A rocky start

The Abbott government has had the rockiest start of any newly-elected government I can recall[1]. Opinion polls are already showing the government trailing Labor, even before the election of a new opposition leader.
The failure has two main elements. The first is the consequence of gaining office on the basis of slogans and personality politics rather than any coherent set of policy proposals. ‘Stop the boats’ was a great vote-winner for the LNP in opposition, but in office it’s a hostage given to fortune. Maybe the boats will stop and maybe not, but bombastic rhetoric will have no effect one way or the other.
The implication for Labor is not to respond in kind with wrecking and cheap slogans. Rather, it’s to make the point that, however dysfunctional the previous government may have been terms of leadership, and whatever the problems of implementation, it was in the right (or at least better than the LNP) on all the major policy issues[2].
The implied political strategy is to defend and extend the key policies of the Rudd-Gillard government, with the exception of the mistakes driven by short-run political exigencies (the archetypal example being the withdrawal of benefits from single parents, and the associated failure to do anything to improve the treatment of unemployed people in general).
That means treating the Abbott government as a temporary interruption a program of reform that includes carbon pricing, the NBN, NDIS and Gonski reforms. The only big gap in Labor’s program is the absence of a credible plan to finance these policies in the long run, while allowing state governments sufficient revenue to do their work. Labor needs to use the time in opposition to break with the low-tax rhetoric of the past, and work out a coherent plan to increase revenue. In practice, there’s no real chance of increasing the rate or coverage of GST, so the options will have to come on the income tax side. More on this soon, I hope.
The second factor in Abbott’s poor start is the ‘born to rule’ mentality that we’ve already seen in Queensland. Newman and his ministers have been shameless in grabbing more and better perks, giving jobs to their mates and so on. Abbott has started in the same vein, with examples such as the sacking of Steve Bracks, and his rumored replacement with a mate such as Nick Minchin. The contrast with Rudd, who left Liberal appointees in place, and gave plum appointments to well qualified Libs, is striking. Although the travel expense scandals now coming to light date from the past, they fit into a pattern that is already evident.
Of course, Labor is hardly innocent in this. But the isolated examples that have come to light, and the near-total absence of ministerial scandals in the Rudd-Gillard government suggest that this is not a case of ‘everybody does it’. Labor should join the Greens in pushing reform of the entire system.

fn1. The arguable exception is the Labor minority government that emerged from the 2010 election. But this wasn’t a new government or a new PM: Labor had a couple of years on top after 2007 and Gillard had already had her honeymoon period in the immediate aftermath of the deposition of Rudd.

fn2. ‘Better than Abbott’ was a pretty low bar when it came to refugee policies. But Labor did at least increase the refugee intake, while Abbott has cut it.

83 thoughts on “A rocky start

  1. @Fran Barlow

    Well, did anyone who actually thought about it doubt that Abbott would make an idiot of himself and a hash of all these issues?

    What I am amazed by is that fact that people vote for Abbott and a few weeks later are having second thoughts. “Opinion polls are already showing the government trailing Labor, even before the election of a new opposition leader.”

    It might have helped if they had thought about matters a little more before the election instead of being led by the nose by the Murdoch media. Too late for second thoughts now. They have let the bull-headed idiot into the China shop, the ASEAN shop and so on.

    And we have Joe Hockey in charge of the economy! Be prepared for an inverted hockey stick as the economy goes into freefall.

  2. Abbott made a big deal about establishing a cabinet that consisted of senior members, many of whom had been in the Howard government. Given that is the case, why don’t any of them know the travel allowance rules by now?

    [Okay, rhetorical question, I admit.]

  3. It may in reality be a rocky start but I’m afraid that does not mean much until most of old media picks that line up . Ted Balieu was gone 2 days after his first negative front page on the Herald Sun . We are still stuck with this -watch mainstream media for the turning points .

    I would have to say it seems that humans’ attachment to their illusions is also part of their unavoidable fate.

