Australian news, and some related international items

Matt Canavan wants $1b for Adani coal, and cut environmental groups’ charity status

Canavan wants $1b for Adani, limits to green tax lurks, AFR, 26 Mar 17,  Resources Minister Matt Canavan says it is time for the government to consider restricting the tax-deductible status of politically active green groups………

Stop Bob Brown

The Turnbull government is still considering whether the tax-deductibility of environmental groups should be administered by the Australian Taxation Office instead of the Register of Environmental Organisations and no less than 25 per cent of green group donations should be spent on environmental remediation rather than protests, after a House of Representatives inquiry reporting last May.

The Stop Adani Alliance, a collection of 13 green groups headed by former Greens leader Bob Brown, came to Parliament House last week calling for more scrutiny of a proposed $1 billion taxpayer-funded loan to build a railway line for the Adani Carmichael coal mine in North Queensland.

Senator Canavan told The Australian Financial Review the main opposition to the Adani mine came from “fly-in, fly-out” protesters who did not live in the region……..

$1b for Adani

 There is growing scrutiny of the government agency, the North Australia Infrastructure Facility, responsible for assessing the proposed $1 billion taxpayer loan to Adani and championed by Senator Canavan and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.

The agency was established in mid-2016 to disburse a mammoth $5 billion in taxpayer loans but the details of the 47 proposals being considered, and five close to being finalised have been kept secret, raising questions about the agency’s transparency…….

March 27, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Australian Greens call for an independent energy authority – Renew Australia

Greens push for electricity crisis to be taken out of politicians’ hands, The Age Adam Morton , 25 Mar 17, 

The Greens are pushing for a new public authority to take responsibility for Australia’s beleaguered electricity system out of politicians’ hands.

It follows several organisations, including energy company Origin, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and ClimateWorks, calling for an independent body, similar to the Reserve Bank, to manage what has been described as an energy crisis.

Focus on the future of the electricity system has heightened in the lead-up to the closure this week of Hazelwood, Australia’s oldest and most emissions-intensive power plant, which when fully operational had the capacity to deliver about a quarter of Victoria’s electricity.

The Greens will introduce legislation in the Senate to create what it calls Renew Australia, which it says can short-circuit a stand-off between the federal and state governments by taking responsibility for the transition to a clean electricity supply……

Energy companies, business groups, unions, charities, scientists and environmentalists have called for a bipartisan national plan, including an emissions intensity scheme, to drive a smooth change as greenhouse gas emissions are cut.

The Snowy Hydro Scheme, owned by the NSW, Victorian and federal governments, is the latest to back this sort of scheme. The federal government has rejected this sort of scheme.

Not all the above groups would endorse the Greens’ model, which requires that at least 90 per cent of energy is renewable by 2030, expands the national renewable energy target and introduces a emissions intensity standard that sets out a timetable for the closure of coal-fired power plants.

The authority would cost $500 million and would be expected to leverage $5 billion of energy construction in four years. The Greens also want to create a $250 million clean energy transition fund to help coal communities as plants close and change electricity market rules to make it encourage large-scale battery storage…….

In a submission to an energy security review by chief scientist Alan Finkel, ClimateWorks – a research body affiliated with Monash University – called for an independent statutory body to take over regulatory responsibilities from the COAG Energy Council, which is made up of federal and state energy ministers.

Origin backed the creation of a body similar to the Reserve Bank to manage the shift to lower emissions.

The ACTU called for the introduction of an Energy Transition Authority. Its responsibilities would include managing a planned closure of coal plants and an industry-wide scheme that allowed retrenched coal workers to get jobs at other power stations.

This model has been used at Hazelwood, where some workers will transfer to other Latrobe Valley generators.

March 27, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, politics | 1 Comment

Australian Liberals seeking Asian investment for new coal-fired power stations


Resources Minister Matt Canavan is fast-tracking the plan amid a growing fight with Labor and the Greens over support for coal power, as cabinet ministers prepare to decide how to encourage big investors into the market.

Senator Canavan told The Australian there was a “high ­degree of interest” from Asia helping to develop the new power station in northern Queensland, arguing that finance from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund would be needed to give the project long-term certainty…….

