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Sep 09 2014

A year in Abbott’s war on the environment

Yesterday the Australian Government released a pamphlet celebrating its first anniversary. Buried within its spin-filled list of “achievements” is “protecting our local environment” (apparently via planting a few trees). In reality, Tony Abbott’s Liberal/National Coalition government has waged a nonstop war on climate change and environment policies. For the record, I’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the Abbott government’s real first year in environment policy – and it isn’t pretty:

  • 36 hours before the election: The Coalition announces cuts to its own proposed climate policies (the “Direct Action Plan”) – halving the Million Solar Roofs program from $1 billion to $500 million, redirecting funding from Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to pay for the other half, and cancelling “clean energy hubs” and “geothermal and tidal towns” programs. They also quietly release an energy policy document promising to fast-track coal mines and restore the profitability of coal-fired power stations.
  • 7 September 2013: 44% of Australians have a fit of madness and elect Abbott government.
  • 8 September 2013: PM-elect Abbott instructs the public service to begin drafting legislation to repeal the carbon tax.
  • 9 September 2013: Abbott declares “my top legislative priority is scrapping the carbon tax”.
  • 10 September 2013: Environment Minister Greg Hunt announces 33 climate bodies will be consolidated into just three: ARENA, Low Carbon Australia, and Clean Energy Regulator, to be overseen by the environment and industry departments. (The Department of Climate Change had already been abolished by the dying Labor government.)
  • 10 September 2013: Hunt reaffirms the Coalition intends to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) after it ceased loans in a plea to be spared, even though it has made a profit.
  • 11 September 2013: Hunt confirms climate cuts announced just before the election.
  • 16 September 2013: Abbott appoints a Cabinet containing no climate change or science minister, at least 42% of whom openly deny the science of climate change. (Government backbenches also include climate deniers such as Cory Bernardi.)
  • 17 September 2013: Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane announces a “use it or lose it” policy on mining permits, to ensure “every molecule of gas that can come out of the ground does so”.
  • 18 September 2013: Abbott and his Cabinet sworn in.
  • 18 September 2013: The Government sacks several department heads associated with climate policy, including Treasury head Martin Parkinson and energy department head Blair Comley.
  • 18 September 2013: The Government shifts responsibility for international climate change negotiations to foreign affairs department, which prioritizes the supposed national interest over climate action.
  • 18 September 2013: Treasurer Joe Hockey writes to CEFC instructing it to cease making new loans, though this turns out to be impossible without legislation.
  • 18 September 2013: Macfarlane confirms there will be an inquiry into the imagined health impact of wind farms.
  • 19 September 2013: Hunt abolishes the Climate Commission, claiming it is unnecessary and that his department will now provide advice on climate change.
  • 19 September 2013: Hunt signs executive orders to close Climate Change Authority (CCA), though this turns out to be impossible without legislation.
  • 22 September 2013: Hunt revises downward the estimated amount of emissions reductions (relative to business-as-usual) necessary to achieve the Government’s emissions target of a 5% reduction by 2020.
  • 23 September 2013: Agriculture parliamentary secretary Richard Colbeck announces the Government will use a review of competition laws to look at outlawing environmentalist boycott campaigns.
  • 23 September 2013: Macfarlane backflips on an election commitment to support NSW’s laws preventing coal seam gas (CSG) exploration within 2km of a residential area.
  • 26 September 2013: Macfarlane intervenes to fast-track NSW CSG projects.
  • 26 September 2013: Abbott appoints climate denier Maurice Newman as his chief business advisor, a week after Newman attacked CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology for using government money to “propagate the myth of anthropological climate change”.
  • 28 September 2013: Hunt claims the new IPCC report supports his government’s policies, refusing to increase the emissions target or announce any new climate policies. In reality, the Government’s target and policies are a ludicrously inadequate response to the urgent crisis spelled out in the report.
  • 28 September 2013: Hunt refuses to release a draft agreement with Queensland on delegating federal environmental approval powers to the states.
  • 3 October 2013: Approves a Santos CSG exploration drilling project.
  • 15 October 2013: Abbott releases carbon tax repeal draft legislation.
