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After Gillard

September 3rd, 2011

I’m not always in tune with the political zeitgeist, but my decision to run a post advocating a dignified resignation for Julia Gillard was made just ahead of the rush. Of course, the option of voluntarily stepping aside has now been foreclosed. When Gillard goes (I don’t think there’s a remaining question of “if”) it will be as a result the usual messy and unpleasant process of assembling a sufficient number of votes (not necessarily a majority) to render her position untenable.

Both because I don’t want to see any last-minute stuffups, I hope the carbon tax and mining tax legislation is passed before she goes. Certainly, whether or not she supported these measures, she did the hard yards to get them through.

On the question of her replacement, I had previously dismissed Rudd, on the basis that his abrasive personality and micro-management tendencies (not apparent in his public persona, but well-attested) would make him unacceptable to his colleagues. However, the High Court decision on asylum seekers changes all that. Rudd has more credibility on this issue than anyone else in the party. Labor has no choice but to revert to a more humane position and stress the point that the Court decision undermines Abbott as well as Gillard. It now seems highly unlikely that a policy based on long-term detention of people who have already been assessed as refugees can stand up, wherever they are held.

Stephen Smith seems like the natural choice for deputy, and it would be sensible to find a ministerial spot for Gillard, all of which would permit a reshuffle.

No one can tell for sure, but I think the return of Rudd would put the spotlight on Abbott’s total fraudulence, maybe even paving the way for the Rudd vs Turnbull election we should have had last time.

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  1. September 8th, 2011 at 13:56 | #1

    Peak Oil Poet, I’d not be so certain that “Agriculture” wants a carbon tax. I’m struggling to think where this seed germinated.

  2. Fran Barlow
    September 8th, 2011 at 16:24 | #2


    Re carbon pricing

    There simply isn’t any credible school of economics that would ever advise such a strategy.

    Near 180 degrees from accurate. No credible school of economics advises any alternative strategy for market-based economies. Indeed, I’m not aware that there are any opposing mitigation as policy either.

    There are some individual people on the left or groups of activists who say: let’s just build renewables at whatever it costs and regulate GHGs out of existence. They aren’t credible schools of economics though. Neither is Tony Abbott, who thinks rewarding businesses for what they are going to do anyway is a goodf idea and indeed, he won’t be able to start a credible school of economics until he

    a) finishes Economics for Dummies


    b) develops an interest in economics

  3. rog
    September 8th, 2011 at 18:31 | #3

    SAP, the guys in the front bar are not a reliable indicator of community feeling. Many farmers welcome a carbon tax as they can see how land improvements can be financially beneficial.

  4. September 8th, 2011 at 21:12 | #4

    Rog: You’ll have to cease getting your information on rural affairs from yokels in straw hats who go to “farmer’s markets” to sell homemade jam to hippies.

  5. rog
    September 8th, 2011 at 21:47 | #5

    You think so SAP?

    Agricultural emissions are excluded from the carbon tax.

  6. September 8th, 2011 at 22:07 | #6

    “Agricultural emissions are excluded from the carbon tax.”

    Rog, I’m going to have to question your methodology, if you believe that (govt) policy amounts to pastoralist/agricultural SUPPORT for carbon taxing.

  7. Tim Macknay
    September 9th, 2011 at 13:35 | #7

    I think SATP has it on this one. The agricultural lobby is certainly not lobbying for a carbon tax, and the government has excluded agriculture from its Clean Energy Future policy in part as a way of heading off opposition from that sector. It has also introduced a parallel system of tradeable offset credits to enable agriculture to potentially benefit from emissions trading, without being directly affected by its costs.

    I’m not sure where the ‘agriculture wants the carbon tax’ meme came from, but it’s a pretty simple matter to find out what the key agricultural lobby groups think of it: The National Farmer’s Federation thinks it will cripple agriculture, and the Pastoralists and Graziers Association thinks the whole global warming thing is communism, or something.