    Ike ;- As you say in a sense they are all we have ,people have lived and died (and everything in between) for them . Whether or not illusions match independently existing reality or not is another question ..

  4. @Ikonoclast

    “Quite right hermit. The only factors which will limit CO2 emissions by Australia and by the world will be;
    (a) economic collapse; and/or
    (b) fossil fuel shortages.”

    I can’t agree with this. At some point it will become obvious that we can’t continue emitting CO2 (ok, its already obvious now – but so obvious that governments can’t ignore it). When that happens, I think the reduction of CO2 emissions will prove a lot easier than many think.

    I’m not sure what carbon price will be needed. But it won’t be too high, and provided its increased gradually, the transition from fossil fuel to renewables won’t be too traumatic. I’m not anticipating the end of the world.

  5. @John Brookes

    When that happens, I think the reduction of CO2 emissions will prove a lot easier than many think.

    That may be, but reversing the effects on a timescale that matters to humans is another matter entirely. The longer we take our sweet time about changing our behaviour, the bigger the risk of environmental changes we can do little to prevent or mitigate.

    The message of the Abbott coalition is of firm denial, with a few platitudes thrown in to persuade the eternal optimists (of the Liberal tradition) to vote for them this time—and it worked. Howard’s team did a lot of damage to Australians’s positive recognition of Kyoto, quite reversing opinion on whether the Kyoto protocol etc was of value, and he did that by conflating it with matters of Australian sovereignty: we should not be subject to (foreign) rules and regulations, etc, was the basic text. Tony Abbott, Nick Minchin, Alexander Downer, Arthur Sinodinos (as strategist), Eric Abetz, George Brandis, Andrew Robb, Sophie Mirabella, and a whole host of other senior members of the party, were responsible for attacking any suggestion that Australians should think carefully about the implications of AGW, and they did this with the entire panoply of standard denialist debating rhetoric. Barnaby Joyce’s only interest is where farmers might be able to make a financial gain from “direct action,” but beyond that he thinks it is a load of bahooey. Then there are the Dennis Jensen and Cory Bernadi hard core denialists within the current manifestation of a Liberal coalition government; it is difficult to see any forward momentum on addressing AGW issues while this lot are in power. In fact, I’d put money on a major reversal in direction, one that unravels stuff that even Howard did.

    Given that Tony Abbott has re-assembled as much of the old team as could be resurrected, and is offering jobs in the wings for those (Liberals) no longer formally in politics, I see little reason to be comfortable with Greg Hunt’s various pronouncements as minister. He may as well be minister for organising chook raffles at the RSL, for all the notice the more senior members will take of him.

    The one bright spot is that renewable energy technology has hit the growth phase in terms of business, and with some luck, that is out of reach of government policy now. Mind you, mucking around with solar panel rebates and electricity revenue for excess returned to the grid, that’s one way of slowing the growth down.

    Obviously I’m very pessimistic about this government’s likely behaviour with respect to doing something significantly positive about AGW, especially as they employed such strong rhetoric against any meaningful action in their previous term in office, and their recent terms in opposition. Still, scientists and (non-libertarian) engineering types will keep on thinking about solutions, even if some pollies refuse to, and that’s something to be cheerful about.

  6. @Ikonoclast #48

    Well, did anyone who actually thought about it doubt that Abbott would make an idiot of himself and a hash of all these issues?

    You’re not taking Mel’s channelling of Greg Sheridan’s comment as other than trolling are you?

    I don’t know if it’s been measured somehow but “thinking about it” seems to be overtaken this election by the “anti-politics” of disillusionment, originally tapped by Rudd then seized by Palmer and the micro parties, and I expect to “action man” himself. The post election poll mentioned above suggests a “what have I done?” response the morning after: the primary vote for both Palmer (5.5 to 4%) and the LNP (45.6 to 43.5%) is down significantly, with Greens up (8.6 to 10.5%), but not much for Labor (33.4 to 34%). Those voters who thought a Labor-Green pact was untidy may develop some political maturity from they experiencing what they wished for. Recognition of the urgent need for good governance – and a belief in human agency to re-construct political institutions – is at least a possible outcome.

