12 July 2015


When I left South Africa in 1978 and came to live in Australia I knew that Australia was backward in many respects and in many respects old-fashioned, but I did believe that I had left the South African flat earthers behind.

How wrong can one get! And it shows that being a Rhodes scholar proves the value of that experience - Australia's current prime minister was a Rhodes scholar and is one of the most intellectually backward and bankrupt minds it is possible to find in the year 2015.

We woke to the news report on the morning of 12 July 2015 that the Australian prime minister had escalated the war on wind energy and wind farms and power, and proving that which we have always known that, like Zuma in South Africa, Abbott will prove to be the worst head of government that Australia has ever had.

It is difficult to know how one comes to terms with this issue and how to deal with it. Many people in Australia are supporters of the concepts of alternative energy in most of its forms and the number of people who have installed solar systems on their roof-tops is very large in terms of the total population, and apart from the fact that electricity storage systems are not yet widely available and still rather expensive, the current alternative is wind generators which do not require solar energy for generation during hours of darkness.

At a time in Australia when many manufacturing organisations are closing down and employment opportunities are shrinking, jobs in the alternative energy sector were increasing and the technologies are becoming more known about.

The prime minister, who knows very little about manufacturing and cares less about employment opportunities is doing his best to destroy job opportunities and industry growth by declaring war on solar energy and destroying a new industry in its earliest stages.

One has to hope that somewhere along the road to the next election in about 18 months' time, someone, somewhere in Australia will be able to develop the power base to defeat the flat earthers and introduce some progressive elements into our political system which stimulate minds, industry, education and Australia's position in the world of the 21st century.

The following item was the editorial in The Age on 14 July 2015:

Abbott's wonky meddling in CEFC

You might think a government that espouses free-market ideals, innovation and modernisation would embrace the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and its efforts to identify commercially viable, sustainable energy technologies. But when it comes to the Abbott government, you would be very wrong.

It is led by a prime minister who hails coal as "good for humanity" and "essential for the prosperity of the world", and who blithely suggests wind turbines are "visually awful", noisy and somehow unhealthy – though there is not a scintilla of evidence to support it.

And there, backing up Abbott, is a menagerie of ministers and a barrow-load of backbenchers who are too miserably timid to contradict the voodoo nonsense their leader espouses. What would it take for one of them to speak the truth, to cite the comprehensive science that shows carbon emissions are having a dramatic and potentially dire effect on our climate?

Mr Abbott whines that his government does not get sufficient credit for its efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Well, no wonder. It could have done so much more, yet it did so much damage. It has repealed the carbon tax that would have penalised heavy polluters; it has wound back Australia's target for the amount of energy that must be derived from renewable sources; it has approved huge new coal mines; and it has sharply curtailed the work of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

While the corporation's task is to provide funding for renewable forms of energy, the Abbott government views it as little more than a lumpen addendum to the carbon tax legislation, a tainted orphan of Labor's green years. Unable to legislate the CEFC out of existence when it repealed the carbon tax last year, the government has deliberately reset the rules to make the agency's work almost impractical. It has gone about this in two ways.

First, it changed the corporation's investment mandate so that it must now achieve a rate of return (before expenses) of at least 400 to 500 basis points above the five-year government bond rate (currently 2.17 per cent). The previous mandate required performance in line with the bond rate (after expenses).
CEFC directors told the government this new goal implied a shift away from the corporation's normally conservative and commercially oriented risk profile, and "all evidence suggests" it would be "highly challenging" to achieve the higher return without taking on riskier investments. In any case, "achieving these increased returns would require CEFC to consistently outperform the market by a large margin".

The second rule change, which has been reported by Fairfax Media but not yet publicly released, specifically bars the corporation from investing in wind farms of all sizes and small-scale solar and directs it away from "mature and established" clean energy technologies.

This is high-handed and irrational ideological interference by the government. Combined with the demand for CEFC to hit a higher return on investments, it represents a deliberate effort to curb the agency's activities.

Mr Abbott says his government does not really want CEFC to exist at all, "but while it's there it really should do what the private sector won't do and invest in new and emerging technologies". We suggest he has badly misread the politics on this. Australians do not understand why he harbours such irrational abhorrence of wind farms, for example.

The CEFC should be freed of this government's unscientific meddling. Its investment strategy should be agnostic. The success or otherwise of clean energy technologies should be determined not by politicians' bizarre and emotive diatribes but by reference to their energy efficiency, low rate of emissions, renewable capacity and by their commerciality – as the legislation dictates.

The letters below which followed the above editorial all criticised the government for what it has done about renewable energy:

The protected industry: the dinosaur of coal

Illustration: Ron Tandberg Illustration: Ron Tandberg

In the same week that the government approves a foreign-owned coal mine on prime agricultural land, it withdraws funding for renewable energy projects (The Age, 13/7).  This, in the same year that the budget offered a $5billion loan scheme to coal companies to fund expansion in the Galilee Basin.

The government is funding the technology dinosaur of coal – and risking our health, and our economic and environmental future – through its refusal to act on climate change. The appalling policy direction ill equips us as we head towards a legally binding, universal agreement on climate change at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. An election, anyone?
Pauline Hopkins, Beaconsfield

Listen to the people, Prime Minister

Recently I drove 150kilometres from Munich to Deggendorf. I was staggered by the profusion of solar panels: on the roofs of houses and even on barns in the middle of nowhere, and frequently arranged densely in fields. There were also many wind farms, their blades gracefully turning. I felt ashamed to be an Australian. I am 67 and I cannot remember a previous prime minister so out of step with the  thinking of the majority of Australians on so vital an issue.
Graeme Brazenor, Richmond

An issue that transcends political alliance

Tony Abbott, while you hold the title of prime minister, you are obliged to make decisions in the nation's interests, based on scientific, economic, etc research. You are not entitled to govern to suit your personal predilections or vested interests. Your attitudes to renewable and clean energy have left you on the wrong side of history. These issues transcend political alliance. The health of our children, and the environment they will inherit, overrides all other considerations. If you are unable to govern in our nation's interests,  please resign.
Lloyd Shield, Moonee Ponds

We could be a leader in renewable energy

While the rest of the world embraces alternative energy, Australia, with its abundance of sun and wind, goes down the old path of coal. Additionally, the decision of approving another coal mine on prime agricultural land is baffling. Either the parties involved are getting some political kickback or they are stupid. Australia could be a leader in renewable and alternative energy, yet we dig up our resources and sell them at rapidly reducing prices. I am not sure the ALP can offer an alternative to the current government. Maybe a Labor/Greens coalition?
Dean Virgin, Strathmore

Abbott's decision defies comprehension

I understand that living in a democracy will mean a swath of conflicting views, and whilst I despair of our government I accept that it was elected. But an attack on wind farms? The world is calling with rare consensus for the development of clean energy. And our prime minister wants to block such development? Utterly incomprehensible.
Les Littleford, Clifton Springs

The royal commission that we really need

Most developed countries are embracing clean energy sources as vital approaches to reducing carbon emissions. Coal is viewed as a sunset industry, However, big coal puts a lot of effort into lobbying governments.  A royal commission can be an expensive way to discredit political opponents but voters deserve an investigation of the links, financial and others, between big coal and the government
Rod Anderson, Sandringham

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Preston, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
90 years old, political gay activist, hosting two web sites, one personal: http://www.red-jos.net one shared with my partner, 94-year-old Ken Lovett: http://www.josken.net and also this blog. The blog now has an alphabetical index: http://www.red-jos.net/alpha3.htm