Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Wong plays more politics with climate change - all talk and no action

The Labor party is back in election mode and restarting their campaign after the campaign started by Kevin Rudd turned to custard.  Having deposed Rudd as Prime Minister and shut him out of the new Cabinet, Julia Gillard has rewarded those loyal to her by keeping them in their ministries - despite quite obvious failures for a few of them to deliver.

Penny Wong for example failed to deliver an emissions trading scheme.  The accountability for the failed CPRS was hers, not Kevin Rudd's.  Instead of architecting an ETS based on science and evidence based reduction targets, Wong set about "negotiating" with the fossil fuel industries and running a political wedge within the Coalition ranks.  At no time in this process did she (or anybody else from Labor) negotiate with the Greens, who publicly committed to a science-based emission reduction target of 40% by 2020.

Wong "browned down" Labor's CPRS by gifting billions of free carbon emission permits to polluters and even doling out free cash payments to coal-fired power stations out of the public purse.  Then she negotiated with the Coalition and further "browned it down" so that if implemented, Australia would have achieved no emission reductions by 2020 and bought dodgy "offsets" from overseas.

Then the skillfully crafted wedge against the Liberals failed - Turnbull was ousted, and the new opposition leader sidestepped the trap set and opposed the CPRS - as it turns out for the wrong reasons, but for the right outcome.

Penny Wong had no "plan B" despite an offer from the Greens to negotiate on an interim carbon tax as described the Government's own advisor on climate change and economics - Professor Ross Garnaut.  Kevin Rudd then took the rap for the CPRS failure and said he would do nothing until 2013.  This was the beginning of the end of his time as Prime Minister of Australia, even though it was Penny Wong's failure.

I waited keenly for Julia Gillard, as the new Prime Minister, to say what she was going to do on climate change.  She acknowledged that action is required and that climate change is serious, but said that "we need to reach consensus on a price on carbon within the Australian community".  This is code for doing nothing.  

There will be no consensus when the fossil fuel industries spends hundreds of millions of dollars on propaganda and funding climate denialist groups, as we saw happening in the lead up to and during the recent failed Copenhagen Accord.  So Gillard stands for yet more talk and no real action.

Has Penny Wong learnt from her recent dismal failure with the CPRS?  Apparently not.  She is attending a 
Climate Adaptation Futures Conference at the Gold Coast along with over 100 climate scientists from around the world.  They are talking about how to adapt to climate change, not whether it is happening or not - which is now regarded as a given by climate scientists.  Unfortunately, this is cure rather prevention.  

Penny Wong told the Conference that:

"it was important to remember that science was at the heart of understanding climate change"

So how does she explain ignoring recent climate science and setting only a 5% reduction target under the CPRS?

"For too long those who deny climate change is real have muddied the debate, for too long they have hijacked this issue to pursue their own agenda."
I agree with her on this - but is Penny Wong who has hijacked the issue for petty political reasons.

"The reason we don't have a price on carbon is Tony Abbott tore down a leader (Malcolm Turnbull) and installed himself on the basis that he doesn't believe climate change is real, and the Australian Greens voted with Mr Abbott."
Some classic blame shifting here Penny.  As previously noted, she did not negotiate with Greens on the ETS at all, or after it failed!

"Julia Gillard has made clear her commitment to this issue, and her views about the need for a price on carbon" 
Penny Wong and Julia Gillard can achieve this tomorrow by negotiating with the Greens senators and getting two Liberal Senators to cross the floor.

It is time for Penny Wong to stop playing politics and to stop making excuses for doing nothing.  We need a carbon tax and we need it now.  Get on with it.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

An open letter to Julia Gillard PM - please take action on climate change

Subject: Congratulations on becoming Prime Minister - please take action on climate change and forest protection

To: Julia Gillard MP

Dear Julia,

Congratulations on becoming Prime Minister.  I think you will do a great job.  I was extremely disappointed when Kevin Rudd abandoned any effective action on climate change.

Here are some items I suggest you consider, with urgency:

  • Negotiate with Greens and at least two Coalition Senators in the Senate to get a carbon tax in place - this would apply across all industries, not just mining, and the funds can be directed towards transitioning to a low carbon economy
  • Remove perverse taxes that encourage fossil fuel use - such as car leases that require minimum kilometres to be driven, the diesel fuel rebate, and sundry others

    • Allow tax deductions and/or salary packing for people who cycle to work
    • Ditch the $2billion+ corporate welfare funding for "Clean Coal" geo-sequestration pipe dreams that defy the basic laws of physics and direct this towards a 100% clean energy program based on concentrated solar with salt storage and wind power.
    • Commence planning for a very fast train project to link Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane.
    • Introduce national building standards for 6 Star Rated buildings and retrofit of existing building stock (and keep Peter Garrett away from it)
    • Protect native forests from logging to keep the carbon they store where it is, secure our water supplies and provide habitat for endangered species. 
    • Do not allow the burning of native forest woodchips as a "renewable energy source" - it clearly is not renewable and our forests are worth much more than woodchips.
    • Commence an initiative to transition Australia to net zero emissions by 2020 - as outline in the Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Stationary Energy Plan produced by Beyond Zero Emissions
    I believe you have an excellent opportunity to lead Australia towards a vibrant zero carbon emissions economy that is sustainable, with our national heritage and environment protected.