    On looking at the comments by Abbott’s circle of contemporaries in the issue subsequent to David Marr’s Qrtly Essay, a recurring theme of unbridled aggression and rugged individualism/contrariness appears. Whether the irresistible force of Pell’s Pill can have a non-fractious relationship with the immovable rock of Clive of Queensland is a moot point.

    Actually ton of lard rather than rock may be more appropriate metaphorically as well as visually. I recall a heterodox economist rejecting the mechanical model of the economy in favour of an organic model, using the jellyfish example – when you prod it it may push back rather than yield.

  7. @John Brookes

    “At some point it will become obvious that we can’t continue emitting CO2 (ok, its already obvious now – but so obvious that governments can’t ignore it).”

    As you correctly point out, it should be obvious now. Yet, it isn’t apparently. The point where a phenomenon of complex nature and delayed impact becomes “obvious” in the face of active denial and ceaseless propaganda is a point that could be a long way down the metaphorical road yet.

    Then, recognising the changes needed is a different thing from being able to implement the changes. Even for one person, giving up what you are habituated to or addicted to and changing your ways is difficult. Multiply that by 7 billion and add in system bias and system momentum as massively emergent properties and you get an idea of the difficulty.

    One issue we face is the “rate of conversion” problem. Renewable energy requires (now) a large investment of fossil fuel energy up front to fund the renewable infrastucture which in turn has a long energy payback time. Eventually, renewable energy installations should reach a “critical mass” where they will fund (energetically) further expansion in renewable energy. Whilst we squander fossil fuels on items like automobiles, we risk falling below the necessary rate of conversion curve.

    The entire set of calculations are very complex and there are still many unknowns. Have we unleashed dangerous built-in climate change already? Can we safely burn some proportion of the remaining fossil fuel endowment to stay ahead of the rate of conversion curve to set up a sustainable renewable energy system?

    We can’t even agree about climate change. We certainly haven’t been able to get ourselves into a position to cut fossil fuel use. Nobody but a few far-seeing scientists has even raised the rate of conversion problem. That problem is not on any government horizon that I know of.

    Finally, don’t forget the (relatively) enlightened debate about climate change only exists among about the world’s most educated 700 million people. That’s 1/10th of the world population. The other 9/10ths don’t know or don’t have the luxury to think about it in the struggle for daily existence.

  8. I’m not sure I agree with the claim emissions reductions will be easy since our recent small decrease was due to several factors some one-off and others with downsides. By my reckoning Australia has about 31 GW of coal fired generation capacity whereas China has 750 GW adding about 2 GW a month. Most of those new Chinese power stations will still be running in 2050. To improve air quality four are to close in the Beijing area to be replaced by gas fired, the gas perhaps bought as LNG from Australia for top dollar. Search China + coal on The Energy Collective.

    Imagine if 2.5 bn people in China and India wanted 20t of per capita emissions like Aussies, or 50 bn tonnes. The world is currently on about 32 bn tonnes of manmade CO2. This is where it may get corrupted by Australian politics. Clive, Gina and Indian interests want to dig new coal areas like the Qld Galilee Basin. Since Clive now has the PUP senators and motoring enthusiasts onside he could fast track Galilee development. It will make Berlusconi look like a saint.

  9. @Hermit

    whereas China has 750 GW adding about 2 GW a month.

    This is very probably an example of self-serving gross overstatement. This commonly quoted figure comes from Peabody Energy, which is amongst those trying to subvert decarbonisation as it is heavily invested in coal.

    The US Energy Information Association estimated that stationary energy capacity between 1997-2005 frew by about 500MW per week from all sources. In an effort to reduce carbon intensity and improve efficiency (of coal usage since China is a net importer) the National Development and Reform Commission (NRDC) of China announced in 2007 that all new coal plants must replace older plants and that coal plants with a capacity under 50 MW, and 100 MW generators older than 20 years, were to be closed by 2010.

