Monday, August 31, 2009

Catherine Hill Bay: Court Overturns Sartor

Former Planning Minster, Frank Sartor's, approval of a development at Cathering Hill Bay, south of Swansea, near Newcastle.

As then Planning Minister, Mr Sartor, accepted the advice of the Planning Panel. He appointed members of the panel, so any references to it being "independent" outght to be questioned. Rose Corp's development application was ranked very low on the Planning Department's list of preferred developments for the lower Hunter Region. It's approval was contingent on the deal to transfer some land to the State Government, in return for planning aproval, and land.

Residents of the old coal-mining town, and from other nearby, small settlements, objected. Today, the Land And Environment Court has declared void the former Planning Minister's approval of the development.

While the method, the deal and reasoning behind the development approval appear to be discredited by the court's decision, I think it is unlikely that the State Government will challenge it. The court's decision, though, does not mean there can be no development at Catherine Hill Bay; it just means that Frank Sartor's decision was not valid. I wonder how much of it was his idea - as Minister for Water, Sydney Water employees had two 'terms of endearment'. They were 'The Big Drip' if he had an idea, or 'Cranky Franky', if in his usual mood.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Rees: 'I Won't Go'

NSW Premier Nathan Rees, has held a press conference and stated: "I am and will remain the New South Wales Labor leader". He then said it again, just in case the assembled journalists didn't understand. Or, it could have been repetition to reinforce his own idea.

Like any other political leader, he remains in the job only while he has the numbers: the support Joe Tripodi & Eddie Obeid (ther is irony in the right wing onf the Labor Party acting as power brokers for a left-wing Premier), the NSW Labor Party, and the Caucus.

Kristina Keneally also fronted the media to deny that she had been approached by Joe Tripodi, or anyone else, and that Premier Rees had her full support. She also questioned how much of the current, and on-going, media speculation was driven by the media. Fair question: there is no doubt that some journalists, and some media outlets have their own political agenda. How much of the speculation is media-driven, and how much comes from disgruntled Labor Government members is unknown. There is probably some of each.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell, held a media conference to say, 'Bring on the election'. As if that were news! Having stirred the election pot, he probably chuckled all the way back to his office to watch the mayhem. Politics, n. a daily dose of unreality, reported ad nauseam by the media.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Nuclear Barnaby

Following is an extract of a speech given by Queensland Liberal-National Party Senator, Barnaby Joyce, on 24 August 2009 to the National Party Federal Council.

"... One of the agendas we must start looking at is nuclear power. We must
be serious about it. ... We export this product all around the world, we obviously think it is philosophically correct to export it to everybody but we don’t believe we should use it ourselves.
Then you have the query that everyone will put up well do you want one in your backyard? That’s the ultimate payback, but do you want one in your backyard? Well I bet we can devise a plan so that I do. You give me my power at half price I’ll take one. I’ll take one tomorrow and if gave every council in Australia the right to have a referendum to ask if you want one we’ll give you your power at half price, that is your choice. And then just let the Australian people make the decision. That would be a nice way to go about doing business. Let the Australian people make the decision about whether they want to do it."

I'm not sure that, as an accountant, he has done his sums properly, nor the politics & practicalities of nuclear electricty management. His solution is simplistic - if we offer cheap electricity, people will approve a nuclear power station in their locality, or a location near other Australians. He hasn't addressed the costs of construction, operation & maintenance, waste disposal, decommissioning and disaster planning. His solution is: "offer cheap, and they'll let you build". But his implied assertion that nuclear-generated electricity will be half the cost of that produced by coal ought to be treated with much cynicism. The 'hip-pocket nerve' of many Australians might look for a cheap way out, as they have done with cars, and they might look to reduce their costs by reducing their use of electricity. An ETS, so opposed by Barnaby, is not so much a tax, but a mechanism of social engineering to change the electricity consumption habits of (all lights ON, ALL night) businesses and individuals.

If Barnaby Joyce wants to debate the merits of nuclear power for Australia, he has hindered his cause by not doing his (accountancy) homework and by simply shooting his mouth off.


Some references:

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Govt To Amend RET Bill

Kevin Rudd has agreed to amend the Renewable Energy Target (RET) Bill, after making an agreement with the Opposition. The Bill will force electricity suppliers to source 20% of the ir energy from "renewable" energy sources. Users will pay a higher price for electricity, but it will help reduce the amount, or the exponential growth in the amount, of greenhouse gases by us Australians.

Some of the changes include:
  • the Bill will be introduced on its own. It was initially coupled with the Emissions Trading Scheme Bill (ETS), which was voted down by the Opposition, and small-party/independent climate-change 'sceptics'.
  • the use of 'waste' methane from coal mines to generate electricity will be counted as 'renewable'! While the term is debatable, it is better to use the methane this way (and generate CO2 ) than allow the methane to simply escape into the atmosphere. Methane is much worse as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
  • more compensation for large energy polluters, such as the aluminium industry. Householders will pay more to offset the higher compensation.
Opposition spokesman on the Environment, Greg Hunt, called the described the changes (including the need for householders to pay more) "a victory for common sense". That fits with the Coalition's manifesto that business, particularly big businesses, come before householders.

