Sep 15 2014

Australian protest crackdowns ramp up

It’s been a bad week for activists in Queensland, with the Liberal National state government making rapid-fire attacks on their political rights.

Firstly, activists Aleta Tulk and Adam Brooker were handed a three-month good behaviour bond for chalking on a Cairns footpath: “G20 benefits the 1%”. Tulk has no criminal history and says she will continue to speak out. She says she did not intend to cause permanent damage to the path, hence her decision to use chalk: “I even tested it before on my own driveway to make sure it would wash off.” The local council has indeed washed away the message.

Secondly, police raided the home of sixty-year-old grandmother Myra Gold, who had also been questioned about the chalking incident. They arrived at 7am (when she was in bed) with a search warrant to arrest her for allegedly placing a small sticker on a pole at a shopping centre bearing the same slogan, “G20 benefits the 1%”, about which there was apparently a complaint. When she asked why she was being arrested, an officer told her: “You have to learn that you can’t keep putting up stickers.” They seized as evidence 5 pages of stickers, her phone, and several items of clothing. Gold, who has not confessed, says: “This is political – many businesses and companies use stickers and posters around town and they do not get arrested.”

Thirdly, Office Works has been instructed not to print any anti-G20 protest material.

Both state and federal governments have passed laws prohibiting any behaviour “capable of disrupting” the G20. 700 extra police will arrive in Cairns for the Finance Ministers’ meeting next week, with the big G20 summit to be held in Brisbane on 15-16 November. The conference will not discuss the most important issue of our time, climate change. Continue reading

Sep 10 2014

Disruption: join global climate march on 21 September

Take an hour to watch this video, which explains why you should join your local People’s Climate March on 21 September:

The march is associated with this petition, already signed by 313,000 967,000 of the world’s citizens.

Tell all your friends!

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: Continue reading

Sep 05 2014

Anti-protest laws come into effect

Here’s a video about Victoria’s anti-protest laws, which came into effect this week:

These laws have been introduced by the so-called “Liberal Party” whose ideology is supposed to be all about protecting our freedoms, including free speech. The laws prove that despite their rhetoric, the Liberals do not really care about political freedoms. They care only about the economic freedom of corporations, and protecting the operations of those corporations from dissidents. Neoliberal capitalism appears to be becoming the sort of totalitarian ideology it claimed to oppose: willing to protect economic liberalism even at the cost of political authoritarianism.

The Liberals see opposition to the economic system as a threat. Unfortunately, the truly greatest threat to public safety and security is what our present economic system is doing to the climate.

Aug 29 2014

A year in Abbottland

12 months into the Abbott government, its misdeeds could fill an entire book. But here I’ll attempt to summarize them, as it’s important we remember them all to maintain the rage. If you think this article is too long, blame Tony Abbott.

Each claim is backed up by evidence with the links throughout – a version without links is available at The Political Sword if you’d prefer to read it that way.

For 28 months, they promised to reveal all their policies and budget cuts “in good time before the next election”. In reality, they walked away from unwanted questions, hid major policies and cuts until 36 hours before the election, hid others until after the WA by-election, and continue to hide behind a series of reviews stacked with hand-picked ideologues who anyone can see will recommend a radical right-wing agenda.

They promised to govern for all Australians, and not pick winners. In reality, their every decision makes the rich richer, the privileged more privileged, and the powerful more powerful, while finding ever more humiliating ways to bully the poor, disadvantaged, and powerless. Abbott (along with his unprecedentedly powerful chief of staff Peta Credlin) has appointed a Cabinet containing just one woman, no non-Christians, and no climate or science minister; surrounded himself with advisors who look, talk, and think like him (ie. old, male, conservative, climate-change-denying business lobbyists); sacked public servants perceived as disloyal; abolished multiple expert advisory bodies; reinstated knights and dames; and failed to condemn extreme views expressed by colleagues and advisors. Continue reading

Aug 22 2014

Is Energy Australia lying to its customers?

