On the sounds of something breaking, real deals and raw deals

Did you hear that? Something just snapped.

Sounds like patience. And maybe there’s a twang there from tolerance.

The wind industry gets it: they’ve decided they’ve been far too polite and defensive. Now it’s all out action and loud noises with the Act On Facts campaign to counter the paranoia spruiked by anti-wind and anti-renewable energy lobbyists. Those fragile souls with very sensitive hearing issues lining up in the Coalition camp to declare that wind energy is a crime against humanity had better get set for a battle.

So too the people who want to cap renewable energy. We’re looking at you Mr Abbott.

The coal industry certainly heard the snap.

It’s now activating its media management battalions and silent drones to declare war on those who would take away their rights to… take away the rights of others. Such as the right to clean air. Think Newcastle residents who had to watch the NSW Environment (non) Protection Authority insist that no way would it ask that coal trucks trundling through built-up areas be covered up and stop spraying the place with coal dust.

The coal industry, genius that it is (OK, rich that it is) has commissioned a report that has declared it’s not up to investors to pursue the public interest.

“Encouraging business people to take over the legitimate role of government is likely to encourage inferior economic performance as well as the emergence of a ‘democratic deficit’,” the report says.

Okay then, what’s the coal industry doing in Canberra with its hoards of lobbyists, and at every other level government?

Having afternoon tea down the rabbit hole, probably, and conferring with the other white rabbits about what happens when they take over the paddocks.


If business doesn’t pursue a public interest, and what it does is against the public interest, what are we doing allowing it to roam free on this wild and beautiful land of ours?

Send them to China. The Chinese will quietly explain that when you can’t breathe the air in your capital cities then maybe it’s time to change the power source. For a start.

The coal industry is angry because people such as activist Bill McKibben who has just visited Australia has pointed out if investors can delay coal industry expansion by a few years, there’s a lot of coal that may never be economical to get out of the ground.


Coal faith isn’t the only thing that’s snapped.

Sustainability advisor Sam Mostyn says enough of expecting others to do the heavy lifting.

It’s absolutely business’ role to shape the future, she said in a strong speech at this week’s Green Capital The Phoenix Effect forum.

She pointed to IMF boss Christine Lagarde who said that the goal of the private sector cannot just be about profit, but also to add value, create jobs and come up with new ideas to drive the economy forward.

Not genius. Common sense.


Also among those who’ve had enough are women in the construction sector who say they are paid less than men for the same work.

“The gender pay gap must be closed if the industry is to attract and retain the best and brightest women, said the National Association of Women in Construction’s chief executive officer Sheryle Moon.

She’s not alone. Quiet noises have been filtering through to The Fifth Estate on discrimination in the property sector too, with “toys for the boys” and poor performance in males rewarded while women are retrenched or demoted.

Energy efficiency: time’s up

In energy efficiency and performance there is a sense that the time for fooling around is finished.

We’ve had the green bling; we’ve had the glamour of the first green buildings and the heroics of fantastic design and innovation.

But the reality is that for ordinary property users – that’s you and me folks – daily life is about daily grind. And now we want our buildings to do the same.

Why should ordinary workers in a B-grade building walk in and feel like curling up on the desk and going to sleep because the air is so stale that you know your brain is going to switch off straight after lunch? Interrupted only by dreams of how to get out of there for good.

So enough of the shock of the new. Right now it’s about the “real deal”.

How much is this building going to cost me, the tenant, in energy bills each month – and in lost productivity? How many talented staff will politely decline my job offer?

And if I’ve got a self-managed superfund with a few million dollars to invest should I risk it in a building with a low NABERS rating? How much might it drain my fund for a retrofit in two or three years time when the rusty old aircon gives way?


The Green Building Council of Australia heard the change in mood.

It’s launching the Green Star – Performance rating tool, so you can measure a suite of elements that will either make your hard won savings work harder or see them dribble down the drain.

See Lynne Blundell’s story this issue, Performance: out with the bling, bring on the real deal, for another great report.


The health department of Victoria and now its counterpart in NSW also heard the wake-up call.

The health system, crying out for more beds and more staff, is at the same time throwing away millions of dollars a year in energy waste. In the case of Victoria, an audit a year ago found that a potential 35 per cent of the yearly $70 million energy bill could be saved. That’s $24.5 million by our (solar powered) calculations.

See what the auditor said about the NSW health department, NSW Health audit report: too much energy waste; try harder

We haven’t read the Victorian report – it was said to be scathing – but in the NSW report it’s interesting that the auditors noted that among the reasons that energy savings were not made included that the pressure on management of systems and programs that needed to get priority.

It’s a salutary note. For most of us, it’s easy enough to see the benefits of rational choice, but it’s hard to change habits and implement change.

Maybe that’s why we have down-cycles. Under the weight of recession and some pain, the mind sure works out how to focus attention and make the necessary leaps in efficiency that seem way too hard when the chardonnay and chantilly beckon.