    Regards, Peter Campbell
    Home address supplied

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010

    Why can't Rudd do a carbon tax?

    With the Federal election likely to be called this year, probably in August, the Rudd Labor government is now in campaign mode.  Consequently, its policies and focus are directed toward positioning themselves for winning the election and not much else.

    The campaign strategy discussions may have unfolded something like this:

    What will be our core platform for the election?
    • Let's do health, education, economic responsibility and the national broadband network
    • We will lob a new health funding model on the States and bully them into submission  so we appear tough and forceful
    • We can trade off avoiding the Global Financial Crisis claiming we saved Australia from financial ruin
    What will be our main issues to defend for the election?
    • We completely flubbed it on climate change when Copenhagen turned to custard, and we had no plan B - so lets keep blaming the Greens for not supporting the industry-friendly CPRS - and the Liberals for sidestepping our skillfully crafted wedge when Turnbull went under and Abbot took over
    • We aren't doing too well on environment either, with native forests still being destroyed, the Great Barrier Reef dying, the Orange Bellied Parrot and a few other species rapidly heading towards extinction - so lets get Peter Garrett out there handing out money for a few good causes in the States. 
    • The housing insulation scheme killed for people and turned it a fatal farce.  Can't remember why we gave this to the Environment Minister Garrett when he and his department know nothing about building matters or managing large scale projects. So let's take it off him and give him a bit more money to throw around.  And send him to the back bench after the next election.
    • Clear the decks.  We have a few backflips to get out of the way.
    • Backflip 1  (Kevin Rudd) - the need for urgent action on climate change "the great moral challenge of our time" - the CPRS (emissions trading) now on hold until 2013
    • Backflip 2 (Wayne Swan and Kevin Rudd) - avoid scrutiny of Government advertising by the Auditor General by announcing a $38 million, taxpayer funded political advertising campaign., despite it being “a cancer on our democracy” and a clear commitment from Rudd that this would not happen., 
    Then some polls were released indicating that Kevin Rudd had burnt most of his political capital in a very short space of time and his support plummeted, with opposition leader Tony Abbott seemingly now capable of winning the next election.

    Let's run a scare campaign on Abbott - like Howard did on L Plates Latham.  Let's even compare Abbott to Latham.  Brief to all ministers - keep saying "Tony Abbott would win an election if one were held tomorrow".

    Now we need to get back onto our core platform.  

    We have an exposure on the economy - we are now seriously in debt with a large deficit.  Lets cherry pick from the Henry Tax Review something that will help us back on track to a budget surplus.  Let's go with the Resource Super Profits Tax - will lob it out there and have some biffo with the mining companies.  This will give Kevin Rudd another opportunity to demonstrate his strong leadership style, and will offset some of the fallout from gifting $8 billion via the failed CPRS to large corporations making millions out of fossil fuels.

    Well, that worked, sort of.  We got the media off climate change and even backflips, but those mining companies sure have gone troppo.  Now a bit of a stoush and ritual combat is turning into another problem for us - no consultation with stakeholders (like health reform), and back benchers in marginal seats with mines getting restless.  Let's hang tough for another couple of weeks then reduce the RSPT rate a bit to shut them up.

    *** End of script as at 15 June 2010 ***

    This reads a bit like a script from the Hollowmen.  But then truth is stranger than fiction.

    Here are a few things that should have happened:
    • Negotiate with Greens and two Coalition Senators in the Senate to get a carbon tax in place - this would apply across all industries, not just mining, and the funds can be directed towards transitioning to a low carbon economy
    • Remove perverse taxes that encourage fossil fuel use - such as car leases that require minimum kilometres to be driven, the diesel fuel rebate, and sundry others
    • Allow tax deductions and/or salary packing for people who cycle to work
    • Ditch the $2billion+ corporate welfare funding for "Clean Coal" /geo-sequestration pipe dreams that defy the basic laws of physics and direct this towards a 100% clean energy program based on concentrated solar with salt storage and wind power.
    • Commence a very fast train project to link Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane.
    • Introduce national building standards for 6 Star Rated buildings and retrofit of existing building stock (and keep Peter Garrett away from it)
    • Protect native forests from logging to keep the carbon they store where it is, secure our water supplies and provide habitat for endangered species.
    I am not holding my breath for any of this.  But I am astounded by the failings of our political system and our major party politicians to deliver sensible policies.