My household recently switched energy companies. The main reason was that the one we left, Energy Australia, has been lobbying to sabotage the federal Renewable Energy Target (RET). When an employee asked us why we were leaving we told them so, to which they innocently responded that Energy Australia is a leader in renewable energy and couldn’t possibly be doing anything to oppose it. I’ve heard similar platitudes before from an Origin Energy employee.

One of the most frustrating things in politics is having to deal with professionals who assume they know more than I do, when it’s pretty clear to me that they are either misled or lying. Either that employee has naively bought into their corporation’s propaganda, or they are wilfully promoting it. Here I’ll expose the duplicity.

Energy Australia is one of the country’s big three “gentailers”, invested in both the generation and retailing of electricity, and the vast majority of its generation investments are in fossil fuels. Based on Energy Australia’s latest Sustainability Report, 96% of the company’s electricity generation assets are coal- or gas-fired, and if you also include gas storage and processing, an even greater proportion of the total energy generated by the company. In the last five years it has increased its fossil fuel capacity by 75%, making Energy Australia the third largest emitter in Australia’s electricity sector.

The other two gentailers, Origin and AGL, also continue to invest in fossil fuels; Greenpeace has just released a report describing them as the “Dirty Three”. Origin, betting on a gas boom, has increasingly invested in coal seam gas (increasing its fossil fuel capacity by 87% over five years) and moved away from renewables (which now produce a mere 0.5% of its electricity). AGL has more investments in renewables, but this week bought Macquarie Generation, more than doubling AGL’s fossil fuel investments and making it the biggest polluter of all (with over 90% of its profits to come from fossil fuels). All three do offer a “100% GreenPower” option, but that just places the responsibility to pay for climate action on individuals rather than corporations or governments.

Moreover I want to ask the gentailers’ defenders: If you think they are so great on renewable energy, then how do you explain the fact that they are campaigning against it? Continue reading

Aug 11 2014

Time to move on from the carbon tax

On 17 July, Australia’s carbon tax was repealed.

I was originally going to write about all the political theatre and drama associated with the repeal, but in the final analysis it didn’t really matter that much. At the end of the day, the carbon tax is dead. Tony Abbott’s Liberal government finally succeeded in killing it, with the roundabout support of coal mining billionaire Clive Palmer and near-unanimous applause from business lobbyists.

For four years, the carbon tax has taken centre stage in the Australian climate policy debate. The Liberals claimed it would destroy the economy. Labor touted it as an adequate solution to human-caused global warming and used it to justify cutting other climate policies. The Greens, having piled compromise upon compromise to get it legislated, tried to convince us to put all our efforts into protecting it as a first step to decarbonizing our economy. Despite it being a blatantly insufficient policy full of holes and time-bombs (particularly in the emissions trading phase it would have entered next year), voices calling for more meaningful climate action were marginalized.

All that time and effort has now disappeared down the drain. The Greens’ vaunted “first step” is now a footnote in Australian history. Abbott has turned the climate policy clock back to 2006 (and may soon turn it back further, if he decides to scrap the Renewable Energy Target too). That’s eight years wasted.

Although Australia currently has one of the most anti-climate governments, the story is pretty similar around the world: lots of talk, not much action.

While we’ve been squabbling over the carbon tax, Australia has been expanding its largest contribution to climate change: fossil fuel exports. Just a fortnight ago, the Abbott government approved Adani’s Carmichael coal mine in Queensland, which will produce four times the emissions of New Zealand. (You can sign a petition against the mine here.)

The newspapers make much of the fact that Palmer, and his ally Ricky Muir from the Motoring Enthusiasts, have chosen to distance themselves from Abbott’s agenda of total climate deregulation by supporting the continuation of selected existing climate institutions. But to me, when a coal mining billionaire and a motoring enthusiast are being most proactive in saving Australia’s existing climate policies, it’s an indication of just how inadequate those policies really are. Continue reading

Jul 03 2014

Palmer’s $0 carbon price will achieve zero

We Australians are more confused than ever about climate policy, according to a new poll – and who can blame us? Clive Palmer’s latest announcement has confused everyone, but don’t be fooled: Palmer’s policies, like those of the major parties, won’t achieve much.

