This page is no longer activeAs 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.
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.
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.
A part of one of Australia's wind farms
Wattle Point Wind Farm, Yorke Peninsula, South Australia
We must change to renewable energy like this if our children and their children are to have a planet that is not greatly damaged by climate change.
Kevin Rudd had his chance to act, but failed.
Dodgy Solar credits scheme
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.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.
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."
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:
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.
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
it would be possible for future governments to increase this as and when
necessary to further reduce pollution.
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.
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!
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?
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. 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
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.)
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.
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?
On this page...
Emissions trading scheme
Christian Sharia Law
Fossil fuel subsidies continue
Freedoms in Australia
Little action on climate change
Plastic shopping bags
Small wind disadvantaged
Solar credits scheme