On times for changing and fighting… not politics

5 September 2013 – This impending Abbott Government is so bad for the environment and climate change it can only be good.

With any luck the details and costings eeking out two days before we go to the polls will horrify people and galvanise opposition.

It won’t happen this weekend, though. The Murdoch press has been having a field day letting their most colourful characters out of the holding cells to paint the black and white extremes they delight in.

With any luck a whole bunch of marginals standing for the Senate will get enough seats to hold the balance of power and stop the most extreme and destructive policies going through. And then we can have a double dissolution as Coalition Leader Tony Abbott has promised.

Except the Australian electorate will have had a good nine months to see what this new government is really made of, instead of a bunch of important detail released at the last minute, which show by the way, a convergence between the major parties on almost all policies  – except climate and sustainability.

Let’s be clear right now. The Fifth Estate doesn’t care who delivers environmental programs. They can come from the blues, reds, greens or purples.

This is an apolitical forum concerned with the property industry playing its part to slow climate change and reduce the pollutants that are killing us and our Earth.

And it’s about making the business case to do so. Because without a healthy planet we don’t get a healthy economy. And we rather like a healthy economy.

Let’s also be clear: the property industry can play a massive part in those goals. Its emissions are huge and can be easily diminished. Our job is to enable you, our readers in this industry, to show how.

Abbott is out of step with the big global moves on climate.

He’s out of step with the shifting pointy end of conservative politics, where climate change is no longer deniable. And where the smart conservative money is on how to “own” the shift to a more sustainable future.

But Abbott isn’t stupid.

He’s just playing to the stupid for quick political gain. Oh, yes, and the lazy – those who control the squillions of dollars tied up in fossil fuels who can’t be bothered finding another source of easy bucks. Try renewable energy guys and gals. You don’t have to look hard to see there’s a fortune for the mildly brave.

But renewables don’t rate a mention in Abbott’s energy and resources policy. You won’t find the word solar mentioned. Nor wind, except as something to be stopped.

He should chat to NSW premier Barry O’Farrell whose government has just approved a big wind farm and dismissed the claims from those who see dead people, or hear them, or whatever.

Public transport too doesn’t rate a mention in the Abbott plan for Australia.

So what other Machiavellian tricks promise to win this election for Abbott?

Hold onto your hats and avert your eyes, folks. Maybe think of England, where the conservative government is fully on board with climate change and sustainability and rational thinking about how to fund infrastructure, such as value uplift capture.

Here, in Australia we’re going to fund infrastructure – if by infrastructure you mean only roads – with $4.5 billion taken from overseas aid.

Here are a few other plans:

  • restoring coal-fired power stations to profitability
  • more money for oil and gas (not a mention of renewables)
  • thorium as an alternative fuel
  • LNG as a transport fuel
  • Uranium to India, for peaceful purposes (let’s hope they comply)
  • No more Clean Energy Finance Corporation
  • Trying to stop wind power (see above)
  • $185 million stripped from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s “connecting renewables” program.

Direct Action

We had a look at this $3.2 billion program that purports to reduce emissions and noted some unusual appropriation of meaning.

The Climate Institute says the policy will be useless anyway, leading to a rise of nine per cent rather than a reduction of five. And several commentators have pointed out it will be handing grants to business for doing what they are going to do anyway.

Some people in the property industry think there will be some largesse coming their way from DA.

We’ve looked at the policy, and pardon us, but we could find no reference to buildings, just carbon soil farming.

What there is plenty of, though, is how this environmental policy will be used to “slash green tape” from environmental legislation, to fast track approvals for development and to prop up industries such as fishing.

Well both these things have either the word environment in them or refer to the environment, right? That’s the only connection we could see to something environmental.

Oh, and of course propping up fishing or mining or marinas can be classed as sustainable too – in the sense of sustaining the economic and social legs of the three legged stool.

Bad luck about the natural environmental leg of the stool.

There’s a “one-stop-shop for environmental approvals ensuring projects can commence as soon as possible but without compromising environmental standards”.

We like the last bit of this. But we wonder how the speed will help.

In the energy and resources policy the Coalition says, “The Productivity Commission has noted the negative implications of declining exploration.”

The Productivity Commission also noted the damage climate change would wreak on the economy.

“The Coalition will act immediately to rescind Labor’s carbon tax.”

What a joy! When all the other smart countries including China are bringing in emissions trading schemes.

Abbott as we’ve mentioned has made it clear he will absolutely maintain his own blood oaths to cut the carbon tax, but bad luck about Australia’s commitment to meet its pathetic five per cent emissions reduction target.

As Waleed Aly pointed out on Friday the Coalition policies that have emerged mirror those of the Labor Party almost entirely and vary only in their detail. Except on climate. The big crucial difference between the two major parties is on whether we support the coal industry or ourselves. And look who’s grinning, folks.