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Fossil fuel subsidies continue
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As of 2013/09/08, the day after the election of the Abbott Government, it seems likely that the failings of previous Australian governments will be insignificant in comparison with the failings of the government to come.

Failings and crimes of the Rudd Australian Government:
A personal perspective

Also see Howard Government
Contact: email daveclarkecb@yahoo.com
This page was created 2008/02/10 and was modified 2010/05/20


Kevin Rudd was elected in November 2007 having promised to make a serious reduction to Australia's terrible greenhouse gas production rate. His idea of a big reduction became 5% by 2020 – with huge compensation going to the big polluters – and in April 2010 was put off altogether until 2013. Perhaps the best thing that can be said about PM Rudd is that he has not been the war-monger that Howard was.
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Introduction

"Every nation has the government that it deserves." (Joseph de Maistre – Letter on the subject of Russia, Aug. 1811)

 

Climate change – do little or nothing?

In September 2009 our two main political parties were arguing about whether to do very little about climate change or nothing at all.

Meanwhile we are having possibly unprecedented wind storms and dust storms, destructive hail and flooding downpours. In the longer term the drought continues (Clare, for example, would need 870mm more rain to catch up for the last ten dry years), the Murray-Darling and the Coorong dies, the ice sheet over the Arctic Ocean and the Greenland icecap melts; the oceans warm, their levels rise and they becomes more acidic.

Is anyone else reminded of the story of Nero fiddling while Rome burned?


Machiavellian politics

Machiavelli held that Princes, unlike private men, need not keep faith: since politics reflects the law of the jungle, the state is a law unto itself, and normal moral rules do not apply to it. Recent Australian governments have followed this principle.

Most people are not so cynical, they would like our governments to be ethical. We, as voters, should insist on ethical government.


Why do they hate us?

Do my fellow Australians every wonder why terrorists hate Americans and us so much more than they hate Swedes, Swiss, Netherlanders and New Zealanders?
Australia is not, at present, a true democracy; it is closer to a plutocracy, a nation ruled by the wealthy. The two major political parties in Australia have become corrupt. They serve big business rather than the Australian people. So long as the majority of Australian voters vote for one or other of the major parties, the country will largely be run by big business. (See Corporate political donations and Vote smart.)

Nor does Australia have full freedom of speach or of the press. Australians can be locked up without access to the courts and report can go to jail if he or she publishes the fact. The Howard Government significantly reduced freedoms in Australia, using the "terrorist threat" as the justification; the Rudd Government shows no sign of restoring these important democratic rights.

The greatest threat facing the World in the early twenty-first century is greenhouse/climate change. At least two thirds of Australians want serious action from government on the problem of global warming. The Rudd Government promised Australians that it would act on greenhouse, instead it is proposing an inadequate and deeply flawed Emissions trading scheme and a fraudulent solar credits scheme. In December 2008 the Rudd Government identified 94 infrastructure projects worthy of consideration for government support, only one of these was a green energy project (from Business Spectator). One of the greatest impediments to the development of sustainable energy in Australia, especially wind power, is the lack of high-capacity transmission lines from the areas where the renewable resources are, to the markets. To the end of 2009 no government in Australia, state or federal, has ever built or upgraded a major transmission line for the development of renewable energy, while they have been willing to build transmission lines for the mining industry.

There is a great deal more that the Rudd Government should be doing.

The Rudd government does have a hard job to do, following the eleven-year Howard Government which did next to nothing about Australia's shameful greenhouse gas production rates and allowed the Murray-Darling to get into its present pathetic state.

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Climate Change

In May 2009 PM Rudd announced that he was delaying the start of his emissions trading scheme a year (until 2011) and the carbon price for the first year will be capped at $10 per tonne, effectively delaying action on climate change for a further year. He has broken his election promise to the Australian people to take prompt and effective action on climate change.

In an attempt to retrieve his government's environmental credibility he announced that he was going to spend almost $1.4 billion of taxpayer's money on the world's biggest solar power project. Far more could be achieved toward increasing Australia's renewable energy generation and reducing emissions by spending the same amount of money on upgrading the country's electricity grid to permit private investors to build wind and solar projects.