Ever since his election last September, Liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been on a crusade to abolish all existing climate policies (which were already completely inadequate to deal with the climate crisis). He’s already abolished a long list of small programs, obstructed progress at climate talks, and tasked a denier with reviewing (read: scrapping) the Renewable Energy Target (RET). From 7 July, the first sitting day of the new Senate, his government will advance legislation to repeal the carbon tax (scheduled to soon become an emissions trading scheme or ETS), Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), and Climate Change Authority (CCA). Abbott proposes to replace these with a voluntary Emissions Reduction Fund. Labor and the Greens are trying to defend the policies they negotiated during the former government, meaning Abbott must persuade six of eight crossbench Senators to pass his repeal bills. Palmer controls a pivotal four Senators.

It’s hard to take seriously any climate policy from Palmer, as his aim to build Australia’s largest coal mine is a massive conflict of interests. He has accused the Greens of being funded by the CIA; he waited until just before an election to pay his carbon tax bill; and three months ago he misleadingly claimed nature emits more CO2 than humans. He now claims to have been enlightened by meeting Al Gore. Who knows what he will say or do tomorrow?

Having expressed a bewildering succession of contradictory positions on the repeal bills, Palmer waited until the last week of the outgoing Senate to show his hand. He did so in a grandiose press conference peppered with vaguely greenish and leftish clichés about the common good and the future of all people, with a partial endorsement from Gore and no opportunity for journalists to ask questions. Here’s his new policy in a nutshell: Continue reading

May 24 2014

Bust the budget 5: Lies and outrage

This is the final part of a series arguing against the Abbott government’s first budget. Part 1 summarizes the overall unfairness and debunks the justification offered for this agenda. Part 2 examines how the budget affects climate, environment, fossil fuel subsidies, business, and science. Part 3 examines how it affects the federation, education, and health. Part 4 examines how it affects welfare, industrial relations, and the size of government. This part discusses the government’s lies, the outraged reaction to the budget, and how it might be defeated.

Broken promises

The greatest critic of Tony Abbott’s budget is Tony Abbott. Before the election he said:


Continue reading

May 23 2014

Bust the budget 4: Low wages over welfare state

This is the fourth part of a series arguing against the Abbott government’s first budget. Part 1 summarizes the overall unfairness and debunks the justification offered for this agenda. Part 2 examines how the budget affects climate, environment, fossil fuel subsidies, business, and science. Part 3 examines how it affects the federation, education, and health. This part examines how it affects welfare, industrial relations, and the size of government.

Unless otherwise hyperlinked, budget facts are sourced from either Joe Hockey’s budget speech or Sally McManus’s “Tracking Abbott’s Wreckage”.

Neglecting the needy

There are massive cuts to welfare.

Eligibility thresholds for the following welfare payments will be frozen from either this year or 2017: Family Tax Benefit, Child Care Benefit, Child Care Rebate, Newstart Allowance, Parenting Payments, Youth Allowance, Aged Pension, Carer Payment, Disability Support Pension, and Veterans’ Service Pension.

Australians under 30 must wait up to 6 months before getting the (already unliveable) Newstart unemployment benefit, then participate in 25 hours a week of work-for-the-dole activities to be eligible for benefits for 6 months, then be cut off for another 6 months, and so on until they get a job. The eligibility age for Newstart and the Sickness Allowance will be raised to 25, with unemployed Australians under 25 having to apply for the even smaller Youth Allowance. Oh, and indexation of these payments will be frozen for three years.

Meanwhile the budget makes it harder for young people to get jobs, cutting programs to help connect young people with businesses, paying up to $10,000 to businesses who employ unemployed people over 50, and reducing the maximum redundancy payment. Continue reading