    This document http://w_w__w___.netl.doe.gov/coal/refshelf/ncp.pdf (remove underscores) shows that no new coal plants have (Page 16) have been completed in China this year though some 25GW are under construction. It’s not clear when these plants will be commissioned or how much capacity will be retired. A figure of net capacity growth in coal of about 16% per annum is widely circulated.

    I’m discinlined to make light of the the carbon footprint of China but its growth should not be overstated, particularly when these overstatements are adduced by some (not you, but some) in order to present decarbonisation attempts in the west as futile.

    It’s worth noting that relative to per capita GDP, the Chinese are far more aggressively building low carbon capacity than the leading per-capita polluters and likewise moving to explicitly price carbon emissions more aggressively as well. One should keep in mind that western demand for Chinese manufactured goods is also a very significant factor in the growth of China’s installed capacity. If Australia produced all of the goods imported from China locally, our 20t per person CO2e would be a good deal larger and China’s somewhat lower. Ditto Europe and the US.

  10. oops … link mod problem
    @Hermit

    whereas China has 750 GW adding about 2 GW a month.

    This is very probably an example of self-serving gross overstatement. This commonly quoted figure comes from Peabody Energy, which is amongst those trying to subvert decarbonisation as it is heavily invested in coal.

    The US Energy Information Association estimated that stationary energy capacity between 1997-2005 frew by about 500MW per week from all sources. In an effort to reduce carbon intensity and improve efficiency (of coal usage since China is a net importer) the National Development and Reform Commission (NRDC) of China announced in 2007 that all new coal plants must replace older plants and that coal plants with a capacity under 50 MW, and 100 MW generators older than 20 years, were to be closed by 2010.

    This document http://www.netl.doe.gov/coal/refshelf/ncp.pdf shows that no new coal plants have (Page 16) have been completed in China this year though some 25GW are under construction. It’s not clear when these plants will be commissioned or how much capacity will be retired. A figure of net capacity growth in coal of about 16% per annum is widely circulated.

    I’m discinlined to make light of the the carbon footprint of China but its growth should not be overstated, particularly when these overstatements are adduced by some (not you, but some) in order to present decarbonisation attempts in the west as futile.

    It’s worth noting that relative to per capita GDP, the Chinese are far more aggressively building low carbon capacity than the leading per-capita polluters and likewise moving to explicitly price carbon emissions more aggressively as well. One should keep in mind that western demand for Chinese manufactured goods is also a very significant factor in the growth of China’s installed capacity. If Australia produced all of the goods imported from China locally, our 20t per person CO2e would be a good deal larger and China’s somewhat lower. Ditto Europe and the US.

  11. I favour an each way bet on China’s noble intentions in case they have a memory lapse. I think Australia, the EU and others should slap a carbon tariff on Chinese made goods . When they lose say 5 bn in annual emissions the tariff can be lifted. Note we seem to be unable to get our own emissions below 0.5 bn tonnes. See the views of Oxford’s Dieter Helm
    http://e360.yale.edu/feature/forget_kyoto_putting_a_tax_on_carbon_consumption/2590/
    It shares the pain because we pay more for Chinese goods they sell less until they radically decarbonise.

    A few observations also cast doubt on China’s sincerity e.g. the dummmy spit over EU airline charges, Shenhua group’s Australian coal plans and Palmer calling his proposed mine ‘China First’. Let’s hope that the view that China will seriously decarbonise is not naive in the way Neville Chamberlain assured Brits in 1938 that Germany was no threat.

  12. Fran Barlow :@Mel
    … This government is giving early signs of threatening to become the worst post-War Federal regime in Australia’s history — and this despite being composed largely of ministers who held office under Howard.

