because Australia was big enough to turn the tide of battle against the barbarians of Daesh, so-called Islamic State or ISIS. But because he believed in the fight.

“ ‘It’s absolutely vital that the world sees and sees quickly that the ISIS death cult can be beaten,’ he said in 2014. Australia’s commitment ultimately made up less than 1 per cent of the combined effort against the terrorist thugs but it was early and firm. Abbott described it as ‘an important global concern’ and he was right. And, with more than 60 countries co-operating, it was a success. When it came to another important global concern, Abbott argued a very different case. He and like-minded Coalition conservatives have long maintained that Australian action against climate change was futile: ‘Even if carbon dioxide, a naturally occurring trace gas that’s necessary for life, really is the main climate change villain, Australia’s contribution to mankind’s emissions is scarcely more than 1 per cent,’ Abbott said last year.

“On terrorism, Abbott argued for Australian leadership. On climate change, he argued for wilful helplessness. Australia is a 1 per cent contributor in both cases. In one case, it used its 1 per cent to show leadership and effective action. On the other, it used its 1 per cent as an excuse for inaction.”

Let’s start at the end. Inaction? Under the Coalition’s target, agreed when Abbott was prime minister, Australia is committed to the Paris Agreement and emissions reductions of 26 to 28 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030. This, while China, India and a range of smaller nations increase emissions on a business-as-usual basis. The US bailed from Paris and, counterintuitively, its fixed power carbon emissions have decreased. Paris is clearly better at signalling virtue than reducing emissions.

Given the way the renewable energy target and other interventions have corrupted our electricity market, drained taxpayers’ funds, undermined power supplies, increased prices and forced job losses in steelmaking, aluminium manufacturing and other industries, it is impossible to cite a country doing more on climate at a higher cost than Australia. Power prices have doubled, coal-fired power stations have closed and carbon dioxide emissions have been reduced, taking jobs and economic growth with them.

Yet Hartcher calls this “inaction"

But let’s go to this insulting false equivalence between action on terrorism and climate change. First, terrorism is unequivocally bad; there is no possible benefit or justification for the murder of innocents in a political, religious or cultural cause. Climate change, on the other hand, is a complex and nuanced phenomenon that brings benefits such as higher crop yields and lower rates of death from severe cold. Even the most strident alarmists concede global warming produces winners and losers.

Just as the two dilemmas differ in their ambiguity, or lack thereof, so too do the prospects for overcoming them. If the US tackles Islamist terrorism we can expect some success, especially when it takes military action to eliminate a self-styled caliphate and expel Islamic State from seized land in the Middle East. If Australia contributes 1 per cent to US-led anti-terrorism efforts it is aligning itself with successful efforts by powerful actors who unarguably improve the world.

On climate, if Australia contributes 1 per cent to global efforts our costs disappear in futile gestures. Worldwide action is producing dramatic increases in global carbon emissions, so Australia’s costly actions manifestly are doing us economic harm but are not helping the environment or anyone. However much we may want to change the world, these are the facts. Hartcher and others may seek to disguise the benefits of the war against terrorism and hide the futility of climate virtue signalling but they can’t change the facts. Yet this sort of deception characterises much of the climate debate.

Shorten is allowed to dodge questions about policy costs with glib lines about the cost of inaction exceeding the cost of action. Activists get away with suggesting a ban on the Adani coalmine will save the Great Barrier Reef despite the reality that India will burn coal regardless of where it is sourced and, to the extent the reef is harmed by a warming planet, only global greenhouse emissions matter.

The defining difference between the terrorism and climate debates is the willingness to embrace reality and confront alarmism in one and the desire to shun reality and heighten alarmism in the other. Where Australia has suffered terribly from terrorism but has contributed materially to global improvements, Hartcher raises questions. But where the nation is yet definitively to suffer any setbacks from global warming and has caused itself serious economic pain through remedial efforts that cannot deliver improvements, Hartcher urges more action.

He is not alone, of course. Why are these arguments put? The reason cannot be for practical outcomes. Additional Australian efforts cannot, as Shorten would have it, cool our “angry” summers. The only possible reason for proposing additional and accelerated action before global emissions plateau is political posturing. And inflicting more economic self-harm for gestures ought to be called out.

Before people shout “denier” or question abandoning international responsibilities, none of the above is an argument for doing nothing — although intellectually coherent cases can be made for that approach. For all sorts of practical reasons including sensible environmental caution (giving the planet the benefit of the doubt), responsible global citizenship and adjusting to possible worldwide technological shifts, Australia needs to play a role.

By any reasonable assessment Australia has already done its fair share. And given the primacy of the Paris Agreement and the free ride given to many developing nations, any country that delivers emissions reductions in line with those commitments is doing some heavy lifting. The idea this nation would almost double its carbon cuts from what was agreed at Paris while global emissions continue to rise dramatically is about as stark an example of pointless self-harm as is possible. It would be as reckless as refusing to tackle terrorism.


No logic in our nuclear allergy

How depressing to see Scott Morrison having to backtrack after making the obvious and sensible remark that nuclear power shouldn’t be off the agenda if it stacks up economically.

Labor environment spokesman Tony Burke bristled at the idea that the most reliable and clean form of energy the world knows should even be discussed. “Nuclear power is against the law in Australia,” he chirped, as if being the only G20 nation to have such a ban were a good idea.

It’s embarrassing to tell people in the US that nuclear energy is banned in Australia. “But don’t you export uranium?” “Umm, yes,” I say, “but flower power has more adherents than nuclear among Australia’s political class.”

In the scramble to lift the share of renewables in the energy mix, the whole point is forgotten: to curb carbon emissions, not erect wind turbines or acres of solar panels for their own sake.