As the imminent close of the ageing Hazelwood power station reignites debate about electricity shortages and price spikes, Labor climate change spokesman Mark Butler has declared there is no support from industry to build new coal-fired power stations in Australia.

The Australian Energy ­Council, which represents companies supplying electricity to 10 million homes, warns it has become “very difficult” to finance coal-fired power stations when investors are ramping up wind and solar projects as well as gas generators that provide baseload power with lower greenhouse gas emissions than coal.

But the government is determined to keep the coal proposal on the agenda by raising the prospect of funding from the northern Australia fund, which is also a potential source of support for the controversial coalmine planned for central Queensland by Indian company Adani.

Senator Canavan said there was “no doubt” of the rudimentary economic and commercial case for a coal-fired power station in northern Queensland but that the government’s challenge was to set the energy market rules to offer certainty…..

A Senate inquiry led by a Labor and Greens majority last year argued for an “orderly retirement” of the nation’s coal-fired power stations but the government believes there is strong support in northern Queensland for a new coal project at a time of rising electricity price

Senator Canavan is examining options for a new power station near the Adani coalmine in the Galilee Basin, in Collinsville, to add to an existing power station or in Gladstone near an existing power station and taking advantage of transmission lines that are already in place.

The Resources Minister, who is also the Minister for Northern Australia and oversees the infrastructure fund, rejected suggestions that the help for a coal-fired power station would be a “subsidy” that meddled with the market….

Mr Butler is warning against the use of taxpayer funds for the rail line to the Adani mine or a new power station, claiming the long-term future for coal is one of decline.

“This is something the coal industry needs to deal with. We’ve said as a federal Labor Party we will not support taxpayers’ money going in to support infrastructure or pay for infrastructure around this (Adani) mine,” he said last week.

March 27, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

The Adani mine is this generation’s Franklin River. People power can stop it~ Bob Brown
‘This is the environmental issue of our times and the Great Barrier Reef is at stake. But people standing up for what they believe in has unbeatable power’  24 March 2017:

” … The Adani corporation’s dirty coalmine is an impending disaster with effects which will reach far beyond Australia.
“Everywhere I go people ask me about it.  They cannot believe that, at a time when we should be drastically cutting the pollution which drives global warming, Australia’s authorities would even consider building the world’s biggest export coalmine.

“Lending Mr Adani, a billionaire, a billion dollars of taxpayers’ money to carry this project into reality would be the political mistake of the decade.  The Turnbull government would be literally paying Adani
to ride roughshod over Indigenous rights, to contaminate the groundwater of the Galilee Basin, to consign threatened species to the dustbin of history and to increase the already disastrous impact of coral death worldwide. … “

March 25, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Leaders of Australian Climate Change Authority quit over government’s inaction

Two quit Australian climate authority blaming government ‘extremists’ John Quiggin and Danny Price resign over Coalition’s ‘rightwing anti-science activists’ and climate change political point-scoring, Guardian, , 23 Mar 17, Two members of the Climate Change Authority have resigned, with one accusing the government of being beholden to rightwing, anti-science “extremists” in its own party and in the media.

John Quiggin told Guardian Australia he informed the federal minister for environment and energy, Josh Frydenberg, of his resignation on Thursday. It follows the resignation of fellow climate change authority member, Danny Price, who quit on Tuesday.

“The government’s refusal to accept the advice of its own authority, despite wide support for that advice from business, environmental groups and the community as a whole, reflects the comprehensive failure of its policies on energy and the environment,” Quiggin said.

“These failures can be traced, in large measure, to the fact that the government is beholden to rightwing anti-science activists in its own ranks and in the media. Rather than resist these extremists, the Turnbull government has chosen to treat the vital issues of climate change and energy security as an opportunity for political point-scoring and culture war rhetoric.”

Quiggin said his immediate reason for resigning was the government’s failure to respond to the authority’s third report of the special review into potential climate policies, which the government had requested and which it was legally required to respond to.

“The government has already indicated that it will reject the key recommendations of the review, particularly the introduction of an emissions intensity scheme for the electricity industry.”

Quiggin said he didn’t believe there was anything to be gained “by giving objective advice based on science and economic analysis to a government dominated by elements hostile to both science and economics”…….