    Well said Fan. But were the former Howard ministers all that competent. I seem to recall that they were being sacked/resigning at the rate of one every 8 months:

    From Wiki:

    [quote]Ministerial code of conduct[edit]

    …The coalition campaigned on a policy of “clean government”[18] as a contrast to the previous government. A “Code of Ministerial Conduct”[19] was introduced in fulfilment of this pledge. The code required ministers to divest shares in portfolios that they oversaw and to be truthful in parliament.[18] The code eventually led to seven cabinet ministers resigning following breach of the code. Jim Short and Brian Gibson both resigned in October 1996[20] as both held shares in companies that were within their ministerial portfolios.[18] Bob Woods resigned in February 1997 over questionable ministerial expense claims.[21] Geoff Prosser resigned in July 1997 following the disclosure that he was a shopping centre landlord whilst he was responsible for commercial tenancy provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1975.[22] John Sharp,[23] David Jull[24] and Peter McGauran[21][25] resigned in September 1997 over irregularities in the use of ministerial travel allowances in what became known in the media as the “Travel Rorts Affair”.[26][27][28] John Moore and Warwick Parer survived revelations about his shareholdings.[28] Parer however was not reappointed to the Second Howard Ministry.[29] In early 1999, the government announced that ministers would no longer be required to divest themselves of shareholdings.[29]
    [/quote]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Government

  13. @Donald Oats when is an MP off-duty? how many invitations sent and events attended are in their private capacities?

    why did this beat-up after the election and not before when both sides stood to lose votes?

    if a polictican did not attend a wedding of a fellow party member, would that not start leadership speculation?

  14. @Ikonoclast
    The trouble is, travel rorts is something the average voter can understand and relate to. Those other issues need explaining, something the soundbite age doesn’t allow.

  15. Ikonoclast, your wrote that nine tenths of the world’s population are unaware or don’t have the luxury to think about global warming in the daily struggle for existence. Going by GDP the richest 20 countries of over a million people and their populations are:

    Quatar 2,000,000
    Norway 5,000,000
    Singapore 5,300,000
    Switerland 8,000,000
    United States 316,000,000
    Kuwait 2,700,000
    Australia 23,200,000
    Austria 8,400,000
    Ireland 4,600,000
    Netherlands 16,800,000
    Sweden 9,600,000
    Canada 33,500,000
    Denmark 5,600,000
    United Arab Emirates 8,300,000
    Germany 80,400,000
    Belgium 11,000,000
    Finland 5,400,000
    UK 63,200,000
    France 66,000,000
    Japan 126,600,000

    That’s over 800,000,000 people right there. So in your opinion are Italians and New Zealanders engaged in a daily struggle for existence?

  16. @Hermit

    When I say emissions reductions will be easy, I mean that once we have the will to do it, it won’t drive us back into the dark ages. Look at what countries have achieved when put on a war footing. If you had proposed to the British back in 1935 that they achieve what they did in WWII, you would have been laughed at. But once the necessity was there, they achieved it.

    Admittedly, it may already be too late, but there is absolutely no point taking that view without a lot of evidence to back it up.

    We have a society built on cheap energy. It is *really* cheap. If I hop on a bicycle, I can output 200 watts for 30 minutes, and then I’ll be exhausted. That amount of energy costs around 3 cents. If we move to currently available renewable energy sources that might cost 10 cents (there are all sorts of figures bandied about, and its hard to choose one because of the need to compare apples with apples). But I’m pretty sure that technological improvements will mean that emission free power will soon be a similar price to coal generated power – even without including the externalities of coal generated power.

    Of course it will be a big change, and change is always painful. But I suspect it will end up being a lot less painful than adjusting to dramatic rises in temperature, changes in rainfall patterns and rises in sea level. Although we will have to put up with the rises in sea level, because they are already locked in for a few hundred years 😦

  17. @Jim Rose
    By your logic, Peter Slipper was not off-duty when attending the wineries that resulted in some of the trouble he is in now. That news story broke before the last election. [The alleged cab charge alterations are a different matter, and I’m not talking about that aspect of the trouble Peter Slipper is in.]

