7 July 2014 — Today, Monday, as Australia’s crop of new wildcard Senators meets in Canberra for its first Senate sitting, the Abbott government will be urging it to undertake one of the most destructive political acts of vandalism in history. It will ask for the repeal of a suite of laws that underpin carbon emissions reductions, clean energy and energy efficiency designed to help save a climate on this planet suitable for human habitation and the life that supports it.
In its place will be a free for all for the fossil fuel industry, some of whose members have been revealed in recent times to have benefited by billions in mining Australian soil, but to have paid next to nothing back by way of taxes or royalties.
When the government achieves its climate-destructive action it will immediately seek the Senate’s approval to revoke even the almost symbolic Minerals Resource Rent Tax.
It’s possible that this powerful date will go down in history as the day that the government either succeeded in its ugly triumphalism, and threw petrol on the fires of revulsion, or the day – unlikely – when the independent and untested Senators ditched the government’s ambition.
Adding even more fuel to the political conflagration under way one way or another, is the government’s budget measures and policies on refugees, increasingly seen even by people on its own side as deeply unfair and not the path that many Australians have in mind for the future of this country. Even visiting Nobel Prize laureates such as Joseph Stiglitz, an economist, have castigated Australia’s trundling journey down the unfair and divisive path taken by America.
Stiglitz told a gathering of influential people in Canberra last week that it was America’s massive inequality that continued to hold back its economic recovery from the global financial crisis. These observations should give this government pause for thought if it cares for the economic viability of this nation; cutting welfare benefits, minimum pay and medical access for the poorest and most disadvantaged in one of the world’s wealthiest countries will backfire badly, Stiglitz said.
Meanwhile, deeply concerned organisations and think tanks are urging the Senate to use its power to force back the most extreme of the government’s measures.
Among them is the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, which today met in Canberra to urge a change of mind on the actions under way, and the Climate Council that said repeal of the carbon laws will send billions a year to the nation’s biggest polluters.
Chief executive of the Climate Council John Connor said, “Repeal of the carbon laws will be a shattering and historic loss that will relieve companies of responsibility for their pollution.
“Using conservative US Government estimates of the economic cost of climate change shows that in the absence of a carbon price, or regulated emissions limits, Australia’s top 10 major emitters will be subsidised to the tune of $6-$15 billion annually. This approach mirrors the International Monetary Fund’s approach to assessing energy subsidies.
“All parties say they want strong and effective policy to deal with climate change, but tested against key criteria, only the carbon laws come within cooee of credible climate policy,” Connor said.
He warned that repeal of the carbon laws would bring a new era of regulatory and community volatility that will “institutionalise uncertainty and instability” for carbon intensive business.
A review of current and proposed policies against five criteria of credible climate policy, shows that the government’s proposed Emission Reduction Fund in its current shape won’t work, and that proposals by the Palmer United Party are unclear.
Clive Palmer, who heads the PUP, two weeks ago shook Australia with an appearance alongside former US vice president and climate campaigner Al Gore to say he would support some of the climate measures but not the carbon tax.
He hinted at supporting an emissions reduction scheme but then ditched the idea after a breakfast with the prime minister.
Connor said without an ETS or other strong measure Australia would fail to meet it carbon reduction obligations, perhaps offshore.
Over the past two years, said the Climate Institute, the carbon laws have delivered lower emissions, cleaner energy with minimal cost impacts and a growing economy.
And while the repeal of the carbon tax is estimated to save the average household $550 a year in energy costs, its repeal, and that of the mining tax, will lead to households being $3500 per household worse off due to the withdrawal of associated payments.
The Australian Youth Climate Coalition
Co-director of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition Lucy Manne said hundreds of young people would spell out their message on Parliament House lawns with a creative installation on Monday to send a message to the government on climate.
The group will then stage a “Youth Hearing” in which Senators will be invited to listen to testimony from young people across Australia.
“Young Australians have grown up learning the science of climate change and it doesn’t make sense to us that despite the overwhelming evidence, our government is still failing to act,” Ms Manne in a media statement.
“Our message to new Senators is this: think about your children and grandchildren, the future generations who will bear the cost of your decisions on climate.
“Climate change is an issue of social and environmental justice – it should not be a partisan problem. We’re talking to politicians from all parties and asking them a simple question: do you care about our future?”
Ms Manne said US and China were moving in the right direction on climate.
She said a new poll released by the AYCC showed:
- Majority of people believe Australia should have some form of a price on carbon for companies with high emissions
- Majority don1t think the government is doing enough to address climate change
- Almost 80 per cent believe it1s important that the government takes action to address global warming
- Large majorities of people want the RET to stay the same or be increased, including PUP voters
- Large majority of PUP voters concerned by climate change
- Young people most likely to be “very concerned”
- Young people most likely to think the Government isn’t doing enough – more than half
The event was attended by 20 Senators.