March 24, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Adani investors misled? Money shifted to tax haven as Australian govt subsidises loan

The Cayman Islands-controlled rail company has rights to a royalty stream worth up to $3 billion from the proposed mine, the ABC recently revealed — a payment that would come at the expense of shareholders in the publicly listed Adani Enterprises.

Adani facing growing pressure on fears investors may have been misled By Stephen Long, Adani Group is facing growing pressure to reveal which company in its complex corporate web has applied for a $1 billion subsided loan from the Australian Government, amid fears money could be shifted to a tax haven and investors may have been misled.

An Australian law firm has written to the Bombay Stock Exchange asking it to clear up the confusion about a $1 billion funding application to the Federal Government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF).

The loan would finance a 400-kilometre railway from Queensland’s Abbot Point Coal Terminal to a planned massive mine in the Galilee Basin, which, if it goes ahead as proposed, would contain six open-cut pits and five underground collieries.

It is “absolutely possible” investors have been misled about the loan, lawyer David Barnden from not-for-profit law firm Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) told the ABC. “In terms of misleading the market, the NAIF funding is really, really important for Adani’s share price,” Mr Barnden explained.

“When [Resources Minister] Matt Canavan told Reuters last week that Adani Enterprises had applied for the funding, the share price went up 4 per cent.”

Continue reading

March 24, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Senate Inquiry report tabled: Labor support for Native Title Bill profoundly disappointing 21 March 2017:
Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners fighting Adani’s Carmichael mine are profoundly disappointed that Labor senators have today backed in the Government’s rushed and ill-considered amendments to the Native Title Act, giving a free kick to Indian billionaire Gautam Adani and plans for a Qld coal mine.

“The Native Title Amendment (Indigenous Land Use Agreements) Bill 2017 is designed to overturn the recent McGlade decision that upheld the Native Title Act requirement that all applicants are needed to sign a land use agreement. The bill is expected to be debated in the Senate today.

Senior spokesperson for the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners Council Mr Adrian Burragubba said, “Labor has lined up with the Government to wind back our rights – and their own commitment to land rights. They have swallowed the arguments of the mining and agricultural lobby that there is a crisis that needs an urgent response. …

Youth spokesperson for the W&J Traditional Owners Council Ms Murrawah Johnson said,  “The major parties have given Adani and their dirty mine a free kick today.
““Politicians at the Federal and State level are falling over themselves to push this controversial proposed mine through, denying us our rights to self-determination. …

Mr Colin Hardie, Lawyer for the W&J native title claimants objecting to Adani’s purported ILUA said, “The risk involved in this legislation is so great it should not be proceeding.
It is a case where the cure is worse than the complaint. My clients will retain their objection to the purported Adani ILUA in the court, and consider grounds for challenging the legislation”. … “

March 24, 2017 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Immense coal mine “good for the environment” says fossil fuel lackey Resources Minister Matt Canavan

This Politician Reckons Australia’s Largest Coal Mine Will Actually Be Good For The Environment  March 23, 2017, Rob Stott BuzzFeed News Reporter, Australia  Australian resources minister Matt Canavan has defended the proposed Carmichael coal mine, saying it will actually have a positive effect on the environment. The mine, which would produce more than 60 million tonnes of coal per year and significantly contribute to global carbon emissions, is proposed for Queensland’s Galilee Basin.

March 23, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Snowy Hydro plan – Turnbull camouflaging its renewable energy side from his colleagues

sometimes the leader of the nation can join the policy discussion only by disguising his good ideas in a drizabone and bush hat, lest they be recognised for what they are by his own colleagues.

It’s great news – but sadly, Turnbull’s hiding the greens under the mash, Guardian, 18 Mar 17  Lenore Taylor

Huge potential of pumped hydro at Snowy Mountains could pave the way for a 100% renewable energy grid, but don’t tell the prime minister’s colleagues “……This week the prime minister announced some details of a big idea he has been hinting at all year – the massive potential of pumped hydro to help solve Australia’s energy crisis.

But like a parent hiding the nutritious goodness of veggies under the familiar stodge of gravy and mash, he covered the truly exciting potential of his plan under the reassuring nostalgia of a revived “nation-building” Snowy Mountains scheme, complete with hard hat and hi-vis vest.