In April 2010 PM Rudd shelved plans to bring in any type of carbon trading scheme until at least 2013.

The Rudd Government's attitude to renewable energy is exemplified by the diesel rebate. Rural users of diesel can get a government rebate on the diesel they use unless more than 20% of that diesel is biodiesel, in which case they have to forego the rebate. What could make it clearer that the Rudd Government is only paying lip service to changing from fossil fuels to renewable energy?

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Dodgy Solar credits scheme
The new incentive for small solar power installations

 
It seems the phantom credits apply to solar water heaters as well as solar photovoltaic installations.

On December 23rd 2009 AGL's Energy director Michael Fraser went on record as saying that this Rudd policy was a "fraud", and was largely responsible for the doubt about the viability of the Macarthur wind farm.

This fraud will make nonsense of Rudd's stated target of 20% renewable energy by 2020.

In Issue 107, Apr-Jun 2009, of ReNew (the journal of the Alternative Technology Association) the following was printed under the title 'Phantom Solar':
Household rebates for solar electricity are set to change again with the Solar credits scheme due to start in July. This replaces the Solar Homes and Communities Plan, which placed a means test on eligibility for the rebate last year.

While some will be happy to know the means test is gone as of July 1, the new scheme still has some issues.

Under the Solar credits scheme, homes and businesses that install solar panels will be awarded with five times the amount of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) for every megawatt-hour of clean energy their system produces, up to a maximum of $7500. These additional RECs will become part of the Renewable Energy Target of 20% renewable energy by 2020, yet they are for clean energy that was never generated.

"By handling out phantom RECs, the government is putting homeowners in the difficult and perverse position of either forgoing any financial support to install solar or increasing the amount of dirty electricity in Australia," says Alternative Technology Association Energy Advocate Damien Moyse.

"Under this phantom credits scheme, installing a solar panel will actually mean less power will come from renewable sources."

When I first read this I was disgusted. I had just suggested a bulk order of solar power units for the people of the Clare Valley. I felt that I could not possibly associate myself with a scheme that was at best amoral, if not immoral. But it's worth a bit more thought.

There are two primary parties involved here: the citizen who intends to put solar panels on his house or business, and the government.

The government has come up with a stupid and contradictory scheme that awards phantom RECs to people who install solar panels and then excuses polluters some of their pollution. By doing so they achieve several things:

  1. Getting citizens to install more solar power than they would otherwise do;
  2. Making nonsense of the government's own accounting system in counting toward 20% renewable energy by 2020;
  3. Flooding the market with RECs causing their price to fall to the point where it is no longer economical for anyone to build sustainable energy (wind, solar, etc.) generators until the price of RECs goes up again.
The first is commendable, the second is simply foolish and demeaning to themselves, the third is counterproductive to the government's stated aim of reducing Australia's greenhouse gas production.

The citizen who installs the solar power system is involving himself in an act that will reduce his reliance on fossil fueled power stations. That the government will, in the short term at least, twist his act to excuse polluters from reducing the quantities of greenhouse carbon dioxide they produce is not the citizen's fault. The citizen has achieved a little more solar-generated power in Australia. This seems to me to be how his act should be viewed. In the longer term the government will be held to account for all the energy that goes to make up the proportion of renewable energy that Australia is truly achieving.

Every Australian who pays his money to demonstrate that he is serious about the need to limit climate change is putting pressure on the Government to lift its game.

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Emissions trading scheme
(or Carbon trading scheme)

Australia's proposed carbon trading scheme is a potential disaster. It aims at reducing Australia's greenhouse gas production by 5% to 15% from year 2000 levels. Anyone with any knowledge of the problem knows that this is not enough.

In effect, what the Government will be doing, is to give the big polluters permits to pollute at levels that are quite unsustainable. Should some future, responsible, government decide to bring greenhouse gas production levels down to sustainable levels it will have to pay huge compensation to the big polluters for canceling their pollution permits.

