Australian Politics 2017-05-09 15:55:00


Australians want company tax spent on environment, survey finds

A most amusing "survey" below.  It calls to mind the way "elections" in totalitarian countries usually find 99% support for the dictator. 

Some obviously leading questions were asked.  To what ordinary voter would it occur that company tax in particular should be diverted to fund environmental programs?  It is just a Greenie wet dream.

And the suggestions were put to an undefinable group of people via an automated telephone poll on behalf of the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF).  And they got the resounding result the ACF undoubtedly wanted. If I had designed the questions, the result would show very little support for the environment. 

Not to put to fine a point on it, the findings are garbage.  And nobody actually talked to any of the people surveyed!

Australians have given the thumbs down to Australia's environmental protection in a new survey, which shows a high level of scepticism about the Federal Government's commitment to protecting nature.

The poll has revealed more than two thirds of Australians want a share of company tax spent directly on protecting the environment and more than 76 per cent want a levy imposed on polluting companies to protect reefs, rivers, forests, and wildlife.

Nearly 3,000 people were interviewed for the pre-budget sounding, conducted by market research company ReachTel for the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF).

Six out of 10 said protecting the environment should receive a bigger share of the federal budget, while nearly three quarters said they would support a political party with a policy for "a national plan where nature thrives".

Just 11 per cent thought that nature protection should receive less funding.

Yet spending on environmental programs is in decline and set for further cuts, with conservation groups arguing that protecting the environment is shouldering a disproportionate share of "budget repair".

The environment budget has declined by 20 per cent since the Coalition first came to office in 2013, according to analysis by the ACF, and is projected to decline by 38 per cent on 2013 levels through to 2019.

Over the same period, overall spending is projected to increase by 22 per cent.

The political leanings of those polled in its survey were broadly consistent with the findings of most voting intention surveys.

They translate to a two-party preferred result of 47 per cent Liberal, 53 per cent Labor.

The survey also showed four in 10 Australians thought the Government has "a plan to protect the reefs, rivers, forests, and wildlife for current and future generations".

This was outnumbered by 45 per cent of respondents who disagreed with that statement.

ACF chief executive Kelly O'Shannassy said the poll showed the Federal Government is "completely out of touch with what Australians expect their elected representatives to do".

"The only way for the Prime Minister to restore his credibility on environment and climate change is to reverse cuts and develop a comprehensive national plan to protect nature and move to clean energy," she said.

"The polling shows that Australians support long-term measures that would provide increased funding to protect and restore Australia's reefs, rivers, forests, and wildlife."

The survey results come in the wake of the independent State of the Environment report, released by the Turnbull Government in March.

It found that despite significant improvements on key benchmarks, resources for environmental management and protection were "insufficient".

The State of the Environment Report also said the nation lacks "an overarching national policy that establishes a clear vision for the protection and sustainable management of Australia's environment to the year 2050".

The office of Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg has been contacted for comment.


The Federal budget

The newspapers are full of commentary on this and so is my inbox so I will just make a small comment.

It is a re-election budget in that it does not do anything really controversial.  There are no real reforms despite the many potential reforms which would benefit Australia. It is also a tax & spend socialist budget but with one important difference from what a socialist government would have given us:  It has no new "bold" initiatives.  It just sees to the financing of existing programs.  That is its only conservative feature but it is a big one. 

School’s bid to ban Mother’s Day ‘blocked’

A Melbourne primary school that scrapped its Mother’s Day stall in the name of “diversity” and ­“inclusivity” is understood to have reversed the decision after a phone call from a concerned parent — Bill Shorten.

Moonee Ponds West Primary School was facing a backlash from parents shocked to read in this week’s newsletter that the stall — where children can spend their pocket money on small, token gifts for their mother or ­another “significant loved one” — would not be going ahead.