  18. @John Brookes
    As someone who doesn’t own a car and uses a bike, I agree that the potential for people to reduce emissions rapidly is there. I am also encouraged by the recent re-biking of the Adelaide CBD, a long time coming. It is unfortunate that a city council, a couple of decades ago, decided they didn’t like all those pesky bikes in the CBD, and retailers objected to having bike racks taking up valuable estate, such as car park spaces; the bike racks were removed (by stealth, and over time). The effect was fairly significant for the CBD, unless you were at uni and could use their bike rack huts. Hard to use a bike for shopping, if there is nowhere legal to lock it up.

    So while change in the right direction is possible and could even occur fairly rapidly, it can also be undone quite rapidly. There is a constant tug of war between one and the other. Currently, the business at all costs brigade is in the lodge, so we can expect significant deleterious and petulant attacks upon things like bike culture in the cities, or renewable energy, protection of environment and wildlife, or climate change mitigating actions. I want to be proven wrong, and in a big way, but the evidence so far is 180 degrees out of phase with what I wish for in Australia.

    I do agree that we have to keep trying to make changes though, and to keep trying to convince people to join in. The alternative looks like a lot less fun in the long run.

  19. @John Brookes
    I think the WWII analogy is apt because it may be a 1940s level of energy use we have to go back to when coal, oil and gas are unavailable or restricted. The West’s middle classes use about 5 kilowatts each of continuous direct and indirect power consumption or 125 kwh per day. That’s commendable riding a pushbike with 200 watts of leg power but the reality is only a minority can rely on that in practical terms. Hence the preference or unavoidable need for 100,000 watt automobiles. Ditto food supply, heating, cooling, entertainment, holiday travel and so on.

    Absent an energy storage breakthrough I don’t believe wind and solar can supply our energy needs with palatable demand management nor supply the silicon, steel, cement and plastics to replace themselves. If it means short term price increases I think we can say that Sept 7 was in effect a referendum on that. The evidence from emissions increasing Germany appears to be that wind and solar have strongly diminishing returns after about 25% combined penetration. Therefore high renewables proposals such as that by AEMO and others must lack political realism in their assumptions. In short we’ll need something besides (as well as) wind, solar and efficiency to replace fossil fuels.

  20. @Donald Oats

    Even accepting Jim’s contention that LNP weddings are a rerun of an episode of The Tudors, when did preserving your leadership posiiton became a public duty that requires public funding?

  21. JQ at his OP said “Labor needs to use the time in opposition to break with the low-tax rhetoric of the past, and work out a coherent plan to increase revenue. In practice, there’s no real chance of increasing the rate or coverage of GST, so the options will have to come on the income tax side. ”

    I suspect a wider extension of the GST to be more politically palatable than higher income tax scales. A GST boost is not a Canberra “black hole” and has the big selling point that state govts are becoming starved for revenue again, with negative implications for services and infrastructure funding.

    Anyway, I don’t see why political taboos and fear-based bogeys should be allowed to dispel rationality in economic policy discussions, especially as we now have substantial GST experience and data to inform them. For example, I recall that the cafe/restaurant industry was going to be decimated, yet it has gone the other way bigtime.

    While the OECD and others want to raise the rate, it would be interesting to estimate the revenue effects of an extension at the 10% rate to cover the current exemptions including fresh food, health and education. Exemptions exist for small non-profits and could be continued.

    Has there been a substantial discussion on the GST issue at this blog in recent times? Vested business and ruling class interests have their own agenda but some points of relevance to this blog are:

    1. despite its recent growth being less than expected it is still a less volatile tax source

    2. traditionally seen as having much lower compliance/collection costs compared to income and company tax (an 80s trope was about wiping out “bottom of the harbour” schemes and the cash economy – I wonder how easy evasion is now)

    3. a growth tax, yet with a procyclical element, reflecting national private expenditure.

    4. the regressive aspect should be capable of being largely offset by design as when introduced in 2000. In his recent Battlers and Billionaires, Andrew Leigh reports ambiguity on which way taxation progressivity has gone over the past decade, but the “great divergence” between the bottom and the top has occurred, as elsewhere. Estimates of the regressive aspect need to factor in that high income people buy more of everything which moderates it.

