The energy road to nowhere

Are you as exasperated and disgusted as I am with the political antics exposed during the renewed debate about energy policy? Are you appalled by our parliamentarians' persistent inability to collaborate in making decisions about how to tackle climate change? These are rhetorical questions. I know the answers.

On 22 November, Bill Shorten chose a gathering arranged in Sydney by Bloomberg New Energy Finance to outline the energy policy Labor will take to the next election. Prefacing his presentation with ”Climate change is no longer an emergency. It’s a disaster”, Shorten went on to: "announce initiatives to boost the use of alternative energy and help meet the Labor party’s goal for 50 percent of the country’s power to come from renewables by 2030”. In support of Labor’s policy he pledged $10 billion in extra funding for clean energy and steeper cuts to carbon emissions.” He also promised subsidies for home battery installationsThe Conversation gave the battery idea a tick.

It is not my purpose to detail all the events that occurred on that momentous day – you are able to read all about them in the media. My aim is to highlight the tediousness of what is a monotonous replay of the same old story of climate change and energy policy inertia that goes back a decade.

Think back to where the saga began in earnest. We know that climate change has been on the minds of politicians for decades, but when in March 2007 Kevin Rudd, speaking at the National Climate Summit at Parliament House, declared climate change to be “the great moral challenge of our generation”, a new era began.  

To cut a long story short, you will recall that following a paper by economist Ross Garnaut: Climate Change Review, Kevin Rudd developed an emissions trading scheme, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, and negotiated the support of Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull, who indicated he was prepared to back it. This eventually lead to his eclipse by Tony Abbott.

You will also recall that the Greens under Christine Milne, urged on by Bob Brown, refused to support it, effectively killing it off, as it ‘did not go far enough’. With the support of the Greens it would have passed, as some Coalition members were ready to cross the floor. At the time, Finance Minister Penny Wong, who also held the climate portfolio, said that the Greens should be held responsible "for their destructive impact on climate policy".

During Julia Gillard’s prime ministership, Labor developed a policy that included a ‘price on carbon pollution’ as a penalty to dissuade polluters. When she introduced this concept, she was trapped into saying that it was a ‘tax’, and then fell foul of Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s label of a ‘carbon tax’. As Abbott’s chief-of-staff Peta Credlin later conceded, Labor's climate change policy was never a carbon tax. Abbott was deliberately employing "brutal retail politics, and it took him six months to cut through and when he did cut through Gillard was gone."  

That’s enough history to illustrate the parallel between then and now.

Now: No sooner had Shorten made his November 22 announcement that Labor would give support to the Coalition’s NEG, albeit with the proviso that there be a 45 percent cut in carbon emissions by 2030, going beyond the existing Paris Agreement goal of a minimum 26 percent reduction from 2005 levels, than energy minister, Angus Taylor, whose sole focus is on getting power bills down, and to hell with emissions reduction, donned a high-viz vest at a high-energy-use smelter in Tomago, and enlisted the owner to support his attack on Labor’s proposals: ”These reckless targets will be a wrecking ball for the economy and for jobs in agriculture and the manufacturing sector. We won’t stand for it.”… He challenged Shorten to nominate which factories he would close down, how many cattle he would cull, and what industries he would wreck. Now Morrison has backed him.

Taylor must have expected the captains of industry to back him to the hilt and condemn Shorten’s move out of hand. Instead, Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the Australian Industry Group, said of Shorten’s announcement that it was: ”a useful step that could help address the ongoing crisis in the electricity system.” Among Coalition members, Julie Bishop is the only one who agrees that it would be wise to go along with Labor. But will her colleagues listen?

In a characteristically delightful take on this laughable episode in The Guardian: Bill Shorten chooses to be the grown-up on energy as Coalition's toddlers have a tantrum, Katharine Murphy pokes fun at Taylor and adds wearily: ”We’ve been here before: the hyperbolic carry on, it’s all pretty tired.”

Soon after Shorten’s announcement, right on cue, Richard Di Natale was on the TV doing the Green Thing, labelling Shorten’s proposal “A joke of a policy", accusing Labor of “…backing away from tough action on climate change, including a price on carbon”, and blasting him with ”Bill Shorten has now become the punch line in what is the sick joke that is climate policy here in Australia."

So there you have it, the same old, same old, same old story story - déjà vu all over again!. Once again, Labor proposes a well-thought-through approach to tackle climate change by agreeing to adopt the NEG, an energy policy developed by the Coalition that has already been through its party room three times; the energy minister vehemently derides it as a ‘wrecking ball’ and refuses to have a bar of it, and the Greens smash it because it does not match their ideological position!

Sadly, our nation is once more back on the endless energy road to nowhere. Oh dear!

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Phil Gorman


Bring on the clowns, there ought to be clowns, don't worry - the bastards are here!

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Phil Gorman

Welcome to The Political Sword - do come again.

How right you are!

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This morning Scott Morrison tweeted: “We’re bringing electricity prices down. Our big stick legislation is pressuring energy companies to give Australian families better prices. And it’s working.”

Meanwhile, The Business Council’s Jennifer Westacott responded with: “The BCA supports lower electricity prices but does not believe this will be achieved by ad hoc and extreme intervention in the electricity market, which brings new risks, unintended consequences and has never worked before.”

The BCA’s rhetorical rocket was directed at policies being pursued by the energy minister, Angus Taylor, to reduce power prices ahead of the next federal election, which include a threat to break up power companies if they engage in price gouging.

The critique is similar to sentiments expressed by the power companies, and the renewable energy sector.

A separate proposal to underwrite new investment in coal generation has also been blasted by the normally diplomatic Ai Group, which noted the government’s proposal could leave taxpayers exposed to liabilities “with a net present value of billions of dollars”.

You can read all about it here:    

Even the IPA, which usually backs the Coalition, denigrates the its energy policy. Read about it here:    

If Morrison and Taylor thought they were on a winner, their horse has turned out to be lame, and may have to be put down. 

Tony Harris


With regard to this nation's energy future, why will we not consider the option of nuclear power.

T-w-o take away o-n-e equals?