Stunned by what the press insists is a “shock” election result in Britain where, inexplicably, hollow slogans, austerity economics and Sir Lynton Crosby’s fear tactics fail to win the day for Tory crash test dummy, Theresa May, our political world is reeling this week as MPs joust with shock jocks in a knee-jerk war on terror while Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel obligingly offers our fearless leaders another chance to dodge any real commitment to climate change.
Political actors dig deep. Best mystery shopper is won easily by One Nation’s epic failure to yet provide a coherent, credible explanation of who paid for Pauline’s Jabiru, while stunt of the week goes to Adani’s incredible “Green Light to Carmichael” oratorio Tuesday, a stirring, religious work relayed faithfully by media and featuring standout performances from fossil fuel fan-boy Resources Minister Canavan and Queensland coal-lobby groupie, Annastacia Palaszczuk.
The staging of Green Light … reveals just how far faith-based decision-making has usurped reason across our nation and not just in Queensland. Coal worshippers surrender critical faculties for the sublime irrationality of a cargo cult.
Adani cult followers echo Melanesian millenarians who believed that ritual projects such as building a runway would result in the appearance of coveted western goods. Everyone stopped anything else to await largesse from a great silver bird returning to their sky. Today, we may substitute port or railway for runway, but parallels are disturbing.
A glance at the Adani cargo cult’s articles of faith reveals a supernatural power; the vise-like grip of group delusion.
Ritual chanting displaces communication. The mine is going ahead! JOBS. Thousands of jobs will now “flow” say the faithful. 10,000 jobs, Adani devotees chant. An ecstatic Canavan ups that to 15,000, this week, just because he can.
Reality check. In 2015, Adani’s expert, Jerome Fahrer, ACIL Allen economist, estimated ongoing full-time employment for only 1464 workers and only at the expense of 1,400 jobs in agriculture, manufacturing and other mining projects.
It may be fewer. CEO Jeyakumar Janakaraj, boasts he will fully automate all of the vehicles used in the mine and the entirety of the process from the mine to the port:
‘When we ramp up the mine, everything will be autonomous from mine to port … this is the mine of the future‘
Jobs will be lost as existing mines are put out of business by Adani’s automated, hugely subsidised competition. Subsidising Adani makes our former car industry protection appear a bargain, writes Bernard Kean.
The $320, 000 royalty holiday -which will cost taxpayers $253 million over the next five years – which has recently been redefined as not a royalty holiday at all but an indefinitely deferred payment arrangement – promised by Palaszczuk’s government plus the NAIF billion dollar loan, means each job will cost taxpayers $900,000.
Part of the Green Light … stunt is a desperate gamble. The stakes are high. The government is already in over its head.
A state government which has invested $8 billion on coal-related infrastructure between 2009-2014, on an industry which provides only 4% of its revenue, may well keep a poker face, but this week’s press release – declaring a business is up and running without funding is a bizarre stunt which would get any local company into trouble with ASX rules.
In reality, Adani is further from opening its proposed monster mine than it was five years ago, while India turns to cleaner, cheaper solar energy and coal profits decline. India plans to be 60% fossil fuel free in energy in ten years.
No new coal-fired power station will be approved in India. Nor would it be economic. A Gujarat power station set to import half of the Adani mine’s coal, now believes it can’t afford to. No wonder nineteen banks have refused Adani finance.
Gautam Adani, however, is content to cynically blame activists, a theme embraced by the august upholders of traditional but doomed faith-based causes supported by our media, especially The Australian and The AFR.
“We have been challenged by activists in the courts, in inner-city streets, and even outside banks that have not even been approached to finance the project,” Adani claims,
“We are still facing activists. But we are committed to this project.”
Committed? None of Adani’s legal challenges prevent it from acting on its 2014 government environmental approvals.
A fascinating twist in the coal cult narrative come from Kooyong coal-raker, the terminally conflicted energy and environment minister Josh Frydenberg. He’s all for carbon capture and storage. Don’t we know that the world is full of CCS power plants? We had better get our skates on. Build some. Those in the coal cult are immensely encouraged.