    They are intent of just playing politics, striving to get into government, then just pfaffing around when they get there.

    *** Script update at 15 June 2010 ***

    Prime Minister Kevin Rudd appeared on the 7:30 Report on Monday night.  He appeared to be in damage control mode forcing some smiles, rapidly blinking and appeared uneasy.  When questioned about the Resource Super Profits Tax, the mining industry campaign against it and the date of the next election he mentioned that the election could be delayed until March/April 2011.  

    "Yeah, well we have an election due by whatever it is, March or April next year and we only have three year terms. You've got to use the time effectively. "

    So it seems that the nascent election campaign in progress may be drastically rescheduled.  Then again he may go early to avoid Tony Abbott gaining more support.  

    I wish he would just bring a carbon tax and get on with it.

    External links

    Monday, June 14, 2010

    Port Douglas trip 2010

    Winter in Melbourne means very little reliable wind for kitesurfing, wet weather and cold temperatures.  We decided to have another family holiday this year in Port Douglas, and I would stay another week for kitesurfing.

    However, this trip there was no wind most of the time which was dissappointing given a major reason for this trip was to go kitesurfing. I was lucky to get in a couple of good sessions however in the warm tropical water.

    There are very few Japanese and other tourists about compared to my visits in previous years. A lot of the hotel chains had 10% occupancy rates, and many private apartments and villas have been empty for extended periods.

    A 3 month lease can be negiotated for 2 bedroom villas for around $200 to $250 per week. Daily rentals of around $90 per day are commonplace. A lot of real estate is for sale. It seems that appeciation is low or non-existent. It doesn't look like real estate is a good investment in this region for either rental return or capital gains. However, it could a low point and therefore a good time to invest, but only if tourism increases and the market moves ahead.

    This shows the perils inherent in basin and economy on tourism. Cairns and Far North Queensland have 15% unemployment at the moment.
    There are also some bogans around in Far North Queensland. Someone set fire to rubbish in a plastic bin at the 4 Mile Beach reserve and left it burning on top of a wooden picnic table. The result was a burnt table covered with litter and melted plastic - a terrible mess.

    The Captain Cook highway which hugs the coast between Cairns and Port Douglas is superb.  It has ocean views similar to Victoria's Great Ocean Road and many nice beaches along it.  It is a great road for cycling if you time it when there are few cars - such as early on Sunday morning.

    We visited Hartley's Crocodile Farm and were surprised by the range of animals there - including Cassowaries, Jabiru, a Spotted Quoll and of course some huge crocodiles.  It is well worth a visit.

    Mosman Gorge is always a favourite.  The fresh flowing water and the rainforest is superb.  On this trip Chloe said "look daddy, a big bird!" and a wild Cassowary walked out of the forests into the carpark - the first I have ever seen in the wild.

    We swam in the sea a few times in the stinger nets.  They are usually taken down by May but a lifeguard told me that a stinger was found at Mission Beach a couple of weeks ago, so they kept nets in place for another few weeks as a precaution.  Lots of people have been kitesurfing around Port Douglas an encountered no problems.

    We did a day tour to the spectacular Barron River Gorge and visited Kuranda, which is now a major tourist trap.  Lots of souvenir and "local produce shops", some of which are interesting, and the locally grown coffee is good, but it gets a bit overwhelming.

    No trace of these further inland at Mareeba - and old style Queensland town.  The Penninsula Development Road that runs inland through Mareeba and north to Cooktown is remote and isolated.  We drove to Mount Molloy then returned to Port Douglas.

    Cycling highlights

    The cycling was superb as usual. Bike rides up "the hill" on the climb to Julatten are great for training and appreciating the rainforest. There are cassowaries in this forest but I haven't ever seen one on this road. A circuit ride along the Euluma Creek Road was a highlight. Views to the surrounding high peaks such as Black Mountain are spectacular. The area around Julatten is cooler due to its altitude and has lush farm land and a small but active local community. Lots of people around Julatten own big dogs here that are used for pig hunting.

    I rode a short detour along Side Road near Julatten and saw a small toothy marsupial road kill. When the road turned to dirt I followed it over a small creek and came across a jungle bush dwelling that was rough and ready. There are some alternative lifestylers tucked around this area too.

    In general, drivers treat cyclists with respect in this region. Usually they gave me a wide berth and a few waved hello as they passed.

