Category Archives: Uncategorized

March 17, 2011 – Hewson says ‘Direct Action’ has (high) implicit carbon price

So this is how bizarre 2011 was.  Both Labor and the Coalition agreed they would act to reduce Australian emissions 5% by 2020.  The Labor lot, allegedly socialist, were going to use market mechanisms. The Coalition, ostensibly in favour of ‘free markets’ were going to us… an expensive government-funded set of incentives and regulations known (for the lulz) as ‘Direct Action.’ Yeah, go figure, #worldturnedupsidedown. In this context former Liberal leader John Hewson (the one who had refused to meet with Australian Conservation Foundation, back in 1992) explained to ABC’s Lateline “how direct action includes an implicit carbon price which is far higher than an ETS.” [At least according to this timeline by Labor’s Mark Butler MP. But the link provided goes through to a Garnaut interview!]

Also on this day-

Thorne, G. 2006. Carbon capture the key to cutting greenhouse gases.  Australian Financial Review, 17 March.- “Australia has the opportunity and responsibility to explore emissions-reduction technologies,” writes Grant Thorne, (managing director of Rio Tinto Coal Australia.)

2009 Bernard Keane’s excellent report on the Heartland Institute’s conference.  Really worth a read!

March 13, 2007 – “Show me the money” union boss says to coal industry on CCS.

On this day 10 years ago,  a report appeared in the Canberra Times (see below) about the launch of a ‘clean coal’ discussion paper of the ALP.  They were trying to square a circle – to capture voters concerned about climate change, but without appearing ‘anti-coal’…

It has been a very very long ten years.  In that time CCS went up like a rocket and down like a stick. Combet became a Labor MP, helped design a doomed emissions trading scheme, was offered a shot at the Prime Ministership as the anyone-but-Kevin candidate (he declined) and then left parliament at the 2013 elections.  Meanwhile, the emissions?  They climbed. The atmospheric concentration if C02?  It climbed.  Chances of a habitable planet for the young and as-yet-unborn?  Plummeted.  So it goes.

Australia’s coal and power generation industries must shoulder a large part of the cost of developing clean coal technologies, investing ”billions not millions” to mitigate climate change, ACTU secretary Greg Combet says. ”We are talking about companies that make multibillion-dollar profits from coal mining. It is only fair that a slice of those profits be directed to the research and development needed to substantially reduce greenhouse emissions,” he said. Speaking from the Hunter Valley, where he was launching a clean coal discussion paper with Opposition environment spokesman Peter Garrett, Mr Combet called for the Federal Government’s Minimum [sic] Renewable Energy Target for green electricity generation to be boosted.

Beeby, R. 2007. Put power profits into clean energy: Combet. Canberra Times, 13 March.

March 10, 2010 – ABC boss calls climate change ‘groupthink’

The mass media, for various reasons, has done a piss-poor job on explaining climate change and the seriousness of the threats we face.

One reason is the amount of ‘flak’ (the term is stolen from Herman and Chomsky) that that comes its way whenever it does do any reporting on the matter.  On this day in 2010, the Howard-appointed chair of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Maurice Newman gave a speech to senior ABC staff. Here’s the beginning of a report on the ABC later that day

The Chairman of the ABC Maurice Newman has attacked the media for being too willing to accept the conventional wisdom on climate change.
In a speech to senior ABC staff this morning he said climate change was an example of “group-think”.
Contrary views had not been tolerated, and those who expressed them had been labelled and mocked.
Mr Newman has doubts about climate change himself and says he’s waiting for proof either way.

There’s a lot on the Australian media’s role in climate change awareness.  Here’s some links from an article I wrote about the National Press Club and climate change.

“Australia’s experience has been extensively studied – see here, here,here, here, here, here, here and here. For starters.”

March 3, 1990 – Report: “Energy efficiency could save carbon, and $6.5bn a year”

In June 1988 a conference in Toronto had flagged climate change as a Really Serious Thing and suggested that rich countries cut their emissions so poor countries could grow theirs a bit (but also argued everyone was going to have to change their ways) The ‘Toronto Target’ was for  a 20% reduction in rich countries emissions by 2005. .  That contributed to a growing awareness of climate change in Australia.  In mid-1989 then Environment Minister Graham Richardson had tried to get this through Cabinet. Then Treasurer Paul Keating put the kibbosh on that.  But the wheels were turning. In late 1989 a-CRA (now known as Rio Tinto)-funded report found the costs of the Toronto Target would  be enormous.  On this day in 1990 a report called “A Greenhouse Energy Strategy”,  commissioned by the Federal Environment Department and written by Demi Greene Associates, was released, and found otherwise…

“AUSTRALIA could save money and drastically reduce emissions of greenhouse gas if it became energy efficient, a report released yesterday revealed.