It’s another delusion, if not a blatant lie. Although one small, 528 MW third, $5.5 billion over budget, plant will be commissioned, in Mississippi the reality is there are but two massively expensive plants in commercial operation. These compress CO2 to force previously unreachable oil out of defunct wells in an Enhanced Oil Recovery Process.
Never mind that in the process, 30% of the CO2 escapes back into the atmosphere. Never mind that the plant saves CO2 to avoid global warming only to extract more oil which will boost global warming. Never mind the expense. None of this matters to the true believer. Just don’t expect any of it to bear any relationship to reality.
Simon Holmes a Court calculates just to capture all of the emissions of the Loy Yang power station in Victoria, we’d need a plant 13 times bigger than Petra Nova in Texas. With currency and Australian labour rates, but allowing for some economies of scale and ‘learnings’, that could cost AUD$15–25bn.
Luckily, because we live in an eternal present, now that history itself has been effectively consigned to the dustbin of history, no-one asks Josh about ZeroGen our cute, little 2006 CCS plant project in central Queensland.
ZeroGen was a relatively tiny, 390 MW net coal-fired power station which would capture 65% of its emissions. It received $188 million in grants but after a projected cost blowout from $1.2bn to $6.9bn the project collapsed six years before its scheduled 2017 completion date, scuttling hundreds of millions of public funding.
Josh is on another mission, of course. He’s been ringing his party’s back-benchers to sell Alan Finkel’s cop-out Energy Review which tenderly preserves the pernicious myth that safe, reliable baseload power can only come from coal or gas – and not those fickle wind turbines that ABCs Chris Uhlmann blamed for the SA blackout.
Judging by his appearance on ABC Insiders, Josh has learned to speak softly and stare a lot whenever Barrie Cassidy asks questions:
So the Finkel Review suggests that you can reduce emissions and cut power prices and keep coal in the mix. It sounds too good to be true?
Bazza is right on the money but Frydenberg praises Dr Finkel’s report. In a vain and irritating quest for authority, he repeats Dr Finkel every chance he gets to praise the Chief Scientist.
Josh still pretends that electricity prices are high not because of his government’s Jihadist mission to privatise all public utilities according to the dictates of Neoliberal Ideology, the Liberal religion but because of something he invents called “regulatory uncertainty”.
Then he’s off, demonising alternatives to fossil fuel power generation. Renewables are dodgy, “a less stable system because we’ve failed to properly integrate wind and solar.”
Happily for the coal lobby, Dr Finkel’s report allows us to have half of our power generated by burning coal by 2030 but he doesn’t say who’s going to build the new ones we’ll need. Nor who will finance them. Nor how this will help us with our feeble Paris targets. Even given his soft sell, Josh is at odds with the review he is flogging. Finkel is clear
“Investors have signalled that they are unlikely to invest in new coal-fired generation …”
Luckily, few people still watch the ABC, increasingly a Coalition megaphone, – and Barry won’t press him on key details. He allows him to claim that CCS is a real possibility for future investment in lower emission technology.
While Finkel proposes a new regulatory framework, his review leaves open the central issue of a CET, a clean energy target, which it says is “a role for government”. No preferred emissions threshold is offered. The stage is set for the coal lobby and its allies to press to raise the bar high enough to permit the operation of current coal-fired plant.
Above all, although he promised the Senate that his review would help Australia meet its Paris agreement and reduce its economy-wide emissions by 28% below 2005 levels by 2030, The Chief Scientist’s report won’t help. The modelling Finkel provides for electricity sector emission reductions, 28% below 2005 levels by 2050 suggests a figure about half what it should be. His own Climate Change Authority Report confirms this.
Wages stagnate, consumer confidence is down, unemployment remains high and underemployment is huge. Since his better economic managers came to power with their jobs ‘n growth slogan, Scott Morrison has little to crow about.
Growth has slowed from 2.6% to 1.7%. While unemployment rate may have remained at 5.7%, wages growth has continued to fall below its then record low of 2.1% to an even lower mark of 1.9%.