Instead, principal Jeff Lyon ­revealed, the school would ­celebrate UN International Day of Families. “I believe celebrating International Day of Families is a more inclusive way of celebrating the richness, diversity and complexity of living and loving as a family in the modern world,” Mr Lyon wrote. “The day highlights the importance of all caregivers in families, be it parents, grandparents or siblings and the importance of parental education for the welfare of children.”

The Opposition Leader, whose daughter goes to Moonee Ponds West, rang the school late yesterday. He said the decision had been reversed.

Asked to comment on the decision by the school, which is in Mr Shorten’s electorate, he described it as a “wonderful’’ institution. “I’ve spoken to the principal this evening and I understand there will be a Mother’s Day stall,” he said.

Samantha Hanna, who went to the school as a child and sends her children Isabela, Dante and Didier there, said parents had been surprised by the move.

“I remember as a kid lining up and agonising over whether to get mum the soap on the rope or the scented candle, and now I love getting these little gifts ... from my own kids,” Ms Hanna said.

“I know that there are some single parent families at the school, and for those mums this is probably the only gift they will get from their children. I understand that some don’t have mums around but it is a good time to think about the importance of mums and dads and the role they play in our lives. I’m glad to hear it’s been reinstated.”

While some parents were dismayed about the initial decision, other politicians weighed in with concerns about the advent of political correctness in the school playground.

Victorian Education Minister James Merlino distanced himself from the move. “While these are local decisions, I would have thought Mother’s Day was a great opportunity to celebrate not just mums but other carers and family members,” he said. “I know I will be spoiling my mother this ­Mother’s Day.”

Opposition education spokesman Nick Wakeling pointed the finger at the Andrews government for forcing “political correctness” on schools. “Mother’s Day is about celebrating the maternal figures in our lives, whether it is mum, grandma, an aunt or a female mentor, and honouring their contribution as women in society,” he said. “If it’s not banning the signing of traditional Christmas carols or reading classical fairy tales, (Premier) Daniel Andrews’ attack on our cultural traditions continues.”

Mr Lyon was not available for comment last night.


Victoria's bail system to become most onerous in Australia after review, State Government says

The Victorian Government says it will become harder for people accused of serious crimes to be released on bail as part of a shake-up of the system following Melbourne's Bourke Street rampage.

Attorney-General Martin Pakula said the Government would increase the number of offences which had a presumption against bail — toughening the requirements to satisfy a court to grant bail.

Mr Pakula said offences such as aggravated home invasion and carjacking would be treated "the same as murder or terrorism" for the purposes of bail, unless there were exceptional circumstances.

"There is always a balance between community safety and presumption of innocence in bail decisions," he said.

"What this report ensures is that community safety will be given a higher priority than ever before in our state.  "[This] will mean we will have the most onerous bail conditions in the country."

Those who commit serious offences while on bail, summons or parole will not be granted bail again unless they can prove exceptional circumstances.

The changes follow a review of the bail system by Supreme Court Justice Paul Coghlan.

Mr Pakula said the Government would also limit the role of volunteer bail justices, and establish a new bail and remand court.

After-hours magistrates' courts were established after the Bourke Street rampage.

The courts consider bail applications for people charged with violent crimes when police oppose bail.

Dimitrious Gargasoulas was granted bail by an out-of-sessions bail justice just days before he allegedly drove his car along Melbourne's busy Bourke Street pedestrian mall in January, killing six and injuring more than 30 people.

Gargasoulas has been charged with six counts of murder.

Mr Pakula said night courts would transition to the new bail and remand court, which would operate between 9:00am and 10:00pm.

He said the role of bail justices would be reduced to dealing with offences by children or vulnerable adults.

Victorian police would also be given more powers to remand people out of hours.

Mr Pakula admitted the changes would lead to more pressure on the state's prison system, but said a new 1,000-bed prison at Ravenhall to be built this year would help deal with the increase in prisoner numbers.

"We do realise there will be more people held on remand as a consequence of these changes, there's no question about that," he said.

In the review, Justice Coghlan said there was a public perception that too many people were being granted bail but this was not reflected by the data.

