This article was originally published on Independent Australia on 29 August, 2014.
Yesterday, the findings of the Renewable Energy Target Review were announced. Deputy editorSandi Keane says the axing of the RET was a carefully orchestrated plan by the Abbott Government to appease its paymasters, Big Mining.
ONLY AN IDIOT with enough sawdust between the ears to bed an elephant could imagine theRenewable Energy Target (RET) could survive with two fossil fuel lobbyists and a pro-nuclear climate skeptic* presiding over its farcical “Review”.
The RET’s penalty for committing grievous bodily harm to mining profits was instant death by firing squad or slower death by hanging (reducing it by 60 per cent), as Infigen Energy’s Miles George described it on ABC News 24.
Who better to fudge the facts and confect a business argument to shove the RET where the sun don’t shine than former Caltex head, Dick Warburton and his two anti-renewable side-kicks Shirley In’t Veld (former head of WA’s biggest coal generator, Verve Energy) and Matt Zema (head of the Australian Energy Market Operator).
And to be sure that the modelling was massaged to get the Abbott Government’s pre-determined outcome, the job was given to consultants to the fossil fuel industry, ACIL Allen. Allen’s last controversial attempt to wind back the RET in 2012 using dodgy figures sparked a deservedly angry response from the industry and community alike.
There is little doubt that this clumsily orchestrated attack on renewable energy was to appease the Coalition’s paymasters, Big Mining. Remember the old adage: ‘If you take the King’s shilling, you do the King’s bidding’ (in this case, King Coal).
It explains the apparent “take-over” of the levers of power in Canberra by powerful vested interests.
If we had directly elected Australia’s powerful mining interests to parliament, the outcome would look like this (hands up if you see any resemblance to the Abbott Government’s current policy agenda):
- Axe the carbon price (a loss of $14 billion in income)
- Axe the Clean Energy Finance Corporation
- Axe the Climate Change Authority
- Axe the Australian Renewable Energy Agency
- Axe the Minerals Resource Rent Tax (a loss of $13 billion in income)
- Trash the renewables industry starting with the demonisation of wind farms, Big Coal’s biggest competitor in the energy market
- Axe the solar rebate and (State Coalition governments) wind back feed-in tariffs to reduce number of solar panel up-takes by householders
- Dump election promise for a ‘Million Solar Roofs’
- Water down environmental legislation such as the water trigger amendment to the Environmental Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act(EPBC Act) and transfer environmental powers to the states
- Employ the Abbott Government’s top business adviser, Maurice Newman, to fabricate doubt about the anthropogenic global warming so Big Mining can keep on polluting
- Dispense with the need for a Minister for Science (we don’t want facts about climate science muddying our campaign to debunk it)
- Stop teaching climate science in the schools, as voted by Queensland’s LNP at its 2012 conference. (Note: the LNP is the largest recipient of mining donations in Australia)
- Introduce major education reforms to decrease the number of Australians attending university and thereby decrease number of believers in global warming
- Lastly, but most importantly, ensure that the mining industry does not lose its $10 billion taxpayer-funded fossil fuel rebates or be asked in any way, shape or form to do its share of any ‘budget emergency’ lifting.
I’m sure IA readers can think of more!
It’s not that mining magnates – or the army of policy wonks, PR hacks, scientists, front groups, think tanks or political parties they fund – doubt the world is warming. Like Big Tobacco back in the tobacco wars of 60s and 70s, the tobacco industry was in no doubt about the link between cigarettes and lung cancer. The leaking of PR heavyweight Burson Marsteller’s email ‘Doubt is our Product’, laid bare the ruse behind tobacco’s denial campaign during the tobacco wars.
The same ruse has been used for the last decade by the mining industry to create doubt about global warming.
In Australia, this public brainwashing exercise has been driven by the fossil fuel industry’s front group and climate skeptic factory, the Institute of Public Affairsand the Murdoch media. For a full dossier of The Australian’s ‘War on Science’ see here.
Not surprisingly, it is no secret that Chairman and CEO of News Corp, Rupert Murdoch, is a major shareholder in fossil fuels.
The seemingly unlimited amount of money the mining industry is prepared to spend to protect future profits from action on global warming is well documented.Here’s an example in the Canberra Times taken from the Australian Electoral Register (AEC).
What the AEC fails to document are the source of funds from the Liberal Party’s biggest donors, the Cormack Foundation, Greenfields Foundation and the Free Enterprise Fundation. These “foundations” were set up as “front groups” by John Howard for the express purpose of laundering donations beneath the AEC’s watchful radar. This corrupt practice has been ably exposed by the Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC) in New South Wales. The number of Liberal Party MPs moving to the cross benches after receiving brown paper bags from developers could soon be enough to form government in their own right.
‘We are living in an oligarchy, not a democracy. Our democracy is now a sham!’
These words could easily describe of the fate of Australian democracy under the pro-mining Abbott regime. In fact, they represent the American media’s reaction to the publication of research by Princeton and Northwestern universities on the usurping of U.S. democracy by the same powerful vested interests.
The massive war chest of mega mining interests has guaranteed ownership of the Republican’s agenda in the U.S. But the real threat to social values set in when oil billionaires, the Koch brothers, moved to bankroll not just the Republican party and networks of think tanks and foundations but the Tea Party. It’s worth reading their manifesto here to see the direction the neo-nutjobs and unreconstructed Hansonites who’ve taken over the once-proud Liberal Party would like to take us in Australia.
‘The U.S. government now represents the rich and powerful, not the average citizen.’
‘When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose.’
How fitting those words are to the fate of democracy in Australia. After the trashing of the carbon price (and a $14 billion loss to the supposedly threadbare budget), the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Climate Change Authority, Australian Renewable Energy Agency and now the Renewable Energy Target, we don’t need a university study to see that the same powerful fossil fuel interests are, indeed, pulling Canberra’s strings.
Just like as the Princeton and Northwest study found, Australians have been disenfranchised from the democratic process. It is as much of a sham here as in the U.S. What Australians want, voted for, or were promised doesn’t count. A June poll shows 72 per cent of Australians wanted to keep or expand RET. The Clean Energy Council found more than 87 per cent of submission to the Warburton Reivew favoured the RET being retained or expanded. When it added in the community submissions (that’s us!), the support for the RET was 99 per cent.
Tony Abbott is now considering the Review’s findings. Which way will he jump? On the side of the public or vested mining interests? If the mining lobby hold sway as is likely, we, the long-suffering public who are now the ‘lifters’ supporting the mining ‘leaners’ will see tens of thousands of jobs lost and a hike of at least $50 per annum by 2020 (thereafter $140) to our electricity bills.
We will lose hundreds of billions of dollars in renewables investment as our share of the future low-carbon economy is forfeited. Libs good economic managers? Don’t think so.
Isn’t it time we took our democracy back? Join in the nationwide protest March in August this weekend.
* Note:“skeptic” is a term used by the author for describing climate deniers to differentiate from the broad-based meaning of what it means to be a sceptic.
Follow Sandi Keane on Twitter @Jarrapin.