  8. alfred venison
    September 9th, 2011 at 22:21 | #8

    dear Steve at the Pub
    i have a thought experiment/feel-good daydream i’d like to share with you.

    bio-fuel/petrol can be made from sugarcane “stubble”, usually burned off, generating no further value for anyone & arguably not good for the atmosphere.

    i’d like it if the gov’t would use some of the takings from the carbon tax to sling some seed capital towards someone local to the cane fields, in order to set up a network of “stubble collection agencies/bio-fuel distillers/distributed”.

    a kind of pan-local area, vertically integrated, network of small businesses, that would pay cane farmers for permission to come onto their properties, pick up & take away the “stubble” and transport it to regional plants, where it’d be turned into bio-fuel to sell back to the local area farmers & townspeople for less than the price of standard “opec-oil”.

    this, i reckon, would be good for the cane farmers, good for the regional economy & employment, good for the atmosphere & good for australia’s balance of payments: at least fewer dollars out to opec.

    that’s one example of the kind of “kick start” i’d like the carbon tax to do for local business. even if agricultural emissions are exempt & petrol is not taxed/priced at first.

    i’d like to see that & i reckon maybe you would too. for many reasons, including cash for “stubble” for farmers, cheaper fuel for people who have to drive long distances to stay “connected”, to boost employment in country areas & to enhance the quality of the atmosphere.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  9. September 10th, 2011 at 00:58 | #9

    Dear Alfred Venison
    Notable concept.
    I have something to share with you. Sugar cane does not leave stubble.
    That aside, making ethanol from sugarcane uses more BTU’s than is contained in the resulting ethanol.
    Notable concept. Still in developmental stage, & will be stuck there until that hump of the net loss of BTU’s is sorted out.

  10. John Quiggin
    September 10th, 2011 at 07:41 | #10

    “Sugar cane does not leave stubble.”

    Maybe you should tell the people at Proserpine about that.


    Of course, it’s more common to call it “trash”, but as a Queenslander you ought to know that this is a distinction without a difference.

  11. rog
    September 10th, 2011 at 07:58 | #11

    Bagasse seems more appropriate.

  12. Fran Barlow
    September 10th, 2011 at 09:59 | #12

    @alfred venison

    Personally, I’m sceptical of “Gen 1″ biofuels doing anything more than filling some niche markets. It may well be that the “stubble”/bagasse makes sugar production not very CO2 intensive, and bagasse may also be used in substitution from some paper products but the question surely arises — why produce sugar at all (or in such volume?). Would it not be preferable to return the land to something like the biomes existing pre-industrial farming?

    Last I heard, sugar cane in Brazil had an EROEI of about 8:1 (i.e 1 calorie in 8 calories out) but the scaleability of the solutions is questionable.

  13. September 10th, 2011 at 10:08 | #13

    I’ll tell the people at Proserpine nothing. They would already know.
    Which is more than you do.
    My Queenslander credentials are intact.
    I’m surprised & shocked at being told (a) that sugar cane DOES leave stubble, then (b) having a link to a definition of ratoon crop provided as backup for such claim.
    Bwahahahahaha…… (couldn’t resist)
    For the something straight out of a little golden book, & which obfuscates as much as informs, try the page at that link where they explain “plant crop”.
    Rog, Bagasse is most inappropriate.
    Words have meanings fellers. Bagasse, ratoon, stubble, etc. are all VERY different things.
    Rather surprised to be fed such misinformation. An object lesson in the degree of rigorous scholarship on this blog site.

  14. alfred venison
    September 10th, 2011 at 11:55 | #14

    dear rog
    thanks for “Bagasse” – always looking to increase my vocabulary.

    I got “stubble” from my old sicilian born landlord, vito, who, when i first came to australia in ’76, told me lots of stories about working the cane fields in “norta queensland” when he “first commina australia” in 1950.

    Ah, drinking tinnies of kb on vito’s stoop, chatting to passing “nice-a girls” & “nice-a boys” & hearing his stories about being a new australian in the ’50s – those were the days!
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  15. alfred venison
    September 10th, 2011 at 11:57 | #15

    dear Steve at the Pub
    “making ethanol from sugarcane uses more BTU’s than is contained in the resulting ethanol.”

    i’ve heard that too but, respectfully, so what? i’d just use some of the total bagasse collected from the cane farmers to fuel the production line. even if the petrol output is reduced, thereby, it’d still be a win win win situation. still a net gain over the alternative of burning it all off as “waste” for nothing. no financial good to anyone & arguably not good for the atmosphere.

    i reckon the problem of btus consumed in production vs btus contained in the fuel, is a more serious concern in something the “bitumen-sands” project in northern alberta, which uses half the provincial annual natural gas consumption to produce barrels of oil containing fewer btus than were in the natural gas burned in the production.

    at least in my pipedream, we’d be using waste to fuel a production line to make petrol, with fewer btus, out of more of the same waste. we wouldn’t be using existing fuel, natural gas, to make new fuel, petrol, with fewer btus.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  16. Fran Barlow
    September 10th, 2011 at 12:24 | #16

    @alfred venison

    Steve’s objection would be relevant if the driver of the activity were energy return on energy investment. (EROEI) Of course, using waste to substitute for fossil HC makes sense, assuming the primary activity (raising sugar cane) makes sense. I’m doubtful that it does.

