Playing with fire

Is the government really going to deal with a party that has proven itself openly hostile to climate action?

Shadow energy minister Ted O’Brien said the quiet part loud during last night’s nuclear disaster of a 7.30 interview: the Coalition’s recent nuclear push is about keeping coal alive. After several minutes spent quibbling with host Sarah Ferguson about how long it would take to get nuclear up and running (experts say his timelines are not feasible), O’Brien was asked point-blank whether he wanted to “keep coal-fired power stations running longer”. “Our view is we should not be closing our coal-fired power stations prematurely,” he said, arguing that the current phase-out plans would see the lights “go out”. It’s obvious the Opposition is pursuing this at the behest of the fossil fuel industry, promoting an impractical form of energy that would take decades to build in order to prop up coal – O’Brien merely confirmed that. The question is, why is the Albanese government choosing to deal on climate-related bills with people who have no interest in climate action, who openly lie about the science, and who wish to further delay our already delayed transition to renewables?

That is what the Greens are asking today, as they demand Labor withdraw a proposal to water-down approval requirements for offshore gas projects, which appears to have been created to win Coalition support. Greens leader Adam Bandt has written to the government offering to back its fuel efficiency standards if it scraps the gas fast-tracking reforms, which were among the demands put forward by the Coalition in return for supporting lacklustre changes to the petroleum resource rent tax (PRRT). Treasurer Jim Chalmers says the gas approval changes are happening “for their own good reasons, not as a bargaining chip”. But there’s no doubt the government wants the Coalition’s support on its gas-friendly PRRT changes, knowing the proposal will not win support from the climate-driven crossbench in its current form. “Instead of doing dirty deals with the Liberals, you have an opportunity to work with the Greens to act on climate,” wrote Bandt, noting we are “nowhere near on track” for the 2030 emissions reduction target of 43 per cent.

The Albanese government knows full well that it is playing with fire here – in more ways than one. The Coalition does not act in good faith when it comes to climate change; its only interest is in tearing down climate action. And yet Labor seems far more interested in winning its approval on the PRRT than in giving any ground to the Greens or the teals, even when giving ground would allow it to raise more money. (University students contribute more to federal revenue through HECS than offshore petroleum projects contribute through the PRRT, the Australia Institute has noted, with Labor’s changes expected to make little difference.) What’s more, in choosing to accede to Coalition demands to fast-track gas approvals, the government risks undoing all the good it is trying to do in other areas. As Bandt argues, “Labor approving just one new big gas mine would wipe out all the climate gains from its electric vehicle plan, the equivalent of ripping solar panels off four million Australian roofs.”

Horse trading is a part of politics, as shown by the Greens’ offer to pass a fuel efficiency bill they say doesn’t go far enough. But in the case of the PRRT, it is the future of our climate that the government is playing with, streamlining gas approvals in order to win the approval of Australia’s climate terrorists. The Albanese government has a choice, as it so often does, between dealing with a major party that shows open disregard for science, and dealing with a minor party that would like to see our climate efforts brought a little more in line with what science demands. But it seems the demands of the Opposition have more sway over the PRRT, even as it’s made clear that the Coalition’s only goal is to keep fossil fuels burning for as long as possible.

“Imagine a truly patriotic Australian prime minister who tells the American president to cease and desist from the slow murder of Julian Assange for the crime of journalism – for exposing American war crimes perpetrated behind the back of US citizens in their name.”

Economist and former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis tells the National Press Club that Australia can restore its wounded reputation – “tainted by blindly following America” – by developing a more independent foreign policy. It comes as the US Navy reveals it will halve next year’s submarine procurement, throwing fresh doubts over the viability of AUKUS.

“This just confirms that she is part and parcel of the anti-Semitic movement that is going.”

A comment for which former Liberal speaker Bronwyn Bishop has been forced to apologise. Bishop was attacking independent MP Sophie Scamps (who has accepted the apology) because she called for UNRWA funding to be restored.

$748 million

The additional amount the Commonwealth will invest in NT public schools under a new $1 billion agreement, which plans to have public schools fully funded by 2029. The education union has backed the “landmark” deal, but called for the bulk of the funding to be delivered “well before 2029”.

Independents concerned about proposed electoral reforms

Independent MPs are continuing to express concerns about the government’s electoral reform legislation, arguing it would further entrench the advantage of the two major parties. Mining billionaire Clive Palmer is reportedly considering a High Court challenge to the new laws, which would cap donations to parties and candidates, and limit the total spend in each electorate.

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    Gaslit future

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