    "A significant problem with the bail system at present is the apparent lack of public confidence in the system," he said in his report.

"The number of people received into adult prison on remand in 2015-2016 was 70 per cent higher than in 2010-2011.

"The data also shows that bail is refused more often now than five years ago."

Mr Pakula said the Government supported all 37 recommendations made by Justice Coghlan, and would move to table legislation later this month and later in the year.
Sick to death of 'weak' bail system

The Victorian Opposition branded the proposed changes "weak and cosmetic".

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said cultural change was needed so people would fear the consequences of their crimes.

"These changes simply just don't go far enough. These changes are simply cosmetic," he said.

"There are some small steps forward but they are very small.

"Victorians are sick to death of a weak bail system."

Wayne Gatt, secretary of the Police Association, the union representing officers, said the devil would be in the detail because the current laws were being misapplied and were too weak.

"One of the real needs with this legislation is for it to be strong and unambiguous," he said.

"It needs to be really clear and put the community first.

"It needs to send a strong message that the outcomes at court reflect the intent of those people drafting the legislation."


Glencore's coal chief, Peter Freyberg, says Australia has passed a tipping point in its energy crisis

Glencore has warned that Australia has drifted past a "tipping point" of industrial energy "demand destruction" and that the nation has 12 months to re-establish reliability and affordability of its base load power capacity or risk permanent and unpredictable shifts in the shape of the economy.

The commentary by the most senior Glencore executive based in Australia, global coal boss Peter Freyberg, comes as the future of the Swiss-based miner's Queensland copper mining and processing estate is being undermined by a concert of uncertainties over the availability and price of gas and electricity supplies.

While Freyberg resisted our invitation for comment on the uncertain state of Glencore's copper business, Glencore's coal man seized the opportunity to express frustration that 15 years of failed governance had reduced one of the world's biggest energy exporters to a state of domestic shortage and paradigm-shifting pricing unpredictability.

"We have to meet Australia's energy needs now, in five years, 10 years and 15 years. We can't rely on blue-sky thinking. There is an energy crisis in the world's largest exporter of coal, the second largest exporter of gas and a major exporter of uranium. We need real solutions. Unless we make decisions really quickly, and I mean in the next 12 months, that re-establish base load capacity then we have no chance of sustaining the economy in the shape that it is in now.

"In the end the market will work its way to balance," Freyberg continued. "It will stabilise – but the wrong way and for the wrong reason. The inability to secure affordable base load supply means that the problem will be fixed by demand destruction.

"We are beyond the tipping point in terms of industrial demand destruction. And when capacity is closed and plants are shut down, they don't come back.

"As an aside," Freyberg added, "nationalising gas production is not the solution.

"Making sure that the incredible resources in the ground are developed is a solution. Short-term intervention is not going to fix a problem. Until gas is drilled in NSW and Victoria we will be in deep, deep trouble."

Glencore's North Queensland copper business stretches from the legendary Mt Isa copper mines to a copper refinery and export facility at Townsville and it currently counts 3200 Australians as employees and $1.1 billion as its annual contribution to the state economy.

But each arm of the Glencore business is being challenged by high energy prices and an inability to either secure gas supply contracts or to make any sort of bankable power price forecasts.

Glencore is said to have taken the opportunity of Tuesday's prime ministerial visit to the company's Townsville copper smelter to offer a frank assessment of the state of national energy markets and the imminence of hard decisions that the current crisis is generating.

For the record, the average price of power in Queensland through the March quarter more than doubled against the same period last year. To put firm numbers around that price increase, the average spot price of electricity in Queensland through the March quarter was $173.98 a megawatt hour. The March quarter average in 2016 was $80/MWh.

The accounting of that average is telling. In January, while other state markets circled averages of $80/MWh, the Queensland average was $197.65/MWh. Through January 2016, Queensland's average price was $51.55/MWh. A wildly hot February saw Queensland's average price shoot up to $239.59/MWh, again about twice what it was the previous year.

