Australian news, and some related international items

Australian government using COVID recovery strategy to bolster its mates in gas industry

How Australia is suffering a resource curse, Canberra Times, John Hewson   14 Aug 20, 

There have been recent media reports that the commission advising the Morrison government on its COVID recovery strategy has recommended that taxpayers provide massive support to build gas and fuel infrastructure.

However, Australia is possibly suffering something of a “resource curse”, as capital markets increasingly won’t invest in – nor insure – new coal and gas projects.

With the world seeking to accelerate the transition to low-carbon economies and societies, this would see the Australian people being asked to invest in old-world industries and technologies, rather than new, emerging industries. Or in assisting some key industries that have been severely damaged by COVID-19 to reset.

It is not unfair to claim that Australia has never really had an effective industry policy.

Sure, we have often ridden on the backs of sheep and minerals booms, and enjoyed them while they lasted…….

The current special interest push for gas and fuel infrastructure defies common sense, is directly against our national interests.

It is to the detriment of other major export/employment sectors – such as education (especially universities) and international tourism – that have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic but are not being supported by government assistance.

Coal and gas are facing declining global demand; they are hardly “infant industries” the longer-term future of which could justify investment to assist them to grow up.

These projects just wouldn’t stack up as feasible, when full account is taken of their economic/commercial, social, and environmental costs and benefits.

Investors are also reassessing their climate risks and moving out of climate exposed investments, forcing many of the big oil, gas and coal companies to make significant write downs of the values of their assets.

By comparison, investments in renewable energy (including recognising its significant potential as an export, especially to Asia), as well as in the transition business opportunities as transport is decarbonised, in regenerative agriculture, and in a host of bioenergy/circular economy projects dealing with waste and fuel security will probably stack up on such a cost/benefit assessment…..

The tragedy is that the Morrison government gives priority to its mates. ….

Today, it’s more the mining industries and banks – and now the specific influence of some on the COVID Commission with gas and related interests.

It’s time for our government to think beyond the square, and in our national interest.

John Hewson is a professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU, and a former Liberal opposition leader.

August 15, 2020 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics

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