  • 21 October 2013: Tightening eligibility requirements for disaster victims to receive recovery funds, while Abbott flaunts his volunteer firefighting for the newspapers.
  • 22 October 2013: Abbott appoints climate denier Tony Shepherd to lead Commission of Audit.
  • 23 October 2013: Abbott denies the link between climate change and bushfires.
  • 24 October 2013: Hockey releases mining tax repeal draft legislation.
  • 25 October 2013: Hunt selectively quotes Wikipedia to deny the link between climate change and bushfires, and refuses to say whether he accepts human-caused global warming is real.
  • 28 October 2013: The Government releases data showing growth in fossil fuel mining is cancelling out emissions cuts from falling electricity demand.
  • 30 October 2013: Hunt dismisses a CCA draft report calling for Australia to adopt stronger emissions targets (though the report had faults).
  • 1 November 2013: Hunt approves GVK’s and Hancock’s Kevin’s Corner coal mine.
  • 3 November 2013: Abbott refuses to comment on his self-described ideological father John Howard’s speech to the denialist Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), in which Howard admitted his own climate policies had been intended to placate the public while protecting industry and praised Abbott for having “challenged what seemed to be a political consensus on global warming”.
  • 6 November 2013: The Government cancels briefings on the position Australia will take at Warsaw COP19 climate talks.
  • 7 November 2013: The Government snubs the climate talks by neglecting to send a minister or even a parliamentary secretary to Warsaw, as they are needed at home to repeal the carbon tax.
  • 8 November 2013: Abolishes High Speed Rail Advisory Group.
  • 11 November 2013: A leaked Cabinet decision reveals that in Warsaw Australia will refuse to agree to any new climate spending or taxes, which the document describes as “socialism masquerading as environmentalism”.
  • 11 November 2013: Australian delegates in Warsaw are awarded a “Fossil of the Day” by Climate Action Network for refusing to commit any climate finance for poor countries, after Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines and the Filipino delegation called for urgent action.
  • 12 November 2013: Abbott abandons his promised conditional emissions reduction targets of 15-25% by 2020 (after CCA argued the conditions for 15% had been met), saying Australia won’t review its target until 2015 and inventing a new condition for increasing it: “very serious like-binding commitments from other countries”. Hunt falsely claims the conditions have not changed, when in reality the old conditions can still be viewed on the Environment Department website.
  • 12 November 2013: Abbott misleadingly claims renewable energy is expensive and intermittent, and laments that wind turbines are “sprouting like mushrooms”.
  • 13 November 2013: On the first day of the new Parliament, Abbott personally introduces legislation to repeal the carbon and mining taxes, Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), and CCA, describing these as “signature” laws and saying “the adults are back in charge”.
  • 13 November 2013: Abbott cuts ARENA’s budget by two-thirds. However, Macfarlane claims ARENA will still have over $2.5 billion in funds out to 2022.
  • 13 November 2013: Australian delegates in Warsaw receive a second Fossil for the aforementioned actions of their colleagues back home.
  • 14 November 2013: The Government cuts funding for research grants, as Liberal Senator Ian Macdonald attacks the Australian Research Council for funding too much climate change research.
  • 14 November 2013: Coalition and Labor Senators block a Greens motion to fulfil the Coalition’s election promise to give landholders the right to say no to CSG mining.
  • 14 November 2013: Australian delegates in Warsaw receive a third Fossil for attaching conditions to everything, objecting to funding arrangements agreed last year, and even opposing insurance provisions despite those having been mentioned in the 1992 convention that started the climate talks.
  • 16 November 2013: Australian delegates in Warsaw receive a fourth Fossil for opposing the entire concept of climate finance despite it having already been agreed years ago, describing it as “not realistic”, “not acceptable”, and “not welfare”. Even a Bush-era US negotiator describes Australia as extreme after it rejected a finance position paper prepared by its Umbrella allies.
  • 17 November 2013: The Government ignores 60,000 Australians rallying for climate action.
  • 17 November 2013: Environment department officials refuse an FoI request for their brief to the incoming minister, saying they fear for their jobs.
  • 17 November 2013: At a Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) meeting, Abbott refuses to support a statement in a communiqué supporting the Green Climate Fund (GCF), nonsensically describing it as “a Bob Brown Bank on an international scale”.
  • 19 November 2013: Fossil-fuel-funded denialist Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) congratulates Australian delegates in Warsaw, saying “Australia gets it.”