If, instead, the government was to introduce a carbon tax it would be possible for future governments to increase this as and when necessary to further reduce pollution.






Freedoms in Australia

The Howard Government reduced the freedoms that Australians have to their lowest ever level. Wikipedia lists press freedom in Australia as only satisfactory, not good. Under Howard Australia plunged to thirty-fifth place in the world on the Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporteres sans Frontieres. The Rudd Government has done nothing to correct this situation.

The right of 'habeas corpus' is ancient. It is the requirement for anyone (whether a police department, state security department, or whatever) holding a person in custody to produce (literally) the body of the person before a court. This right was taken away in the case of a person being held on suspicion of terrorist activities. One can imagine how this law might be misused if it suited some future corrupt government.

Australia is one of the very few Western nations that does not have a bill of rights: a list of rights that governments must afford to their citizens.

Under Howard – a man who claimed to hold freedom of the press as one of the great virtues of Australia under his watch – intimidated, misled and starved the press of information. Reporters who were approved of got access to ministers' media spin doctors, those who were critical were left out in the cold. Rudd has not changed the rules to improve this situation.

If you want true democracy, vote for independents and minor parties rather than for major party people.

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Christian Sharia Law in Australia
Christians make voluntary euthanasia a crime for everyone

Many non-Muslims are concerned about Sharia (or Shari'ah) law, the laws that some Islamic states impose on their citizens. Sharia law is based on a mix of text from the Koran and Arab tradition rather than on the ethical concerns that form the basis of most laws.

We in Australia don't have Sharia law, but we do have something of a Christian counterpart. Around 80% of Australians believe that they should have the right to end their lives if and when life becomes an intolerable burden – the right to voluntary euthanasia. Unfortunately there is a powerful Christian lobby that not only believes that it would be sinful for them to end their own lives, but forces their religious convictions onto the rest of us.

Few people would believe it ethical to keep an animal alive if it was in great pain and suffering from an incurable disease or was terribly injured. What is the point in prolonging life in that situation? It amounts to cruelty, and under Australian law anybody keeping an animal alive in great pain could be prosecuted for mistreating the animal.

Laws to permit voluntary euthanasia have been introduced to several Australian parliaments at different times. All except one has failed. The administration of the Northern Territory did legalise euthanasia, but the law was over-ruled by the Federal Parliament (in a 'conscience vote') in what must have been one of the most undemocratic acts ever passed by any parliament anywhere in the world. (I have considered the ethics of the voluntary euthanasia question, and its link to religion, elsewhere.)

How is this different to Muslims forcing Sharia law onto non Muslims? In fact, while many Muslims believe that Muslims should live by Sharia law, many fewer believe that non-Muslims should be made to.

Yet a Christian lobby somehow has the power to force their beliefs onto the great majority of Australians. No-one should be forced to abide by the religious rules of others. This is a terrible injustice that the Rudd Government has done nothing to correct.

Voluntary euthanasia happens whether or not it is legal; it is at present a victimless crime. It might as well be legal so that it can be formalized and checks put into place regarding how and when it is done.

Christians should have the right to die in great and prolonged pain if that is what they want, but they have no right to force it onto anyone else; doing so is a denial of our human rights. John Stuart Mill argued famously in On Liberty,

"The only part of the conduct of any one, for which [a citizen] is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign."
... or should be!
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Plastic shopping bags

The Rudd Government came to power promising to get rid of the common practice of shops providing free plastic shopping bags. A couple billion of these are used and dumped in Australia each year; many are disposed of irresponsibly and cause environmental damage and/or harm wildlife, especially aquatic.

In April 2008 Environment Minister Peter Garrett headed a meating of all state Environment Ministers to resolve the issue. Nothing was achieved.

The shopping bag issue is a minor one in the big picture and would be easily solved with a small fee on each shopping bag. If the Rudd Government cannot fix it, what chance do they have of raising the resolve necessary to fix Australia's greenhouse gas problem?