Thankfully, US leaders have moved on from Woodstock. The US government provides grants and research support for US businesses to build better reactors and bolster the country’s scientific edge. Jordi Roglans Ribas, a senior nuclear scientist at Argonne ­laboratory, one of the US’s top research institutions, says developments in small — even micro — nuclear reactors look set to bring down the cost of nuclear power.

“There’s been a lot of recent technical work on making nuclear more economically attractive, including by being able to manufacture components of plants in factories and ship them to where you need a reactor,” he tells The Australian.

As part of its “carbon-free power project”, Oregon-based Nuscale is already building a set of small modular reactors for the state of Utah, which should be operational by the mid-2020s. “Our advanced SMR design eliminates two-thirds of previously required safety systems and components found in today’s large reactors,” the company says. Three of these, at about $US250 million ($350m) each, would provide more energy — and reliably — than Australia’s biggest wind farm, according to the Minerals Council.

California-based Kairos Power is working on “fluoride salt-cooled, high-temperature reactors” that can be shut down far more safely than traditional water-cooled reactors. HolosGen, based in Virginia, expects its reactors will produce electricity at a lower “levelised cost” than wind or solar can.

With almost a third of the world’s known uranium reserves, you’d think we might try to develop a comparative advantage in nuclear energy. Instead, we’d put these scientists in jail for breaking the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, which outlaws nuclear power here.

Memo to the world: Australia, with a population smaller than Texas, doesn’t approve of nuclear energy (though we’re quite happy to take the cash from those who do). How silly we look, eschewing 20 years of research. China, also at the forefront of the electric car rollout, has about 30 nuclear reactors under construction.

Ribas says nuclear power should be a natural complement to wind and solar as the world moves away from fossil fuels. “The development of massive storage capacity at low cost is of benefit to nuclear too, because when there is abundant wind, for example, you don’t need all (of a) nuclear plant’s production, so you can store it and release it later,” he says.

Replacing coal and gas with renewables entirely is an absurd idea even assuming further large falls in the cost of batteries. That would take about 10,000 giant batteries costing more than $300 billion to ensure enough storage to ensure a reliable power supply, according to recent estimates by respected economist Geoffrey Carmody.

For all the harrumphing about the “cost” of nuclear, power is cheaper in jurisdictions that have dared try it. Illinois, with just under 13 million people, has six nuclear power stations. In Chicago the average price of electricity in January was around US12c a kW/H. Energy Australia charges me 29.4c a kW/H for electricity in Sydney.

In nearby Ontario, where nuclear energy provides 60 per cent of the electricity needs of Canada’s biggest province, it was less than C13c a kW/h.

“It has two major benefits — low operating costs and virtually none of the emissions that lead to smog, acid rain or global warming,” says Ontario Power Generation. “These benefits make nuclear a very attractive option for meeting the province’s electricity needs well into the future.”

Ribas says, “Canada is very interested to evaluate small modular reactors in some remote areas.” Better not tell them what Tony Burke thinks!

Once upon a time, the Left stressed the importance of progress through advances in science and technology, mandating state funding for schools and universities. Today it’s more akin to the religious Right it once despised, vainly dismissing for ideological reasons an entire field.

The Greens want to see “a world free of nuclear power”. Yet there are about 450 nuclear reactors in operation in the world and another 60 under construction.

“There is a strong link between the mining and export of uranium and nuclear weapons proliferation,” the Greens say. Yet more than 30 countries have nuclear power stations and many more, such as Italy and Denmark, import electricity from them. About 10 countries have nuclear weapons — far from a “strong link”.

“The use of nuclear weapons, nuclear accidents or attacks on reactors pose unacceptable risk of catastrophic consequences,” they go on. In more than 70 years of nuclear power there have only been three nuclear accidents, the most recent of which, the Fukushima disaster of 2011, incurred no fatalities. Meanwhile, wind turbines are killing hundreds of thousands of birds every year.

Fukushima was built in the 1960s and hit by a tsunami. Australia offers a safer geography for nuclear power. As the closure of the giant Liddell coal power station nears in 2022, small modular imported nuclear reactors might be one option worth investigating, providing reliable, carbon-free power cheaply — and without killing animals.


Labor pledges to terminate half-a-billion-dollar Great Barrier Reef Foundation grant

This payment was a totally useless Turnbull brain fart that should never have happened.  Shorten is right to claw it back

Labor has vowed to strip the Great Barrier Reef Foundation of its half-a-billion-dollar grant if elected on May 18.

Labor added that it would redistribute that cash amongst public agencies, but is yet to detail specifics ahead of Opposition Leader Bill Shorten's first election-period Queensland visit this week.

Last August, a $443 million grant to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation by Malcolm Turnbull's government was criticised for lacking an open tender process, and for burdening an organisation that had six full time staff with a grant of such a size.

Labor wrote to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation at the time to warn them that if the party won government, it could withdraw from the existing contract.

But this marks the first time they have determined to rip up the agreement.

"Every dollar returned will be invested back in the reef and we will seek advice on the most effective way to allocate the funding," Mr Shorten said, adding that his government would consult with the Department of Environment on its reef strategy.

Mr Shorten mentioned peak science body CSIRO, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences as possible alternatives.

While the Great Barrier Reef Foundation has had all $443 million of the grant in its accounts for months, Labor environment spokesman Tony Burke has previously pointed to a contract clause that allows the agreement to be terminated if there was "a material change in Australian Government policy that is inconsistent with the continued operation of this agreement''.

In the letter warning the foundation that funding could be withdrawn, Labor advised it not to spend a disproportionate amount before the election, noting that the funds were set aside for a six-year period.


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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