  • 20 November 2013: Abbott appoints climate denier David Murray to lead a banking inquiry, a month after Murray accused climate scientists of having no integrity and said the government should set up an inquiry into their supposed scientific fraud instead of cutting emissions.
  • 20 November 2013: Mining tax repeal bill passes House of Representatives.
  • 20 November 2013: Introduces a bill to prevent Infrastructure Australia from researching the climate impacts of infrastructure.
  • 20 November 2013: Australian delegates in Warsaw receive a fifth Fossil for blocking progress on a loss-and-damage mechanism by trying to go back on what was agreed in 2012, opposing G77 proposals on non-economic losses and permanent losses, opposing strongly worded decision text, blocking any promising avenue of agreement, and delaying negotiations through procedural measures.
  • 20 November 2013: The obstructionism of Australian delegates in Warsaw leads G77+China to walk out of loss-and-damage talks, accusing Australian delegates of acting “cavalier” and “insensitive” about a matter of life and death by giggling, eating snacks, and wearing T-shirts.
  • 21 November 2013: Speaker Bronwyn Bishop refuses to allow amendments to carbon tax repeal legislation.
  • 21 November 2013: Climate action repeal bills pass House of Representatives.
  • 21 November 2013: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop ignores an invitation to visit the Marshall Islands and see the impacts of climate change there.
  • 21 November 2013: Australian delegates in Warsaw receive a sixth Fossil for continuing the same actions that earned them their fifth.
  • 22 November 2013: Australian delegates in Warsaw receive the year’s “Colossal Fossil” for generally playing a obstructive role.
  • 29 November 2013: Hunt claims the Government still intends to spend $600 million on its election solar programs ($500 million for Million Solar Roofs and $50 million each on Solar Towns and Solar Schools), a statement which will later turn out not to be endorsed by the PM.
  • 2 December 2013: Climate action repeal bills introduced to Senate, where Greens and Labor Senators split them into three components: carbon tax, CEFC, and CCA.
  • 2 December 2013: Mining tax repeal bill introduced to Senate.
  • 4 December 2013: Abbott defends the Howard government’s spying on a foreign government on behalf of fossil fuel companies.
  • 5 December 2013: Macfarlane releases terms of reference for a new energy white paper focused on growing fossil fuel exports.
  • 5 December 2013: Trade Minister Andrew Robb announces Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement including investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), potentially threatening environment policies.
  • 9 December 2013: The Government releases terms of reference for an agriculture white paper which intends to make Australia the “food bowl of Asia” but fails to mention how this is possible in a warming world.
  • 9 December 2013: Coalition and Labor pass a law granting the Government legal immunity from challenges to past environmental approvals.
  • 10 December 2013: Coalition Senators attempt to pass CEFC repeal bill, but are blocked by Greens and Labor Senators.
  • 10 December 2013: Hunt approves Adani’s proposed T0 coal export terminal (whose owner has given Abbott a silver Indian vase and pashmina wrap), as well as dredging for two other new terminals by GVK and Hancock, at the appropriately named Abbot Point. He simultaneously approves an Arrow coal seam gas processing facility on Curtis Island, and a transmission pipeline to supply it.
  • 11 December 2013: The Government reverses the “critically endangered” listing of the Murray Darling Basin
  • 11 December 2013: Attorney-General George Brandis announced a law reform inquiry which will focus partly on weakening environmental regulations.
  • 12 December 2013: The Government offers to agree to ISDS in the Trans-Pacific Partnership in return for greater access to sugar markets.
  • 13 December 2013: At the Council of Australian Governments, all states and territories sign up to take on responsibility for federal environmental assessment powers within 12 months, despite a Senate inquiry having debunked the business lobby’s claims about “green tape”.
  • 13 December 2013: The Government scraps COAG Standing Council on Environment and Water.
  • 13 December 2013: The Government neutralizes the status of marine parks recently established by the former government.
  • 17 December 2013: Mid-Year Economic Forecast cuts all federal legal aid for environmentalists (as demanded by the mining lobby).
  • 17 December 2013: Mid-Year Economic Forecast abolishes Low Carbon Communities, cuts funding for Energy Efficiencies Opportunities, and redirects funding from a conservation program to an inquiry into home insulation.
  • 17 December 2013: Mid-Year Economic Forecast scraps Home Energy Saver Scheme.
  • 17 December 2013: The Government releases Energy White Paper issues paper, which continues to ignore climate change and foreshadows considering nuclear power.