Through January and February this year there were at least 44 separate occasions when Queensland's generators pushed prices to the market maximum of $14,000/MWh. And a series of reviews of price peaks by the market regulator revealed that many of those peaks were unexpected and the result of generators removing capacity and then re-bidding back into the system.

To be fair, the review findings were not consistent. The regulator also found that the integration of Queensland's generators with other state markets saw peak pricing migrate from NSW and South Australia into the Sunshine state.
 Perilous opportunism

Nonetheless, many major industrial customers continue to maintain that Queensland's state-owned generators have been acting with enriching but perilous opportunism in pushing prices to the regulated ceiling when demand is high.

It is understood that Glencore recently stopped importing copper anode to support cathode production at its Townsville plant because of those surging power prices. And the company is said to have baulked at investing something less than $50 million in a re-lining of its Mt Isa copper smelter because of uncertainty over the availability and price of gas.

Pushed to confirm delays of reinvestment in the Mt Isa smelter and that Townsville had ceased importing feed-stock, the asset manager of Glencore's copper assets in North Queensland, Louis Chiat, said: "We have started to make decisions [in response]. Future investment decisions are [going to be] of a much bigger nature."

Importantly, the fate of copper mining at Mt Isa does not necessarily swing on the economics of Glencore's copper processing chain with production able to be shipped directly to customers in a marketable concentrate. But like so many mature copper mines around the globe, Mt Isa faces a cost challenge given that its underground network has to reach ever deeper to extract ore of ever lower grades.

The Glencore position is that the erosion of Australia's base load capacity caused by a policy preference for intermittent renewable options has left the national market critically exposed to peak-demand shortages. And Freyberg's forthright criticism completes an unwelcome trifecta for our federal and state governments.

After power interruptions brought BHP Billiton's Olympic Dam to a halt for a second time in a month late last year chief executive Andrew Mackenzie warned the energy insecurity threatened new and existing investments and Australian jobs.

Just 24 hours before the Freyberg broadside Rio Tinto's new boss, Jean-Sebastien Jacques, called for regulation of the Queensland power market because of the miner's inability to secure financially viable power prices for supply of one of its Queensland aluminium smelters.

In March, Rio shut 14 per cent of its production at the Boyne Island smelter for want of an acceptable electricity supply contract. Rio generates 86 per cent of its own power for the Gladstone-based smelter but had been acquiring the balance of its needs from the spot market. A two-year effort to replace that spot exposure with contracted supply proved unsuccessful and, as a result, an equivalent quantum of Boyne production was closed.

That meant more than 100 Australians lost their jobs and Rio surrendered 80,000 tonnes a year of aluminium exports. It is worth digesting in full the transcript of Jacques's spiky post-annual general meeting contribution to the national energy debate. His frankness announces, with equal force, the depth of Rio's anxiety and the difference in style Jacques will bring to Rio.

"I was in Canberra four weeks ago and we met quite a few government officials," he started. "The Queensland situation needs to be fixed. What's happening is absolutely wrong at this point in time."

Jacques said the power price Boyne was paying "was so high that it didn't make any sense any more for us to produce". "As a result, 100 of our colleagues lost their jobs," he said.

"You've got endless power capacity in Queensland and the regulation, the regulatory environment, doesn't work. I'm happy to be quoted on this one to say, it's time for the federal government to step in and to sort this one out. Because at the end of the day you can't say, on one side, you want to create jobs, create economic benefits in Australia, and [then] not sort out the power [supply], and it's absolutely wrong.

"We had a very open conversation, very blunt conversation with the government, and the opposition on this one, that this has to be fixed for the benefit, not only Rio Tinto.

"Forget about Rio Tinto for one minute here. It's for the benefit of the people in Queensland, for the short, medium, and long term. Power is essential. Power in Queensland needs to be fixed, and it's not a lack of capacity. It's a question of regulation here."


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here