    As I noted above though, Brazilian EROEI suggests an 8:1 return which probably isn’t much worse if at all than oil (well-to-wheel) though as noted, questions of scale are important. Also, the greater the proportion of low/non-dispatchable energy on the input side, the better the calculus looks, since this input energy is of low value. If, for example, the energy inputs include solar, wind, wave, waste biomass etc and these aren’t readily available for use in place of petroleum/coal then a low EROEI comparison is not so bad. If for example, 2 kWh of wind energy produced 1 kWh of energy at the wheel of a vehicle, that would actually be quite good, because the input lacks a footprint and is lost if not harvested. We now have 1 kWh we didn’t have before. You still have cost and scale questions, but EROEI is not decisive in assessing feasibility.

    Similarly, if some of the input energy is co-gen or energy that would otherwise have simply have been dumped, then again, that’s not really an energy cost. The real cost is the cost of deploying that energy in the new system.

  17. John Quiggin
    September 10th, 2011 at 13:17 | #17

    For anyone who didn’t follow the link
    “A Ratoon Crop is the new cane which grows from the stubble left behind after harvesting. This enables the farmers to get three or four crops from these before they have to replant..” (emphasis added)

    Sadly, Steve doesn’t have a clue. We knew that already in general terms, but I was surprised to see it evident in relation to something as Queensland-specific as sugar.

  18. September 10th, 2011 at 13:28 | #18

    Quick question:
    How long/tall is the “stubble” (we’ll call it that) after sugar cane is harvested?
    Second quick question:
    How do canegrowers pronounce the word “ratoon”?
    How do graingrowers pronounce the word “ratoon”?

    Cane harvesting does not leave stubble. Nor is the remnant burnt.
    Stop gittin’ yer smarts from book larnin’ fellers. It don’t always tell you the right answer.

  19. John Quiggin
    September 10th, 2011 at 15:03 | #19

    “Nor is the remnant burnt.”

  20. John Quiggin
    September 10th, 2011 at 15:05 | #20

    Of course, I’m well aware that this practice is in decline. But Steve is no more reliable on what is happening in his own backyard than he is on, for example, climate change.

  21. September 10th, 2011 at 15:18 | #21

    This is getting embarrassing for our blog host. (Hole, deeper, etc)
    Actually it is become quite funny.

    That linked video is of green cane being burnt.
    May I recommend a dictionary so you are able to look up the meaning of the word “remnant”?
    To recap: Mr. Venison’s statement was regards post-cane-harvest waste product, of which there isn’t any.

    You aren’t doing much to convince me you have research ability. (Not saying your reliablity on climate change is in question, but your knowledge & scholarship of that area would want to be a whole lot better than your total & complete lack of knowledge of cane farming.)

  22. alfred venison
    September 10th, 2011 at 16:58 | #22

    dear Fran Barlow
    i think we’re mostly in agreement, apart from, perhaps, emphasis. but i’ll leave the debate about whether or not sugar cane should be grown in north queensland to others.

    the reason my pipedream appealed to me is the possibility of making something useful to farmers, out of a farm by-product, that otherwise is burned off for no return to the farmers or the local economy, and arguably is bad for the atmosphere.

    in canada (maybe here, too) purple dyed petrol (“purple gas”) is made available to farmers only, at a discount & strictly for use only in farm equipment doing work on the farm: tractors, combines, threshers, &c. using it outside the farm is illegal, hence the purple dye. i had something like “purple gas” at the back of my mind – something that wouldn’t be practically available beyond local farming communities, where its refined, but without the legal restrictions.

    cane farmers, with waste to burn off, want cheaper fuel. environmentalists want fewer co2 emissions. entrepreneurial australians want to make a quid. i thought i could connect them & show Steve at the Pub there might be something, in the reinvestment of carbon tax receipts, that could advantage country people. not saying they’re calling out for it now, or anything.

    the test, of course, is whether or not there’s a viable local business, local employer & tax payer in the idea. as you say, a key to success would be to get as much power from renewable sources as possible in the collection, processing & distribution operations. using the product for the vehicle fleet would cut into profit but is a start. certainly taking as much solar /wind power as possible, and perhaps even “salting” some of the collected “waste” into a bio-mass generator to make power for the plant & the office.

    another pipedream is to see as many individuals, families, businesses, factories, farms & collectives as possible get access to the where withal to wean themselves off the “central power utility teat” & to get at least some part of their daily need by “milking nature” locally, instead.