Yet Morrison is all over the news in an orgy of self-congratulation and oleaginous good cheer this week.
Our Federal Treasurer says our economy is “transitioning” from a mining boom to a more diversified economy. Better times await us. It sounds like a slogan Theresa May sagely rejected. Ross Gittins, moreover, reminds us that mining accounts for 7 per cent of Australia’s total GDP and employs 230,000 people or 2 per cent of Australia’s workforce.
Transitioning is not reflected in investment projections. Mining investment is forecast to fall another 22% next year, and a 6% expected rise in non-mining investment will not compensate. Yet Morrison is mindlessly upbeat.
Despite our government’s worshipping the same neoliberal creed and embracing the same trickle-down tax cuts which bring income inequality in Theresa May’s Britain to 1930s levels, we are nowhere near technical recession here. Nowhere near.
ScoMo, our bullet-dodging Federal Treasurer, juggles dodgy figures to claim that we have overtaken the Netherlands in a record-breaking run of prosperity but only if we misread Dutch data, prefer GDP figures to GDP per capita, confuse job ads with real employment and hope that after mining and real estate, something will turn up.
Alas, Morrison fails to look to Japan. As Saul Eslake shows, Australia would need to avoid consecutive quarters of negative real GDP growth until at least 2024 if it is truly to be able to claim this “world record” as its own.
Greg Jericho also points out Morrison is factually incorrect. Australia beat the Netherlands in June 2013. The Dutch avoided a technical recession for only 87 consecutive quarters. But technical recession is a “dopey” measure. We are being conned. In 1982, Holland’s economy had shrunk by 2.5% in one year even if “technically” it had avoided recession.
Similarly, in December 1991, three months into our golden run, the Australian economy was 1% smaller than it was the previous year. Technical recessions rely on GDP. If we use GDP per capita we have had two recessions since 1991.
Yet these are both arbitrary measures. We may as well use the percentage of working age people in work.
On this measure our record of economic activity is pathetic.
Australia’s economy grew by a whopping 0.3 % in the first three months. Nothing we could do about that, the Treasurer says. He blames the weather. It could be a genuine world first.
“Weather conditions during the March quarter did affect exports,” Morrison says. … Exports declined by 0.6% in the quarter, detracting from growth … particularly in the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie.”
Morrison’s waffle does little for the 730,000 Australians out of work and the 1.1 million who are underemployed but our national pride rallies after a full body Reiki massage from visiting US Alliance evangelist James Clapper, whose appearance is part of the total care package conferred upon the nation by our special relationship with Washington.
The most marvellous contribution of Coalition politics to our national well-being, apart from the politicisation of the public service including, now, our Chief Scientist is surely our nation’s US sycophancy, a state of servile dependency on one great and powerful friend given expression by “man of steel”, US lackey and war criminal, John Winston Howard.
“Lying rodent” Howard, as Russell Galt swears metadata pack-rat, AG Brandis called the then PM, was inspired to invoke the US Alliance while flying home post 9/11.
“While high over the Indian Ocean”, he lyrically records, he saw how we could join a “war on terror” proposed by the US. It led us to send troops to Afghanistan, from whence some were destined never to return, and to provoke a wave of international terrorism by illegally invading Iraq on a pretext of seizing WMDs.
Howard, as Albert Palazzo’s recent declassified report shows, aimed to boost our US Alliance, but his big success was simply in helping make Australia a much better target for terrorism, as Paul Keating pointed out last year. It’s been the elephant in the room ever since however much MPs gibber about how terrorists hate our way of life.
Howard’s grand claims are exposed. Enforcing UN resolutions, stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction and global terrorism – even rebuilding Iraq after the invasion, are dismissed as “mandatory rhetoric” – a term which also fits the treacle from a series of US VIPs visiting Australia recently to profess America’s undying love for us.
We love to be flattered. Happy clappers abound at the National Press Club’s US-Alliance revivalist meeting in Canberra, Wednesday, when former Director of National Intelligence, James Robert Clapper Jr drops in again for a post-retirement rub-down after his top-secret visit here last year. This week it’s a very public sharing of the love.