    5. But looking at the application of tax revenues, wasn’t GST a huge contributor to education and health expansion over the last decade? And do I recall correctly from George Megalogenis’s articles of a year ago that most households in Australia pay no net tax, when inward cash transfers are included?

    6. Struggling areas like manufacturing are disadvantaged by the existing price distortions, compared to health and education which are growth areas.

  22. John Brookes, renewable energy is already cheaper than coal or natural gas. Using a discount rate of 5% the new Macarthur wind farm in Victoria produces electricity for about 6 cents a kilowatt-hour and the Snowtown II windfarm under construction in South Australia will produce electricity for about 5 cents a kilowatt-hour. This is less than the cost of new coal or gas capacity. Even cheaper is rooftop solar as it competes with the retail price of electricity rather than the wholesale price and it is the cheapest source of electricity available to Australian households and many businesses. Currently home and business energy storage is now around $500 per kilowatt-hour of capacity for low maintenance chemistries which means that with a 5% discount rate the cost of storage is now under 20 cents a kilowatt-hour which is around the point where people with an eight cent a kilowatt-hour solar feed-in tariff will start making money from installing it.

    So cutting our emissions is not particularly expensive, it’s really just a matter of how many more people are we comfortable with killing through inaction before we bother to do something.

  23. @Ronald Brak

    It can’t actually be cheaper. Because if it was, we would only be building wind farms. I’m a fan of renewables, but if it was that simple, we’d have already done it.

    There is also the ITER project to make fusion power a reality. One way or another, we’ll replace fossil fuels in the next 30 years.

    And its worth noting that we won’t be cutting our individual energy consumption much to do it. Its just that the energy will be generated without emissions.

  24. Here is what the apparently “Socialist Left” Alan Griffin secretly told the CIA about his selling out of a long time mate (at his funeral – classy) to appease the extreme right, presumably:

    In light of the current asylum seeker challenge in
    Australia, which he believes will not be an election issue
    for the Rudd government, Griffin relayed a story about the
    funeral of one of his long-time friends of Tamil extraction.
    Griffin was asked to speak at the funeral and only noticed
    when he approached the coffin that it was draped in the Tamil
    Tiger flag. He quickly modified his televised speech,
    acknowledging that he and his friend had a long-term
    friendship, but “often disagreed.” Griffin also noted the
    disturbing possibility of Tamil Tiger members being among
    Tamil asylum seekers destined for Australia.

    Any questions about why I have nothing but deep contempt for the faux-left ALP?

  25. @Ronald Brak
    I think wind power prices should add the LGC subsidy currently about 3.4c per kwh. I accept that at some point unsubsidised new wind will always be cheaper than combined cycle gas as the gas price continues to escalate. However there must be enough standby on-demand generation capacity or energy storage to cover protracted lulls. Rather than dictating the percentage of wind and solar we should just have a CO2 cap and reserve margin rules and let the players sort it out.

    I can’t see home batteries getting to anywhere near the numbers of rooftop PV owners. There may be no rebates years from now. New designs would have to be wall mounted not require floorspace in a locked shed. I know formerly cashed up people living off-grid who bought a battery bank and now don’t have the $20k to replace it. Like owners of heated swimming pools I expect urban battery users will be few and far between. I doubt it is practical to charge an electric car and also use it as a home battery.

  26. @Megan

    Any questions about why I have nothing but deep contempt for the faux-left ALP?

    Yes, I have a couple of questions.

    1. Referencing your source is especially important here, so who reported this and what were the circumstances? eg. was it a CIA source (their truthfulness you wouldn’t trust in a fit otherwise, but here it suits what you want to believe). And do you feel any reservations about intruding your interpretations on an event (where I presume you weren’t present), and involving a complicated personal relationship (which I presume you have no firsthand knowledge about.)

    2. according to your judgement about Griffin, this incident somehow implicates the “faux left ALP” as guilty by association – Plibersek, Albanese, who else? Come on, name names or tell us what their “sins” are. Are they also part of a grand CIA conspiracy against Australia?