    Mount Molloy seems to be in decline despite its location on the main road from Mareeba to Cooktown. There is a new real estate subdivision selling there but the bakery has closed. Now there is just a cafe and a roadhouse.

    The ride to Cape Tribulation is superb.  It is a long day - about 160km - but the rainforest, hills and creeks on the road to Cape Tribulation are wonderful to cycle through.

    Quaid Road - an exercise on folly. It was built as a private road by Quaid (local real estate agent) in cahoots with Russ Hinze and Joh Bjelke Peterson (Premier at the time). The intention was to provide fast access from the Cairns airport to a real estate development at Quaids Lake inland. The road climbs up steeply from Wangetti through rainforest. Several landslides have occurred in this region so it is in poor condition. At the top, the road traverses a high plateau and pine plantation and is covered by much leaf litter.

    A locked gate is encountered just before it is crossed by a track that connects Julatten and Kuranda. From here the road passes through very deep cuttings and across some long high filled sections. It descends, climbs to a second high point, then descends again and climbs to a third high point. It is in quite good condition along these sections. after the third big descent a smaller climb brings you the final locked gate, which f4WDs have a track around, From here it is open to general traffic. A dirt track to quarry joins it. The road then connects to the Mareeba - Mount Molloy road just near Quaid lake.

    It would have been very expensive to build and no sits as a monument to stupidity and avarice. There are very few houses at Quaids lake and nothing else around, The Queensland government still refuses to gazette and maintain it as a public road.

    The wind this year was lacking. I got only two good sessions in this trip as bad weather in the south of Australia caused storms in southern Queensland and blocked the seasonal trade winds coming up to Port Douglas and Cairns.

    It is hard to get the timing right for wind.  The week before we arrived was very windy.  

    My blog  log entries for the kiteboarding:

    2010-05-16 Port Douglas flight up

    Looking out to Hinchinbrook Island and coming into Cairns.

    2010-05-16 Yarrabah

    We did a side trip to Yarrabah, and Aboriginal Community south of Cairns.  It is a nice drive to get there and a there is a very steep hill to climb over.  Bike road races are held on the Yarrabah Road, but not up the hill.

    2010-05-17 Macrossan St and 4 mile

    Macrossan Street is always worth a wander.  Beach gear, restaurants and cafes.  Chloe is wearing a dress from Something Tropical for Kids, which our friends Doug and Wendy manage.

    2010-05-18 Hartleys crocodile farm

    That is a five meter Saltwater Crocodile under the decking of the cafe at Hartleys.  There are lots of other animals to see too, and the reserve is well kept.  The staff are friendly and helpful.

    2010-05-19 Kuranda and Barrons Gorge
    A view from the Captain Cook Highway on the road back to Cairns.  We then drove to Kuranda and Barron Gorge.

    2010-05-19 Mareeba
    Mareeba is an old style Queensland town.

    2010-05-20 Dinner at Tin Shed

    The Tin Shed is a great place for dinner.  The views across to Thorntons Peak and the Daintree are superb and prawn shells tossed off the balcony are snatched by hungry fish.

    2010-05-20 Shannons Lane ford

    A lovely ford river crossing near where fruit wines are made.

    2010-05-20 Mosman Gorge

    The wild cassowary spotted by Chloe at Mosman Gorge.

    2010-05-20 Mosman

    Mosman is another local town unaffected by tourism.

    2010-05-20 Port Douglas hill view

    The view from the hill lookout along 4 Mile Beach and back towards Cairns is worth a look.

    2010-05-21 Port Douglas Carnivale

    Carnivale is a local festival with lots of events and of course a parade.

    Here's a video of the Windsell float at Carnivale with me driving.

    2010-05-22 Port Douglas 4 mile

    Hanging out at 4 Mile Beach park waiting for the wind.

    2010-05-24 Sailaway sunset cruise

    The sunset cruise on Sailaway is a nice trip.

    2010-05-24 Stand up paddle boards at Port Douglas

    My first go on a standup paddleboard (SUP).  I was surprised at how much fun it is.  Great for when there is no wind.

    2010-05-25 Bike ride to Cape Tribulation

    The bike ride from Port Douglas to Cape Tribulation is one of the best I have ever done.  Riding through the rainforest is a delight.

    2010-05-26 Quaid Road cycle tour

    A dog named Moose at the 9 mile Roadhouse on the road to Mount Molloy.  I did this ride from Port Douglas, inland to Mount Molloy, along to Quaid Road, then along it to Wangetti, then back to Port.

    2010-05-27 Kitecam 4 mile

    Kitecam shots at 4 Mile and on downwinders to the Surf Club.