Not included, but on Barnaby Joyce's (National Party leader in the Senate) wish list are nuclear power stations. Presumably he knows they need lots of cooling water, and will be happy to have them 'liberally' located along Queensland's coast. Queensland is his home state and the state whose constitutional interests he is supposed to represent. I just wonder if his National Party voters want them in their backyard. I wonder if any Queenslanders want nuclear power stations in their backyard.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

O'Farrell: is it the Young Right?

NSW Liberal Opposition Leader has been urged by some in his party to clean out some of the "older" members. He has been told they risk becoming an old, one-term government if, as expected, they win the next NSW election.

The "too old" brigade includes Brad Hazzard, who is 58 now, and will be 60 after the next election. Too old?? There are some in their 60's now who, perhaps, might consider retirement - except that they, too, will want to be part of a Liberal-National Party Government. They have not held power since Nick Greiner lost to Bob Carr in 1995. (aside: many could only dream of a generous pension on retirement at 60-odd)

But is that the Party is concerned that those with experience will be too old? We will have to wait and see who they propose to take the place of the "oldies". In my opinion, it is that the more extreme right wing wants its acolytes in a Liberal-National government after the next NSW election in 2011.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Musings on Emissions Trading

Federal Liberal Party & Opposition Leader, Malcolm Turnbull, has kept his job. But he likes to test the waters. He released the new, updated Liberal-National Parties' policy on an Emissions Trading Scheme before the party discussed it. Yes, former PM John Howard used to do that, but no-one was game to criticise him. Turnbull could do it because he knows there is no-one else who could be leader. No-one: they are all tainted with the decisions of John Howard, Turnbull among them, but none of the others has the leadership ability, or public charisma of Turnbull: and HIS rating sits lower than a limbo bar!

The new Coalition Emissions Trading Policy, devised by Frontier Economics with a tight brief on what to protect has the following main features:
  • agriculture is excluded. Yes, there is no cost for those who wish to clear-fell trees. It is after all, an "agricultural" activity.
  • emissions-intensive industries get 100% free permits. (& perhaps a free lunch with the current Opposition Leader?)
  • electricity producers, those who burn huge amounts of coal & generate huge CO2 emissions, would get a baseline & credit system. Free permits up to a baseline, then they have to pay. The problem is that the baseline will be so high, it will be largely meaningless.
  • the coal industry (miners) gets more help
  • electricity price rises have been kept to a minimum (so that consumers & industry don't need to change their usage habits, thus keeping profits up)
  • claims of a 10% reduction in greenhouse gases hinge on the goodwill of polluters to buy carbon credits off-shore. Like the Government's "up to 25%" this is not a fixed target, only a "best - possible - outcome -if - the - gods - are - kind" figure.
Malcolm Turnbull hopes this will be politically popular - that's why he's done it - but voters should never confuse popularity with good policy, and already questions are being asked about the policy, and the Government has launched a PR attack, in, and out of, Parliament.

We'd really rather they argued rationally, but politics is all marketing these days, isn't it? Bloody marketers!


Thursday, August 06, 2009

Turnbull Bunkers In

Following the release this week of the Auditor-General's Report on the "utegate" affair, Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull has largely retreated to teh bunker. He gave brief media interviews defending himself. He did not defend former Treasury official Godwin Grech, who provided the fake email to him. Indeed, he did not even mention his name. It was left to teh media to remind people that Mr Grech is now in psychiatric care. No-one form the Liberal Party, let alone Mr Turnbull or his advisers, has visited Mr Grech. They were quite prepared to use him, and he is alleged to have approached them. Former Liberal Party Deputy Peter Costello didn't help with his media interviews saying that Mr Turnbull did not apply any "due diligence" on the now-known-to-fake email.

Now, some in the Parliamentary Liberal Party are proposing Andrew Robb as a possible Leader. He was one of John Howard's more right-wing Ministers. It is also likely that the more extreme right of the NSW Liberal Party are working to gain preselection for safe Liberal seats in NSW, for both the next Federal election (2010) and the NSW State election in 2011. That bodes badly for Malcolm Turnbull, whose views are more centrist.

The week's economic news hasn't been that good for the Liberal/National Coalition either. Unemployment has remained at 5.8%, rather than rising to 6%, and more jobs have been created, although most are part-time jobs. But they have made nothing ... nothing ... of the rises in underemployment. This is an issue both the past Liberal National government and the current Labor Government don't want to discuss. They are the hidden unemployed - those with jobs, working les than 35 hrs/week, and who want to work longer.

Emissions Trading Scheme legislation is also due to be debated this month, and the Liberal/Natinal Coalition still can't decide what's best for the country - vested interests or an emissions trading scheme to help lower greenhouse gases, which contribute to drier, less productive farmland; and which will threaten the coastal homes of many people. MMM ... vested interests, or people. It's such a hard decision!

The bottom line is, we need politicians to act in the interests of the people. The Liberal Party is too busy playing politics, including internally, to be useful to anyone.