Energy policy isn’t playing out well for federal Labor, and there could be implications for the party’s leadership.
LABOR’S caucus, always threatening to closely scrutinise prime ministerial policies but never doing so, would be wise to closely look over the Gillard-Greens plan to phase-out Australia’s reliable and efficient coal-fired base load electricity generating industry.
Julia Gillard has naturally stressed the offsets of her and the Greens’ blueprint to boost the cost of this essential commodity when unveiling her disastrous energy path.
Equally understandably, she remained silent or vague on the socialist-style network of energy-controlling quangos, and foreshadowed beefed-up government involvement in electricity generation.
Buried in the Gillard-Greens blueprint, called ‘Securing a Clean Energy Future’, is the following handful of initial outlays:
• $256 million for a clean energy regulator;
• $60 million to regulate synthetic greenhouse gases; and
• $25 million for a climate change authority that Greens leader, Bob Brown, said would oversee ‘upward flexibility; in other words, endlessly boosting the tax rate on CO2, and thus coal-fired base load electricity.
As well as this $341 million there are plans to “simultaneously offer incentives to generate a $100 billion renewable sector by 2050”.
In other words, it’s a commitment to outlay $2.5 billion annually on costly, unreliable wind- and solar-generated electricity.
A Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) will subsidise wind and solar generation to the tune of $10 billion over five years, via, wait for it, cheap and commercial loans – loan guarantees.
And, according to Climate Change Minister Greg Combet, the CEFC may become a shareholder in so-called emerging technologies.
This understandably prompted one Canberra-based commentator to say: ‘Yes, it is a Green bank’.
In other words, we’ll have a return to the socialist Curtin-Chifley era of the 1940s.
And they call that reform.
Canberra bureaucrats will effectively be, if not shareholders, then stakeholders in a network of unviable windmills, solar farms, unworkable carbon capture ground poisoning plants and whatever else pie-in-the-sky government scientists and money hungry businessmen with crackpot ideas put to them.
Just when catastrophic blackouts or electricity rationing click into the system is anyone’s guess. Madness.
More worrying are Labor’s cosy links to the union movement, which probably means workers’ superannuation funds will be channelled into Australia’s emerging subsidised white elephant Greens-inspired electricity sector.
Important to note here is the fact that such union-controlled funds now oversee about $270 billion, over which contributors have no real control.
Where channelling funds into wind and solar farm ventures will become even more financially problematic is that those controlling such funds will seek Treasury backed guarantees for return on capital to protect their outlays.
In other words, Australian taxpayers will be called upon to become guarantors, via the CEFC/Green bank, meaning risk will ultimately be borne by Australians.
All this means Australia’s energy sector will increasingly head down a southern European Union path – another way of saying, Greece, Spain and Portugal are about to visit Down Under.
Just where such a network of costly white elephants ends, and whether it’ll ever meet Australia’s electricity requirements, is another matter.
But the possibility of catastrophic blackouts and electricity rationing cannot be discounted.
Also worth noting is Danish expert Bjorn Lomborg’s cautioning of Australia on embarking on this Greens-promoted path.
“Their arguments range from, ‘it’s got to be better to put wind turbines up’, to ‘other countries around the world are doing it’,” Professor Lomborg said. “One cites the example of Germany, which has led the world in subsidising solar panels.
“Yes, Germany has spent more than $75 billion on inefficient solar technology delivering a mere 0.1 per cent of its total energy supply.
“And this will postpone global warming by how much?
“A whole seven hours by the end of the century.”
Those doubting such cautionary remarks should ponder the following lines, especially paragraph two, by The Australian’s editor-at-large Paul Kelly.
“The long-range restructuring [of Australia’s base load sector] is ambitious and Treasury modelling identifies the transition from 2011 to 2050,” he wrote.
“Within the energy mix conventional coal falls from 70 per cent to 10 per cent over 40 years.
“Carbon capture and storage for coal is assumed to provide about 15 per cent of the 2050 mix.
“While the role of gas is enhanced the real shift is from coal to renewables, which are estimated to provide 40 per cent of the 2050 mix.”
Remember, those now dabbling with Australia’s crucially important electricity sector – Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan, with Kevin Rudd – were joint architects of the pink batts fiasco, wasteful school buildings program, the never-completed computers for students roll-out, and the dumped grocery and fuel watch ventures, to name a few.
And all the while caucus sat on its hands watching billions of taxpayers’ dollars being squandered.
When Ms Gillard ousted Mr Rudd she claimed this was because the government, in which she was number two, ‘had lost its way’.
At the time, and to this day, that justification didn’t wash.
Caucus accepted before the 2007 election that future Labor leaders would henceforth fully oversee policy and cabinet selection – the ideas, their implementation, and the personnel.
Nothing has changed since Mr Rudd’s dumping.
Caucus today remains the same lame duck it was between the 2007 and 2010 elections.
In many ways the situation is now far worse because during those three wasteful Rudd-Gillard years Labor’s two top hopefuls, Messrs Combet and Bill Shorten, were still credible leadership contenders.
Today both are firmly identified with the precarious Gillard-Greens path of deforming Australia’s energy sector via massive taxpayer handouts, guarantees, and probably union-controlled superannuation cash for unviable ventures.
Little wonder the names Simon Crean and Martin Ferguson are being raised as viable likely replacements.
In March, Resources Minister Mr Ferguson called Labor’s minority Greens coalition partners “basket-weavers” and dubbed leader, Senator Brown, “soapbox Bob Brown”.
As the grave implications of the Gillard-Swan massive and wasteful multi-billion dollar commitments to the Greens energy-limiting path sink into some caucus members’ minds, some will hopefully begin pondering whether there’s still a way out for Labor.
No-one, except perhaps Mr Rudd, would relish seeing Labor’s present leadership removed, since his dumping caused so much angst across Labor’s parliamentary and rank-and-file wings that the thought of another ousting understandably causes faces to cringe.
But a Crean-Ferguson team for election 2013 shouldn’t be discounted.
Neither gentleman is irrevocably associated, in the public mind, with the coming Greens-imposed de-energising-of-Australia path.
Despite former Labor leader Bob Hawke barracking for Mr Combet to become Labor’s next leader, that outcome won’t eventuate if the Gillard-Swan duo undergoes a Rudd-style sacking.
If polls over coming months (August to November) remain low, a surgical pre-festive season dumping of Ms Gillard and Mr Swan, (increasingly seen as Australia’s worst treasurer since Jim Cairns) is inevitable.
That would give the Crean-Ferguson team all of 2012 to help Labor rediscover itself.
And with a bit of luck they’d hold-off Tony Abbott – still being undermined by envious and bitter Malcolm Turnbull – to save Australia from the unfolding Gillard-Greens disaster.