It was duly reported as a “blast from the past” and a “trip down memory lane” with much reassuring emphasis on the jobs that could be created and file footage of hard-working post-war immigrants.

But – if it works – this revived Snowy Mountains scheme could actually pave the way for a reliable 100% renewable energy grid. It could end all that talk about how we need super-duper extremely “clean” coal for “baseload” power. Once you can store and dispatch power at this scale, the whole idea of “baseload” has been overtaken. And this latest “push” for nuclear energy will be dead before the mining industry has a chance to wind up another million-dollar advertising campaign. If the feasibility studies are positive, it won’t be a “blast from the past” at all, it will be a big leap into the future. Continue reading

March 19, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, politics | Leave a comment

Australia’s unstoppable transition to renewable energy

The question is whether the Coalition really is prepared to do something about bringing electricity prices down, or just wants to keep talking rubbish about how renewables will drive them up.

Swing to renewables will be unstoppable, THE AUSTRALIAN, ALAN KOHLER 18 Mar 17 Out of the thick haze of energy politics, something clearly significant emerged this week.

The expansion of Snowy Hydro is a very surprising, genuine game-changer: it shifts the power balance in Australian policy decisively towards renewables. If the project happens, a big if, the last fossil fuel electricity generator in this country has already been built.

It was possible because Snowy Hydro is the acceptable face of renewable energy, allowing, a heroic, soaring prime ministerial doorstop: “These are big dreams in these mountains, real courage, a belief in the future, a confidence in Australia.”

But the important point is that the Coalition’s electricity solution no longer seems to involve “clean coal” or gas.

There’s still a long way to go — after all, Malcolm Turnbull announced only a feasibility study, and then appeared to confirm that it was a stunt by using the press release to one-up South Australia’s battery plan: “My energy storage is bigger than yours.”

So the whole thing could turn into a pointless pissing contest between hydro and solar/wind/batteries. In fact, let’s face it — it probably will.

But even if that happens, and even if energy policy descends once more into political farce, at least the thermal power oligopoly would be out of the game, no longer exerting its hold over policy with the aim of maintaining margins.

And that is the significance of this Snowy Hydro expansion: it marks the end of thermal power. From here the swing to renewables will be fast, unstoppable and eventually complete….. Continue reading

March 18, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, politics | Leave a comment

Malcolm Turnbull’s desperate Snow job – as he pushes a hydro power renewable energy solution

Turnbull’s desperation … is driven by the knowledge that his government will carry the can if the spiralling problems are not addressed. He also knows his options on electricity are limited by the powerful reactionary rump within his government.

Among other things, it [the Snowy pumped hydro scheme]  would make the government’s flirtation with funding a new “clean” coal plant – still being spruiked this week by Resources Minister Matt Canavan – much harder to justify……

plenty of questions remain unanswered. It is not clear how long the Snowy plan will take to get up – Turnbull says within four years, but the Australian Renewable Energy Agency has said this sort of project could take up to seven. It is not clear what it would cost, or who will pay for it. A feasibility study is yet to be completed. Its impact on the environment has not yet been assessed. We don’t know if its viability in a projected future climate with reduced river flows has been considered.

Is Malcolm Turnbull’s Snowy Hydro 2.0 a breakthrough, a distraction or both?, The Age, 18 Mar Adam Morton  “…. Depending on who you listen to, Malcolm Turnbull’s proposed $2 billion expansion of the Snowy Hydro Scheme is a bold piece of nation-building by a Prime Minister who had found his mojo, or a cynically timed thought-bubble that is years away at best……

“I am a nation-building Prime Minister and this is a nation-building project,” he said …… Continue reading

March 18, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, politics | Leave a comment

Weatherill govt has tried to be constructive, but attacked unfairly by Turnbull govt

The government must fix this unconscionable energy mess – it owes us that much Guardian, Katharine Murphy, 17 Mar 17   “…Jay Weatherill’s ambush of Josh Frydenberg this week wasn’t pretty, but Canberra had it coming – now the government needs to step up “……Who could really blame the South Australian premier this week for saying screw you Canberra in two pretty spectacular ways – with a big package to boost the state’s energy self-sufficiency, and by crash-tackling Josh Frydenberg in a suburban garage in Adelaide?

It really wasn’t the high point of democratic representation, gotcha in the garage; kind of depressing, really – but the government in Canberra really had that one coming.