  • 17 December 2013: Brandis appoints as “freedom commissioner” Tim Wilson from the denialist Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), a right-wing think tank which has been closely affiliated with the Liberal Party since they were both established in 1943.
  • 18 December 2013: Abbott says he will consult Newman on what to do about the Renewable Energy Target (RET).
  • 20 December 2013: Hunt approves mining billionaire politician Clive Palmer’s China First coal mine and associated rail line, after Palmer demanded accelerated approval. He simultaneously approves Surat Gas Expansion.
  • 20 December 2013: The Government tries to avoid scrutiny of Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF), the Government’s central climate policy, by releasing its Green Paper on the last day before Xmas. The ERF is a limited pot of money to pay polluting companies for voluntary efficiency improvements they probably would have made anyway, while allowing total emissions to continue rising along with production growth.
  • 20 December 2013: The Government announces a climate policy “Expert Reference Group” consisting almost entirely of corporate executives, lobbyists, and consultants, most of whom opposed the carbon tax. They include Frontier Economics chair Danny Price; Exigency Management director Adrian Palmer; Australian Industry Greenhouse Network CEO Alex Gosman; Minerals Council of Australia CEO Brendan Pearson; Energy Retailers Association Australia CEO Cameron O’Reilly; Business Council of Australia CEO Jennifer Westacott; Australian Chair of Commerce and Industry CEO Kate Carnell; National Farmers Federation CEO Matt Linnegar who last year said his members have “a variety of views” on what is causing climate change; and Energy Supply Association of Australia CEO Matthew Warren, who also downplayed climate change in his previous jobs as Clean Energy Council CEO, The Australian environment editor, and NSW Minerals Council director.
  • 22 December 2013: Breaks a promise to provide a boat to monitor Southern Ocean whaling.
  • 31 December 2013: Newman writes an opinion piece claiming climate change science is a massive conspiracy and regurgitating long-debunked denialist arguments.
  • 9 January 2014: Hunt exempts Western Australia from threatened species laws so he can approve a shark cull.
  • 11 January 2014: The Australian reports that Hunt and Macfarlane want to sabotage the RET by reducing it to 20%, while every other minister wants to scrap it.
  • 13 January 2014: The Government renames the Australian Cleantech Competition the Australian Technologies Competition.
  • 23 January 2014: Hunt confirms the Government is seeking to revoke the World Heritage status of Tasmanian forests.
  • 24 January 2014: The Government undermines the independence of Infrastructure Australia
  • 27 January 2014: The Government withholds a report on the supposed health impact of wind farms so it can press on with an “independent” study on the same topic.
  • 31 January 2014: Hunt approves the dumping of three million cubic metres of dredged seabed in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
  • 2 February 2014: Hunt announces a “Reef 2050 Plan” which he claims will protect the Reef by restricting where developments can occur, when in reality the plan cuts Reef Rescue funding and does not rule out new coal ports (which contribute to the global warming killing coral reefs).
  • 3 February 2014: Documents released under FoI expose the falsity of Hunt’s claim that the impact of Reef dredge dumping will be offset by government conditions.
  • 3 February 2014: As required by law, political parties disclose large donations they received during FY2012-13. The Coalition disclosed over $1 million from mining and energy companies, and $42,000 from Palmer despite him leading a separate party.
  • 4 February 2014: A leak exposes a secret taskforce to market coal seam gas to NSW voters.
  • 14 February 2014: Abbott appoints climate denier Nick Minchin (who has said climate change is a plot to “de-industrialise the western world”) as consul-general to New York.
  • 17 February 2014: As some rural towns seriously consider the possibility they could soon run out of water, Abbott rules out a long-term drought policy accounting for climate change, saying “there have always been good times and bad, tough and lush times”.
  • 17 February 2014: Macfarlane and Hunt appoint climate denier and former Caltex chair Dick Warburton to review the RET, along with fossil fuel industry economic consultant Brian Fisher and Verve Energy CEO Shirley In’t Veld.
  • 26 February 2014: Abbott announces a one-off drought relief package which fails to account for climate change.
  • 27 February 2014: Hunt dismisses a CCA report calling for Australia to adopt stronger emissions targets (though the report had faults).
  • 27 February 2014: The Government cancels funding to save the Sumatran rhinoceros from extinction.
  • 28 February 2014: Hunt delegates responsibility for approving offshore oil and gas projects to an agency of petroleum executives with no environmental expertise.
  • 3 March 2014: Coalition Senators attempt to pass CCA abolition bill, but are blocked by Greens and Labor Senators.
  • 4 March 2014: Abbott forms a new timber industry advisory council, describing loggers as “the ultimate conservationists”, saying there is “too much locked up forest”, and falsely claiming Tasmanian World Heritage forests are not pristine.
  • 4 March 2014: Environment Department cuts 200 jobs.
  • 4 March 2014: The Government waits three weeks to provide assistance for Morwell residents affected by Hazelwood coal mine fire.
  • 5 March 2014: Hockey bullies Qantas (by threatening to withdraw industry subsidies) into blaming the carbon tax for job losses.
  • 6 March 2014: Coalition and Labor Senators again block a Greens motion to fulfil the Coalition’s election promise to give landholders the right to say no to CSG mining.
  • 6 March 2014: The Government approves cattle grazing in Alpine National Park.
  • 20 March 2014: CEFC repeal bill reintroduced to House of Representatives.
  • 20 March 2014: Coalition Senators attempt to pass carbon tax repeal bill, but are blocked by Greens and Labor Senators.
  • 25 March 2014: Coalition Senators attempt to pass mining tax repeal bill, but are blocked by Greens and Labor Senators.
  • 26 March 2014: Liberal Senators irrationally dissent from a Senate inquiry report exposing the Government’s climate policies as utter greenwash (though the report had faults).
  • 27 March 2014: CEFC repeal bill passes House of Representatives for the second time and reintroduced to Senate.
  • 5 April 2014: Warburton review tries to avoid scrutiny of its initial discussion paper, canvassing a number of different possible ways to weaken the RET, by releasing it on the day of the WA Senate re-election after the Australian Solar CouncIl (ASC) specifically demanded it be released before the election.
  • 7 April 2014: Environment Department slashes another 480 jobs as part of a $100 million funding cut.
  • 16 April 2014: When asked about renewable energy, Hunt says “coal will be a fundamental part of the world energy mix for decades and decades, if not more” and talks up speculative algae technologies that will supposedly make coal cleaner.
  • 17 April 2014: Brandis accuses “true believers in climate change” of being “ignorant”, “medieval”, and trying to shut down debate, apparently forgetting some of his government’s actions in this regard.
  • 22 April 2014: Newman in an interview claims the Earth is cooling.
  • 23 April 2014: Warburton review appoints coal-affiliated consultant ACIL Allen to model a policy originally proposed by itself on behalf of Energy Australia.
  • 24 April 2014: The Government tries to avoid scrutiny of ERF White Paper by releasing it on the day before Anzac Day.
  • 30 April 2014: Warburton refuses to rule out scrapping the RET entirely.
  • 1 May 2014: Hunt ignorantly claims a Clean Energy Council report on the benefits of the RET “doesn’t make any sense”.
  • 1 May 2014: The Government releases a Commission of Audit report written by business lobbyists, which recommends abolishing CEFC and ethanol subsidies, halving funding for Landcare, prioritizing CSIRO funds, and replacing several disaster relief programs with one-off grants.
  • 2 May 2014: Hockey describes wind farms as “utterly offensive” and laments that existing ones are a “contractual obligation”.
  • 9 May 2014: The Government tries to avoid scrutiny of ERF exposure draft legislation by releasing it while political journalists were focused on the approaching budget.
  • 13 May 2014: Hockey makes no mention of climate or environment in his budget speech.
  • 13 May 2014: Budget introduces a $100 million fossil fuel Exploration Development Incentive.
  • 13 May 2014: Budget attempts to index fuel tax for ordinary motorists, but simultaneously indexes the rebate for heavy vehicle users so mining, farming, and trucking companies will pay ever less for fuel.
  • 13 May 2014: Budget includes $11 billion of new investment in roads, including federal funding for Melbourne’s controversial East-West Link, but no funding for public transport.
  • 13 May 2014: Budget cuts climate spending from $5.27 billion in FY2013-14 to $1.25 billion in FY2014-15.
  • 13 May 2014: Budget attempts to scrap ARENA, breaking a promise.
  • 13 May 2014: Budget wipes out Hunt’s promised $600 million for solar, reducing it to a mere $2 million in a few marginal electorates.
  • 13 May 2014: Budget delivers only $1.15 billion of the promised $2.55 billion for the ERF over four years (with $2.25 billion now allocated over ten years), though Hunt claims the total amount will still be spent.
  • 13 May 2014: Budget breaks a promise to reinstate Low Carbon Australia.
  • 13 May 2014: Budget presents as new redirected funds for tree-planting from Landcare to Green Army.
  • 13 May 2014: Budget redirects almost all funding for international forest protection programs to fund a global conference on rainforests.
  • 13 May 2014: Budget scraps National Solar Schools Plan, Energy Efficiency Programmes, Energy Efficiency Information Grants, and Low Carbon Communities.
  • 13 May 2014: Budget scraps Ethanol Production Grants and Cleaner Fuels Grants Scheme.