    and if bio-fuel doesn’t appeal, how about small local businesses that erect mass produced pre-fab biomass generators on individual cane farms. for a price, of course, you’d get a semi-automated generator/plant that makes free “juice” out of the free “waste” left over from harvesting the plant the cane farmer already is growing to sell for profit. every watt generated from free “waste” is a watt not bought, what? the test again, of course, if whether or not there is indeed a viable small local business in such a proposal. but if it were indeed viable, and some reinvested carbon tax receipts would move it along, then what’s not to appeal?
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  23. John Quiggin
    September 10th, 2011 at 20:43 | #23

    To recap: Alfred says why not use the “stubble” usually burned off, for power generation. This is in fact, already happening


    Steve says there is no stubble and it isn’t burned. What he means is that the waste available for this use is mostly trash and (mostly) burned before harvest, not after. But of course, in the case where it isn’t burned it has to be dealt with as part of the harvest. As I said first up, distinctions without a difference – silly word games might be a better description.

    Bagasse is slightly different again. It is the waste left over after cane is crushed, and has long been used for energy generation.

  24. September 10th, 2011 at 21:40 | #24

    To save you all getting any more of your cane farming information from Wikipedia, I’ll put you all out of your misery.
    Sugar cane, when harvested, is cut off near enough at ground level.
    If cane is burned before harvest, there is no waste to burn after harvest.
    If cane is harvested green, then post harvest there is the shredded leaf & the tops scattered on the ground.
    This trash is not much use. It is pretty much just fibrous leaf. Mostly it is windrowed & burned. It has no viable economic use.
    Mostly it cannot be left to rot into the ground as it will interfere with inter-row cultivating, spraying & fertilising that is done to the new growth of cane. Without those treatments next year’s cane won’t be economic, thus the trash usually has to go.
    Rather a bind.
    Each sugar mill handles its cane differently. Ethanol production, or anything for that matter, usuall involves a sacrifice of some sort, as just about all & every part of the cane is used somehow. Plain old waste is less common than you’d think.

    Due to the mostly impecunious nature of canegrowing, canegrowers have been watching with hawk eyes for years the viability of ethanol production from cane. The hurdle is the net loss of BTU’s in ethanol production from cane. Unless that is solved (& it may never be) ethanol production from cane won’t be a game changer for them.

    Alfred, Australia does not have anything resembling the excise free dyed fuel that Canada has. It is a good idea, & Australian farmers who are aware of what happens in Canada often seethe over things like that. Nowhere else in the western (except Australia) are farmers treated with such national disdain. They have little chance of changing things, due to being so heavily outnumbered by urbanites who have generationally lost all empathy & understanding for the land.

    The concept of using cane waste to make fuel is a good one. You can imagine that in farming districts things like that are constantly evaluated & scrutinised. If ethanol production ever does get going, it’ll turn farming from marginal to incredibly viable.

    I can make two comments about growing sugar in Nth Qld. (a) Every year there is less acreage under cane. This year notwithstanding, it has been a declining industry for quite some time. (b) The sugar cane grown on the Ord is about twice the size. Or it was when last I looked at some. It is a far greater difference again than that between Nth Qld & Nth NSW.

  25. John Quiggin
    September 10th, 2011 at 21:56 | #25

    Steve @18 “Nor is the remnant burnt.”
    Steve @24 “Mostly it is windrowed & burned. ”

    Thanks for that clarification.

    Getting back to the actual issues, I agree with Steve that ethanol production from sugar is unlikely ever to be viable, so policies to encourage it aren’t a good idea, though not as bad an idea as the US subsidies/mandates for ethanol derived from corn. Turning expensive food into motor fuel with only a marginal net energy gain is never going to work.

    On the other hand, if the problems of dealing with cellulose could be overcome (a big if), a lot of low-value sources, include cane trash and bagasse could be viable.

  26. sHx
    September 10th, 2011 at 22:07 | #26

    I’m not always in tune with the political zeitgeist, but my decision to run a post advocating a dignified resignation for Julia Gillard was made just ahead of the rush.

    Two years ago this time you were singing songs of praise for Kevin Rudd and his ability to knock out one Liberal leader after another. There was Brendan Nelson and then Malcolm Turnbull. As for Tony Abbott, he was so unpopular even drover’s dog wouldn’t vote for him.

    Those were the heydays of your Climate Doomsday Cult.

    You may have just woken up to it but the moment Julia Gillard announced her Climate Doomsday Tax she was finished.