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Little action on climate change

By far the simplest and most effective way that Australia's greenhouse gas production rate could be reduced would be by the introduction of a tax on all carbon dug out of the ground or imported. (A great many things are taxed, why not coal?) The Rudd Government has opted for the slower and less effective carbon trading scheme and then they have decided on reducing Australia's greenhouse gas production rate by only 5% on our year 2000 levels by 2020.

Kevin Rudd's MRET of 20% by 2020 has been corrupted by his solar credits scheme which runs on creating solar credits for sustainable energy never generated.

In December of 2008 the Rudd Government announced that it would spend billions of dollars on infrastructure projects to boost the flagging Australian economy. What better opportunity to give sustainable energy a boost?

In the Business Spectator Giles Parkinson wrote an article titled Rhetoric and Recompense (full URL - "http://www.businessspectator.com.au/bs.nsf/Article/Rhetoric- and-recompense-$pd20081222-MJR6E?OpenDocument&src=sph") Giles wrote that

"Among the 94 [infrastructure projects] identified as worthy of consideration for government support... [the Rudd Government chose to support] just one. Amid several hundred billion dollars worth of proposals for toll-roads, ring-roads, access roads, and motorways, dozens of rail lines and freight links from coal-mines, a single $119 million solar energy project in the ACT is the sum total of green projects considered worthy of funding assistance.
An often-heard excuse for doing little or nothing to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas production rates is that we would be foolish to take action while big polluters like China did nothing. In fact China has very impressive renewable energy targets and is working hard on renewable energy generally: for example, as of November 2009 China had 220 factories producing solar photovoltaic panels, Australia at the same time had none.

If it was not obvious ten years ago that neither of the big parties care about environmental matters (and the future of the planet), it is obvious now.






Fossil fuel subsidies continue

 
Investments by Australian governments
Industry:Holdings ($ millions)
Nuclear/uranium$559
Fossil fuels$5 379
Renewable energy$126
Acknowledgement ACF
The Howard Government had big subsidies for the fossil fuel industries, and so far the Rudd Government is continuing them. The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) produced a report in March 2008 which showed that Australian Governments are investing $47 dollars in fossil fuels and uranium mining for every dollar that they are puting into renewable energy.

If the Rudd Government wanted to do something significant to reduce Australia's contribution to greenhouse it would introduce a carbon tax. The fact that they do not indicates how much power the coal industry has in the running of 'our' country. (It is evidence that Australia, like the USA, is a plutocracy rather than a democracy.)

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A vote on independence for Taiwan?

In February 2008 Stephen Smith (Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs) publicly stated that he did not support a Taiwanese referendum on the question of independence from China.

There is a very important principle here; do a people have the right to decide who will govern them? Surely anyone who believes that democracy is the only legitimate form of government would have to answer in the affirmative.

Taiwan has been effectively independent from mainland China since 1949. It has been democratic since about 1988.

The question is, do the people of Taiwan have the right to keep on electing their own government, or should they accept rule from the current Chinese government.

What right does the Chinese government have to rule even mainland China? They have not been elected by the Chinese people. They have no ethical right to govern at all, especially in Taiwan. It is shameful that the Australian Foreign Minister apparently thinks the democratic rights of the Taiwanese people less important that maintaining good trade relations with the despotic and illegitimate government of China.

I have discussed the question of the right of a people to secede in a truly democratic world elswhere on this site.






Small wind disadvantaged against solar

The Australian Government offers a rebate of up to $7500 for the installation of solar photovoltaic panels on homes and small businesses anywhere in Australia. However, if you want to install a small wind generater and you are connected to the electrical grid you get nothing.

This produces an unfair discrimination against the small-scale wind industry. Why would you pay full price for a small wind turbine when you can get a $7500 rebate on solar?

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Index

Home
On this page...
Emissions trading scheme
Christian Sharia Law
Climate Change
Fossil fuel subsidies continue
Freedoms in Australia
Introduction
Little action on climate change
Machiavellian politics
Plastic shopping bags
Plutocracy
Small wind disadvantaged
Solar credits scheme
Taiwan Independence
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Voluntary euthanasia