  • 13 May 2014: Budget cuts $125 million from the Clean Technology (Investment and Innovation) programs.
  • 13 May 2014: Budget renames the Clean Energy Supplement the “Energy Supplement” and cancels its indexation.
  • 13 May 2014: Budget scraps National Water Commission and caps water buybacks.
  • 13 May 2014: Budget slashes Biodiversity Fund.
  • 13 May 2014: Budget cuts another 129 jobs from the Environment Department, which already had too few compliance officials to verify businesses’ claims before approving projects.
  • 13 May 2014: Budget ceases Grants to Voluntary Environment, Sustainability and Heritage Organizations, disastrously for voluntary local environment groups.
  • 13 May 2014: Budget cuts funding from Bureau of Meteorology, and combines a climate science program with a broader environmental science one.
  • 13 May 2014: Budget cuts funding from CSIRO, Australian Research Council, Australian Institute of Marine Science, and Geoscience Australia.
  • 14 May 2014: As scientists warn the West Antarctic ice sheet has entered an “unstoppable” collapse, Macdonald scoffs: “the increasing ice cap in Antarctica… always makes me smile when people talk about global warming”.
  • 15 May 2014: Hunt delegates to the states the federal government’s power to protect groundwater from fossil fuel mining projects.
  • 29 May 2014: Abbott tells Minerals Council of Australia annual dinner he “can think of few things more damaging to our future” than leaving coal in the ground.
  • 5 June 2014: Abbott leaves climate change off the agenda of the Brisbane G20 summit in November (having said it would “clutter up the G20 agenda”), breaking an election promise to promote a climate agreement between major emitters.
  • 10 June 2014: Abbott forms an alliance with Canadian PM Stephen Harper against climate policies that cost industry, saying global warming is “not the only or even the most important problem that the world faces”.
  • 12 June 2014: Abbott snubs a personal invitation to attend the Ban Ki Moon climate summit on 21 September.
  • 12 June 2014: Hockey refuses to include climate change on G20 agenda, saying it is unlikely to come up because finance ministers are “focused on the things that are going to drive economic growth and create jobs, not impede them”.
  • 14 June 2014: In a discussion with Obama, Abbott misrepresents his fuel tax indexation policy as proof that he is committed to climate action.
  • 18 June 2014: Coalition Senators attempt to pass CEFC repeal bill, but are blocked for the second time by Greens and Labor Senators.
  • 18 June 2014: ERF legislation introduced to House of Representatives.
  • 20 June 2014: Coalition MP George Christensen calls for anti-coal groups to be removed from a register of environmental organizations eligible to receive tax-deductible donations.
  • 23 June 2014: Warburton review releases modelling which inconveniently shows the RET is working and reducing electricity prices, even after the modeller was instructed to ignore commercial realities preventing new coal power plants in Australia.
  • 23 June 2014: Climate action and mining tax repeal bills reintroduced to House of Representatives.
  • 25 June 2014: ERF legislation passes House of Representatives.
  • 26 June 2014: ERF legislation introduced to Senate.
  • 26 June 2014: Abbott meets with Palmer to negotiate on carbon tax repeal.
  • 26 June 2014: Carbon tax, mining tax, and CCA repeal bills pass House of Representatives for the second time.
  • 26 June 2014: Government accuses Labor of “drowning projects in red and green tape” for blocking the Coalition’s attempt to undermine the independence of Infrastructure Australia.
  • 26 June 2014: Government makes grants for NGOs conditional on lack of political advocacy.
  • 29 June 2014: Liberal Party adopts a policy of removing the tax-exempt status of environmental NGOs.
  • 30 June 2014: 25 mostly anonymous government MPs sign a petition advocating the RET be reduced and fully compensate aluminium smelters.
  • 1 July 2014: Senators elected in 2013 take their seats.
  • 7 July 2014: Carbon tax, mining tax, and CCA repeal bills reintroduced to Senate.
  • 10 July 2014: Coalition Senators attempt to pass carbon tax repeal bill, but are blocked for the second time by Greens, Labor, and Palmer United Senators.
  • 10 July 2014: Abbott opposes a G20 initiative to liberalize trade in the solar industry.
  • 14 July 2014: Coalition and Labor pass federal laws reinforcing Queensland laws banning G20 protests.
  • 14 July 2014: Carbon tax repeal bill, amended in Abbott-Palmer deal on compensation, is reintroduced and passes House of Representatives for the third time.
  • 15 July 2014: Carbon tax repeal bill introduced to Senate for the third time.
  • 17 July 2014: Amended carbon tax repeal passes Senate with Palmer’s support, while Macdonald and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce joke about it being a cold day.
  • 17 July 2014: Mining tax repeal bill amended by Palmer United Senators to keep associated spending and sent back to House of Representatives, which rejects the amended version.