    The voting public don’t want to lose their jobs and pay through the nose just because some computer models predict a climate apocalypse in a hundred years’ time.

  27. September 10th, 2011 at 22:43 | #27

    “Steve @18 “Nor is the remnant burnt.”
    Steve @24 “Mostly it is windrowed & burned. ”
    Thanks for that clarification.”

    I don’t mean to sound ambiguous, but it isn’t actually that black & white. Grow cane for a few years & you’ll know what I mean. If questioned under oath, I’d state that it is not burned. If something has to be windrowed to get a mild smoulder going, it isn’t really “burning” in the agricultural sense.

    sHx, thank you for that helpful insight. On behalf of all readers here I thank you for stating the bleeding obvious. We otherwise may have overlooked the faster-than-rapid crash of the government’s popularity.

  28. Chris Warren
    September 10th, 2011 at 22:45 | #28


    The voting public will not loose their jobs and will not pay through the nose.

    They will also respond to the facts of hard science and protect the climate which threatens complete destruction of all jobs and all payments forever more.

    Any increase in greenhouse gases raises the global temperature. Continuous increase in greenhouse gases increases the global temperature continuously.

    So what’s your solution? Get-as-much-wealth-you-can now, and let future generations live with the mess you bequeath to them.

    Anyone would prefer UN verified scientific models than the crappy dogma emanating from sHx.

  29. Chris Warren
    September 10th, 2011 at 23:15 | #29

    loose and replace with “lose”

  30. Donald Oats
    September 11th, 2011 at 21:34 | #30

    I actually saw this interview on Sky News, and rather sadly, I could believe it when George Brandis, Senator, uttered the following boldfaced words:[This excerpt replayed on the ABC Insiders]

    DAVID LIPSON, PRESENTER: Have you contacted your counterpart in the New South Wales Government over this?

    GEORGE BRANDIS: I’m not going to give the Prime Minister who is a notorious liar something more to lie about.

    It is one thing for members of the public to say these sorts of things about politicians, but it is quite another for politicians to do it on a national TV program. Our political discourse is woeful.

  31. Fran Barlow
    September 11th, 2011 at 22:26 | #31

    @John Quiggin

    Turning expensive food into motor fuel with only a marginal net energy gain is never going to work.

    Actually, this radically flatters corn grown in the US. It’s mainly used as cheap subsidised food for feedlot cattle, and also for high fructose corn syrup in things like pop tarts. Subsidised corn is a major contributor both to the obesity of US citizens and the fattening of state subsidies to, in the long run, the meat industry and agribusiness. It is ruining the land and the waterways running off the land too. Occasionally cheap subsidised US corn has been dumped onto markets in Latin America, just to add to the fun. Apparently corn derivatives are in 27% of items in supermarkets including detergents, packaging and many other items one would scarcely expect.

    Sidebar: Once upon a time — prior to 1972, the US government, rather than subsidising corn, acted as a kind of commodity broker, “holding” surplus corn from growers as surety or debts to the state and allowing growers to sell as they pleased, smoothing out volatility in markets. This discouraged intensive cropping and kept prices stable within a narrow range. On the whole, it far better suited smallholders allowing them more certainty. If there was a glut, they could hand off the corn to the state rather than sell it cheaply. If a corn crop was poor, the state could sell down its holdings to ensure that it was available and prevent prices rising too steeply.

  32. TerjeP
    September 11th, 2011 at 23:08 | #32

    So what’s your solution?

    There is a technological solution. Well proven. Vastly safer than what we use today. Basically zero emission. Not overly expensive. Ripe for huge innovative improvement to make it even cheaper and safer and simpler. Able to power society for tens of thousands of years. However mentioning it on this blog is generally forbidden. Strange but true.

  33. September 12th, 2011 at 00:17 | #33

    It is forbidden to mentino pedal power? (struggles to accept this)

  34. Donald Oats
    September 12th, 2011 at 00:53 | #34

    To add to Labor’s woes, Phil Coorey at SMH today paints a sorry picture indeed. Rudd outstrips Gillard as preferred prime minister, while Labor’s polling drops another point. Still, on the bright side, a negative number is impossible.

  35. Tim Macknay
    September 12th, 2011 at 16:19 | #35

    Still, on the bright side, a negative number is impossible.

    Are you sure?

  36. alfred venison
    September 12th, 2011 at 19:52 | #36

    dear anyone
    anyway, any negative number achieved needn’t stay so for long – just quickly multiply it by the next negative number polled & the the whole thing becomes “irrational” & soon back to normal.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

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