ANU kindly gives Lucky Jim a gig as a Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Professor and a spot at the ANU Crawford Australian Leadership Forum where the old spook will put the wind up the nation’s movers and shakers.
Keep an eye on China, he says. Beijing may interfere with your politics just like Moscow did with ours. The Russians are not our friends, he warns. The Donald is done for. Watergate pales in comparison to Trump’s Russian allegations.
While cooking Trump’s goose, Clapper is also here to remind us all how much the US means to us in trade and regional security and how we need to keep faith with our big brother and suffer Trump awhile. Our bonds go deep.
“The values (and interests) we share, the things that fasten our two countries together, far transcend a transitory occupant of the White House,” he promises. He’s not wrong: the US has been doing us over for decades.
We like it that way. Not one of the assembled hacks can bring themselves to ask soapy Jim why in 2007, only a few years after it was signed by John Howard, our AUSTFA, a “free trade” agreement supposed to increase Australian access to the US market led to the highest trade deficit we have ever had with any trading partner.
DFAT statistics reveal that the United States is Australia’s second-largest two-way trading partner in goods and services, worth $70.2 billion, as of 2015 yet, Australia imports more than double the amount from the U.S. and is 15th on the list of U.S. principal export destinations.
So much to fear, so little time. Clapper also adds a dash of Brandis’ Sinophobia as he warns how China may try to buy in to our democratic processes. Beware of donations and watch out for fake news, he adds, helpfully. Who would have thought?
Clapper would applaud our surveillance strategies; urge us to keep our metadata. No-one asks him why his NSA illegally collected data at all on millions of Americans or why he chose to deny this in 2013, before a senate committee, inspiring calls by US lawmakers for his indictment for perjury.
Such a challenge would amount to blasphemy. It is an article of modern Australian political faith that any self-respecting scribbler sing praise to our superiors, or their mates, including visiting American political mendicants.
Anything less would be heresy. And Illegal. As Gillian Triggs reminds us we are fast making it illegal to challenge our government. Triggs, of course, is by no means alone in voicing her concern over a government by secrets and lies.
Only October, for example, UN special rapporteur, independent expert Michel Forst recommended we continue to press for an Immigration Department that is open and accountable and which doesn’t hunt down whistle-blowers.
Forst’s report concludes that Australian governments have effectively gagged civil society advocates with secrecy laws, funding cuts and restrictive contracts that prevent them speaking up about human rights abuses.
It’s a theme taken up by Lenore Taylor who reflects on the Tory automaton Theresa May’s election loss. Scott Ryan, Special Minister of State and runaway winner of biggest family bible at government swearings-in is keen to tell groups they can get funds from government but only if they pack in the advocacy lark. Give up their reason for being.
Lenore is right. Democratic government is about enabling advocacy. Respect. And it’s about governing for all. If there were a message in it for Turnbull it might go like this:
You can’t deliver on your hollow promises of jobs and growth, so stop making them. Start listening. You’ll see that you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.
Heed the opinion polls. Stop the play-acting. Spare us the speeches and the sloganeering. To adapt a slogan on a billboard in the UK somewhere: Jobs and Growth, my arse.
Take a long hard look at yourself. If all you are is a front for the bankers, businessmen and big investors, if all you can do is subsidise a dying coal industry, still hell-bent on profit at the cost of life on this planet, stop faking it.
There’s never been a more exciting time to call a snap election.
If all you can offer are tax cuts to the rich, spare us the hokum; the empty cliches of trickle down economics. The drivel about flexible hours and delivery options. Stop the con about non-existent growth in jobs and higher wages.
Above all, stop pretending terror is cured by curtailing our freedom and riding rough-shod over our legal system. Get out of America’s wars, however, much you may be flattered by your wily big brother’s attentions.
Or continue to repress advocacy and free speech; repeat your meaningless slogans about national security. Persecute the poor, the frail and the elderly. But you won’t stay in government very long. You don’t deserve to. As May just found, the people are on to you.