  • 28 July 2014: Hunt approves Adani’s Carmichael coal mine.
  • 31 July 2014: Hunt falsely accuses Greenpeace of being partisan in its criticism of coal mine approvals.
  • 2 August 2014: Abbott and Hunt launch their “Green Army” of young Australians, who will be paid half the minimum wage with no employee rights to undertake climatically insignificant actions such as clearing rivers, serving only to distract from the unrestrained growth of fossil fuel mining, the main cause of global warming.
  • 11 August 2014: Abbott enthuses about Hunt’s rubber-stamping of fossil fuel mining projects worth over $800 billion, and implies he is already planning an attack on the RET.
  • 14 August 2014: Newman writes an opinion piece claiming the Earth is heading into an ice age and we won’t have enough electricity to keep warm because renewable energy is unreliable and expensive.
  • 18 August 2014: Australian Financial Review reveals Warburton has initially recommended reducing the RET to 20%, but Abbott has told him to go back and look at closing the RET entirely.
  • 18 August 2014: 4 Corners exposes leaked documents showing Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority ignored advice from its own scientists to say no to dredge dumping, because they were overruled by a politically appointed manager with no expertise who claimed the scientists’ risk assessment was flawed.
  • 21 August 2014: When ASC leader John Grimes starts a popular Save Solar campaign, Hunt publicly calls him a “total failure of an industry leader” for being “utterly partisan”, insisting the government is “committed to the Renewable Energy Target”.
  • 22 August 2014: Abbott, Macfarlane, and Hunt meet to discuss the future of the RET, with reportedly none of them supporting the status quo.
  • 28 August 2014: Warburton review reports, advising either immediately closing the RET, or phasing out its small-scale component by 2020 and reducing its large-scale component to 50% of electricity demand growth (ie. zero if demand continues falling). Either proposal would effectively kill the large-scale renewables industry and set back solar deployment by a decade. It also recommends counting voluntary household GreenPower purchases toward the RET. The report spins the RET as a relatively expensive climate policy despite its own modelling. The review also admits the true motivation for killing the RET: it “leads to a transfer of wealth among participants in the electricity market”.
  • 28 August 2014: Macfarlane says the Government’s final RET policy will be announced within a month, a time period which happens to coincide with AFL finals. Macfarlane (like Warburton himself) makes the illogical claim that Warburton’s recommendations were not influenced by his denialism, saying it is as irrelevant as which football team he supports. He also falsely claims the renewable energy industry wanted a review of the RET.
  • 28 August 2014: Hunt claims the RET will involve large penalties, failing to clarify that said penalties only apply to energy companies who neglect to invest in renewables.
  • 29 August 2014: Hunt says reducing to the RET to a “real 20%” would not amount to a broken promise.
  • 29 August 2014: When asked to give an example of an emissions reduction policy that would be more cost-effective than the RET, Warburton names the proposed ERF despite the fact that we don’t yet know how cost-effective it will be. He also implies the RET is costing taxpayers (when in reality it costs energy companies), and insists coal power stations won’t benefit from avoiding a loss of $9 billion if it is axed.
  • 31 August 2014: In an interview on The Bolt Report, Warburton falsely claims global temperature has not risen since 1998 and climate models are as inaccurate as energy market models.
  • 1 September 2014: ClimateWorks says Warburton review has misinterpreted its research about the costs of the RET.
  • 1 September 2014: Abbott and Palmer do a deal and introduce a mining tax repeal bill with amendments on associated spending (delaying low-income superannuation measures until the never-never and deferring abolition of several other welfare measures until after the next election). They rush it through House of Representatives for the third time before non-government members have a chance to read it.
  • 2 September 2014: Amended mining tax repeal passes Senate with Palmer’s support, before non-government Senators have a chance to read it.
  • 4 September 2014: Warburton claims the RET was “not set up to set up businesses or to try and encourage renewables into the marketplace”.
  • 4 September 2014: Abbott visits India with fossil fuel CEOs.
  • 4 September 2014: Meanwhile, back in reality, a CSIRO study finds the observed run of 353 months globally warmer than average is 99.999% certain to be caused by human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.
  • 7 September 2014: Mainstream media columnists are publishing retrospective pieces about the Abbott government’s first year, typically neglecting to criticize its attacks on our climate and environment.