The report, A Greenhouse Energy Strategy, commissioned by the Federal Environment Department, found that by the year 2005, Australia could reduce its carbon dioxide output by almost 19 per cent on 1988 levels, resulting in annual savings of $6.5 billion.

Mealey, E. 1990. Energy cuts could save $6.5bn a year. Sun Herald, 4 March, p. 37

Also on this day-

2014 ” Climate Change Authority (Abolition) Bill 2013 is voted Down: The Senate votes against abolishing the CCA for a third time. This Bill will no longer proceed” (source)

Feb 28, 2003 – Business Council scraps its outright Kyoto opposition

The Howard government’s ability to constrain public pressure for climate change action had in part rested on the claim that business was united in its opposition to, say, Kyoto Protocol ratification.  This was always nonsense (do you think renewable energy proponents, or carbon traders, or insurers, for instance, would be opposed? What about the gas industry?).  But this appearance of unity was assisted by the Business Council of Australia.  Eventually, however, the internal ructions became too much, and it moved from opposition to ‘no position’.  Then Hugh Morgan became President.  And it was only at the end of 2006 that things shifted. Fortunately, we have loads of time to deal with climate change, so the additional wait didn’t matter. Oh yes…

“Business support for the Federal Government’s hardline position on climate change is crumbling, with the Business Council yesterday scrapping its outright opposition to the Kyoto Protocol.”
Garnaut, J. 2003. Business shifts tack on Kyoto. The Age, 1 March.

Also on this day –

Chamberlin, P. 1995. Cabinet to review gas reduction options. Canberra Times, 28 February  p.2.
“A plan to take Australia about 40 per cent of the way towards meeting international obligations on reducing greenhouse gas emissions will be discussed by the Cabinet today, with schemes designed to tempt top-level industry involvement.”

2007  The denialists got going, with a launch at Parliament House for this little doozy –  Nine Facts about Climate Change Ray Evans [Originally published in November 2006 as a PDF (click here, 1.5 Mb). Launched in Canberra by Sir Arvi Parbo on 28 February 2007](Parbo had been a founder of the Business Council of Australia, btw).

Feb 27, 2002 – Australia and US launch a ‘spoiler’ partnership, alternative to Kyoto

George Bush was (s)elected President of the United States in late 2000. On the campaign trail he said he’d force coal-fired power stations to reduce their emissions. Once in office, oddly, he changed his mind.  He also, infamously, pulled the US out of the Kyoto Protocol. Australia hadn’t yet made a definitive statement on the matter (that would come on World Environment Day, 2002), but this ‘partnership’, launched by Environment Minister David Kemp at the Australian Embassy in Washington DC gave a clue to the direction of travel. Think of it as a dry-run for the AP6…

See also

2002 “Australia and U.S. Partner on Climate Outside Protocol”  ENS Newswire

2002 Bush and new spoiler outfit with Australia. Green Left Weekly


Also on this day- 

1988 Australian Academy of Science (1988) Global change, Proceedings of the Elizabeth and Frederick White Research conference 24-27 February 1988.

1995  Chamberlin, P. 1995. Cabinet to review gas reduction options. Canberra Times, 28 February  p.2.  (It says that ACF and Greenpeace release UN data showing how dire Australia’s performance is, and meanwhile businesses, fresh from their carbon tax victory, put forward a “happy to do a voluntary scheme” submission

1997 Federal Environment Minister Senator Robert Hill announced the release of a discussion paper, ‘Future Directions for Australia’s National Greenhouse Strategy’, prepared by the Intergovernmental Committee on ESD with a deadline for submissions of 11 April 1997.

2014 -Targets and Progress Review—Final Report released: The Climate Change Authority reviews Australia’s progress and recommends a minimum reduction of 15% in greenhouse gas emissions from 2000 levels by 2020.