    Do you acknowledge that this mode of attack is ugly – the politics of smear? You should put up some evidence or withdraw.

    Now, if you really want to attack the ALP (and I do), here are some issues for comment:

    1. it’s been reported that Albanese never aimed to be a serious contender, but this was a “show trial” to get media attention, demonstrate unity, galvanise the party; hmm, maybe true.

    2. Bracks on telly tonight talked about how the process was a stimulus to internal party democracy – what a revelation! Hey Steve: pushing for action on your 2010 report (with Faulkner and Carr) might have brought it on earlier (but the party is full of followers not leaders).

    3. Shorten’s role as the kingmaker in Aust politics – Rudd, then Gillard (and the GG if he chose). And what happened to the LGBT representation? Playing to the internal membership for vote harvesting? We won’t see that idea again.

  27. @kevin1

    1. Source is Wikileaks cables (of course they only tell us what faceless men told them – doesn’t mean it’s true, Griffin may have made it up to impress his perceived US masters. Doesn’t really make it any better for the stooges, does it?).

    2. I see you decline to cite a credible source for the Albanese stuff (Mind you, search Albanese in the cables! “It has been reported” is usually code for “Rupert says”).

    3. You want to “attack” straw persons, not the ALP or any other power structure.

    4. You incorrectly use quotation marks when referencing my comment. The ALP, in its entirety is “faux left”, not just some pretend grouping within it.

    Unless I’ve got you completely wrong, I accept that you are the most rusted on of ALP supporters – it might be that you want your team to be better than it is.

    I despise both ALP/LNP based on their track records. I have no historical link or sentimental attachment to either of them. That may make me unfortunate or lucky. Who really cares? I refuse to perpetuate a failed system and I am free from ideological shackles.

  28. @Megan
    I saw this secondhand gossip about Griffin as being possibly unfair to him, and certainly inadequate to judge the ALP: “any stick to beat a brown dog” just because you despise them can be below the belt. However I admit being a bit excessive myself at times, so best I just shut up now.

    I’m not rusted on Labor, though there are times when the left criticism goes too far IMO, and a false equivalence is made. I’ve just been reading Troy Bramston’s 2011 book Looking for the Light on the Hill, and he interviews Karl Bitar soon after he left the ALP Nat Sec job. Bitar says he worked with 100 ministers and the system promotes risk-aversion, lack of controversy and marching to the official drumbeat which is no surprise I guess. The system dumbs down and wears out smart people often of high principle, and Labor is unlikely to change it. So often people in political life seem to take the truth drug after they step down when it’s too late, not when they’re doing the job and can change things!

  29. This probably belongs in a “Weekend Reflections” or “Sandpit”, but here will have to do.

    The “Bikie” “laws” are astounding. Nobody in the bland world gives a flying hoot, but these laws criminalise everyone for anything at the whim of the executive. I’m not being a weirdo, this is extremely serious. The laws (and the myriad amendments to several dozen other Acts) mean that any group of 3 people can be declared criminal and any of them deemed to be some kind of leader MUST be jailed for an extra 25 years if they commit one of the crimes chosen by the executive.

    Jarrod Bleije did not draft these extreme laws by himself. Several test phases have been run through the High Court to get to this version, MK III (?).

    In essence, this will be applied to CSG protesters, anti-austerity protesters, first nations activists, “occupy” protesters, environmentalists and so on.

    The Qld Police are already shaking down anyone with tattoos, a history of riding motorcycles and many other groups (some serious googling will throw up examples).

    This is absolutely terrifying for democracy in this state.

    Of course, the ALP “Opposition” (all 7 of them – as if it would have killed them to take a stand) wholeheartedly saluted and proudly backed Newman’s draconian laws this week. Without a squeak. Without even demanding a pretend shred of proper oversight.

    The ALP’s gripe was that the laws weren’t as harsh as they would like!

    Before attacking my comment, do what I’ve done and read the entire Hansard from Tuesday.

    You ALP supporters make me sick.

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