I haven’t been surprised by the government’s anti-green direction, which has been evident since the day Tony Abbott was elected party leader. Nevertheless, in opposition Abbott and colleagues misleadingly promised to improve the environment, address climate change at no cost, rein in CSG, and keep the RET in its existing form. No doubt some voters concluded Abbott wouldn’t be so bad. They were conned.

Abbott also associates closely with other powerful climate deniers such as the IPA, mining billionaire Gina Rinehart, News Corp head Rupert Murdoch and commentator Andrew Bolt, former Western Mining CEO Hugh Morgan, and Cardinal George Pell. The Liberal Party is also linked to anti-wind front groups. Meanwhile, Liberal state governments have run a parallel crusade against climate and environment policies (some Victorian examples are listed here), moved to stop climate change being taught in schools, and increasingly restricted the right to protest.

All in all, it’s hard to avoid concluding that Abbott still holds the same position on climate change that he expressed shortly before becoming Opposition leader in 2009:

The argument is absolute crap. However, the politics of this are tough for us. Eighty per cent of people believe climate change is a real and present danger.

3 comments

2 pings

  1. kunstkitchen

    Startling and frightening compendium of what happened to Australian energy policies.

    1. James Wight

      Indeed! I was worried that it was so long nobody would read it.

      1. Cameron

        Great effort on keeping track of Abbott’s campaign to kill renewables! He shows an absolute contempt for science, the people, the environment and a sustainable intelligent progressive policy.
        I think the people running this government are absolutely corrupt! Thank you for continuing to shine a light on to this.. I will email this list to all my friends and family.
        Cam

  1. Dear Climate Change deniers. Explain this. | Well, This Is What I Think

    […] astonishing and exhaustive list of anti-environment moves made by the Abbott Government appeared on precariousclimate.com back in September last year. If you were ever in any doubt that […]

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