Feb 24, 2011 -Gillard announces carbon tax, “signs own death warrant”

On this day in 2011 Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that she would introduce legislation that put a price on carbon. This was already a toxic idea, but she had no choice, since the minority government she led relied on support of Greens and Independents who insisted…. There are four key events to the day – the announcement in the courtyard, the parliamentary tussle, Abbott’s presser and then Gillard on the ABC in the evening. Below are clips from interesting books by participants…

First up, Paul Kelly –

“On 24 February 2011, six months after the election, a proud Julia Gillard announced agreement in principle between Labor and the Greens on a carbon pricing scheme for Australia. The Greens and the independents stood beside her in the prime minister’s courtyard, Bob Brown given virtually equal status. Gillard was making minority government work. In the process she signed her death warrant as prime minister.”
(Kelly, 2014:362)

Then Tony Windsor

“Prime Minister Julia Gillard called a media conference for mid-morning on 24 February 2011 to announce the Discussion Paper on a proposed carbon mechanism It was a showing of the prime minister flanked by other MPCCCC members from the Labor Party, the Greens, Rob Oakeshott and me. Before I went down to join the group for a photo my policy adviser, John Clements, cautioned me about standing with the group. He thought that being seen with the Greens might be interpreted as agreeing with their agenda. He didn’t quite say it would be, ‘A courageous decision, Mr Windsor,’ in the best Yes Minister’s Sir Humphrey voice, but that’s what he meant.”
(Windsor, 2015: 137)

And one of her speech writer mentions the parliamentary debate-

“She announced this in her courtyard, alongside the Greens party (as for the multi-party committee the previous year) and this time also bringing in the independent MPs. Look, it said, parliamentary numbers are locked in, this is not a hypothetical any more – she had the will, and it would be done.  An hour later in question time the PM would describe the carbon price as ‘a  scheme that would start with a fixed price for a fixed period, effectively like a tax’ – no lawyer language or weasel words, no hiding: she was going to make the case.
I was one of those who thought it seemed like the best of a bad lot of options at the time.
Instead, it became proof that she’d lied.”
(Cooney, 2015: 87)

Paul Kelly on Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s media conference

“Abbott’s media conference the same day saw one of the most brutal assaults by an Opposition leader in a generation. Labor never saw it coming. Abbott called Gillard’s position ‘an utter betrayal of the Australian people’ and predicted a people’s revolt. He enshrined the issue as trust: ‘If the Australian people could not trust the Prime Minister on this, they can’t trust her on anything.’ He said ‘the price of this betrayal will be paid every day by every Australian’ in terms of higher power prices. Abbott launched  a campaign that would make Gillard unelectable. Yet most of the ALP thought they had just negotiated a minority government triumph.”
(Kelly, 2014:362)

And in the evening, she repeated the ‘carbon tax’ line on ABC television, with momentous consequences. In his excellent book “Power Failure” Chubb observes “Tax. The word was like a bomb thrown into the middle of the debate” (Chubb, 2014: 156)

Combet continues-

It is my greatest regret that I did not provide more fearless advice to Julia to avoid this error [tax/fixed price]. Labor’s carbon price was an emissions trading scheme and we should have argued that until we were blue in the face.
(Combet, 2014: 252)

Within twenty-four hours the ‘no carbon tax’ election pledge cut through the electorate like a scalpel. Every media interview for months was dominated by a broken promise that was falsely marketed as a ‘lie’.  Debate on climate change and carbon pricing was derailed by the poisonous politics. My job was to try to make the science and policy the issues once again.
(Combet, 2014: 252)

As Chubb notes, Barrie Cassidy proposed a different way of dealing with the issue

Hindsight answer:“Oh don’t be ridiculous Heather. This is a charge on the country’s biggest polluters. It is no more a tax than your regular power bills are a tax. It is a charge. A charge on big polluters. You can call it a carbon tax if you like. I’m sure Tony Abbott will to suit his political purposes. I’ll be calling it a pollution charge, Heather, a pollution charge, because that’s what it is. That is not misleading. That’s a fact.”

Hindsight question:“Oh, you are just being pedantic…”

Hindsight answer: “I am not being pedantic. I won’t allow the Opposition to mislead the public. So even though this might be a sideshow to some people, I won’t concede your point or Tony Abbott’s. This is too big a policy, too big an issue, to be blown off course by semantics. What I have announced today is a pollution charge. That’s what I will be calling it, and so will all my ministers.”

And that was that…

[Note to self – track down Gillard’s own version of all this!]