 The Weatherill government has tried to play a constructive role in the energy council, the state and federal decision-making body which sits under the Coag umbrella. They’ve done that for years, in fact you’d categorise their efforts as a leadership role undertaken while Canberra roiled, raged and regressed – so they really don’t deserve whipping boy status…….

March 18, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

As Queensland Premier about to decide on Adani coal mine, Indian fishermen warn Australia against it

Adani: Indian fishermen warn Australia against environmental impact ahead of coal mine talks ABC AM By South Asia correspondent James Bennett , 17 Mar 17 Fishermen in India say a local Adani project is harming them and killing off sea life, warning Australia to be wary as Queensland’s Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk prepares to decide whether to proceed with the Carmichael coal mine.

Key points:

  • Noor Mohammad said the Adani project’s coal dust, stream discharge harmed the community
  • Adani has been heavily criticised for a series of environmental breaches during construction of Gujarat project
  • Comment was sought from Adani on measures it had taken to address the ash problem, but the ABC received no response

Ms Palaszczuk and eight regional mayors are preparing to sit down with the chairman of Adani Enterprises, Gautam Adani, ahead of the company deciding whether to proceed with the proposed mine.

The Queenslanders will be shown the Adani’s Gujarat port and power station, which itself has a chequered environmental record, of which the local fishermen said Australia should be wary……

March 18, 2017 Posted by | climate change - global warming, politics, Queensland | Leave a comment

PM Turnbull comes out in his true pro nuclear colours

Let’s have debate on nuclear power: PM AAP on March 17, 2017 Nuclear power would demand political consensus and take many years to develop but it is a debate worth having, the prime minister says.

Malcolm Turnbull made the remark after spruiking his $2 billion expansion of the Snowy Hydro scheme and following weeks of unceasing discussion about gas, coal and renewable energy.

The Minerals Council of Australia has called for the blanket ban on nuclear power to be lifted after 11 coalition government MPs publicly declared it should be included in the energy mix.

Mr Turnbull says establishing a nuclear power station would need a high degree of bipartisanship because its development would span the lives of various governments from different parties. “But even assuming you had all of that, it would take many, many, many years to build. It’s not something that could be done in four or five years, let alone two or three years,” he told Sydney’s 2GB Radio.

“I think it’s an important debate to have but in the near term and in the medium term, storage is a very critical necessity.”

The minerals council argued nuclear power was reliable, affordable, safe and a proven technology that produced close to zero carbon emissions.

March 17, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

A pack of Liberals want nuclear power for Australia

Put nuclear in the energy mix, Coalition MPs tell Malcolm Turnbull, SMH, James Massola, Adam Gartrell, 16 Mar 17  One in 10 Turnbull government MPs say nuclear power should be on the table as federal and state governments grapple with Australia’s future energy needs.

The 11 Coalition MPs – Andrew Broad, James Paterson, Tony Pasin, Tim Wilson, Chris Back, Craig Kelly, Eric Abetz, Andrew Hastie, Warren Entsch, Bridget McKenzie and Rowan Ramsey – are from both the Liberal and National parties and come from the moderate and conservative wings of the government…..

The call to consider nuclear power came as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and senior ministers met the chief executives of major gas companies including Santos, Origin, ExxonMobil and Shell to discuss shortfalls in gas supplies projected to hit the eastern and southern states in the coming years……

The talks came amid escalating debate over energy security and a day after South Australia announced a “go it alone” energy policy that includes plans for a new $360 million gas-fired power plant……

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews took a swipe at Mr Turnbull, calling on him to “admit that the national energy market is failing households and businesses across the country, especially in Victoria. If he can bring himself to acknowledge that, we can then have a mature discussion about our energy future”.

A nuclear power plant would take an estimated 15 to 20 years to build and would cost several billions of dollars. It would also be expensive, relative to coal and gas-fired power, though a carbon price or emissions intensity scheme for electricity sector could make it more competitive.

Nuclear would not, therefore, offer a solution to short-term gas shortages but – the MPs said – in the medium term it should be considered. However, partisan politics in the form of opposition from Labor and the Greens could get in the way……

Both Mr Turnbull and deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop have both previously backed nuclear power

March 17, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment