Opinion: Reading through the budget papers hoping to find scraps thrown in the direction of creating a fair, sustainable, low-carbon Australia quickly revealed a major gap in the government’s commentary.
While challenges to the government’s revenue and the risks to revenue projections made repeated references to just how big an impact falling iron ore prices have had on receipts, there was not one open acknowledgement that despite all the funds flung at it, the coal industry is also flailing about with delivering low returns to federal coffers due to historically low export prices.
It’s a jarring omission given how loudly and proudly the government has said the nation’s fortunes ride on the carbon-emitting black stuff. All that cash spent on anti-climate pro-coal PR – including the $4 million proudly touted in the budget for the laughably ill-named “Consensus Centre”. Here’s a fact, Joe – when 98 per cent of scientists agree on a thing, and two per cent don’t, flinging money at the dissenters does not create consensus.
If you want to argue the point, just compare it to the response to parents who don’t vaccinate their children. It’s another minority who go against the majority view of scientists – but they are losing money in this budget, not gaining it. As Pauline Hanson said, “Please explain.”
It’s all iron’s fault
Iron, iron, iron – everywhere, but only one mention of coal, buried deep in one of the papers and in reference to how great a free trade agreement with India will be, because they might buy our coal.
What isn’t mentioned is that Indian firm, Adani, is currently getting a whole bunch of federal support to make money here digging up the Galilee Basin. Funnily enough, that support isn’t itemised in the budget papers either, possibly falling into the catchall of “Northern Australia” development or snuck into various innocuous items like “Native Title Matters”, “diesel subsidies” and “infrastructure”.
Then again, India has actually committed to a low-carbon future, and no reputable financial institutions want to finance the Galilee or Abbot Point projects.
The sun only shines in the scrub apparently
Seeking wishfully for support for renewable energy, I found none in the budget papers. Not even a token skerrick. Did Joe not get the memo about Paris?
Didn’t he notice the UN and various other important people are starting to get darkening brows about the government’s lack of responsibility for our oversized contribution to global emissions?
Buried deep in Warren Truss’s ministerial statement renewable energy is mentioned in relation to a small amount of funding for remote Aboriginal community solar energy installations for maintenance, and as a “possible” as part of the infrastructure projects being offered federal financing. Not to power major towns or Darwin though – the subtext suggests it will be for remote mining projects mostly, including the LNG sector. It’s downright weird, actually, every time Truss used the word “resources” in connection with energy, the words “remote” and “regional” were generally also somewhere in the paragraph. Like the sun only shines in the outback?
The triple bottom line is red in this budget
Deceptively boring in some ways, with some bright little bones for any small business that wished it could get some new energy-efficient IT gear or a few Tesla Powerwalls, it’s only by going deep into the portfolio papers that the real head-in-the-tar-sands anti-progress agenda of this government becomes starkly revealed.
More will be spent on locking up refugees than promoting energy efficiency, and going to war is being given far more funds than renewable energy, sustainability research, low-carbon public transport, innovative manufacturing, affordable housing and preventing our one-a-week domestic homicides combined.
It is quite simply a budget that ticks none of the sustainability boxes, and sets a course for a trajectory into risky territory the government is not even willing to name.