It takes a village to raze a country, no one man could do it alone and here at The Shot, we want to salute the Coalition for forming a united front with a single vision for Australia, straight out of the Mad Max franchise.
Who could blame them? George Miller’s desert hellscape of scarce natural resources still has a lot of access to petrol. And it was an international ratings hit, bringing an economic return which they are definitely all for, plus it forms a clear picture of what Australia is heading towards for the rest of the world. Our mission statement if you will.
The Coalition has had a variety of approaches to Australia’s energy needs and as of 2020 we are the world’s largest exporter of coal and liquefied natural gas. If only we had oil, we’d have a environmental disaster hat-trick.
For context Australia accounts for 1.3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and is the fourth-largest coal producer, behind China, India, and the United States.
Coal is now Australia’s most valuable export, valued at $46 billion in 2018. Australia’s LNG exports added $33.6 billion to the country’s economy in 2019, a mere $65.7 billion less than the combined arts sector in Australia. Mind you, the arts are no replacement for the power generated by coal, unless we can harness the hot-air generated by Hughsey’s rants over Dictator Dan as a sort of avant garde windmill until we finish upgrading our renewable.
These numbers mean Australia is one of the world’s biggest climate change profiteers, if you include the emissions of exported fossil fuels on Australia’s balance sheet its share of global emissions goes up to 3.3 percent.
People are giving Scott Morrison a hard time for the magical tech that doesn’t exist, and yeah, that is right to do. Keep doing that. But there is a much more valid criticism, the driver of The Coalition’s policy is the idea that the future will be ‘technology, not taxes’.
However, the Coalition has over three Prime Ministers and seven years of governing continuously defunded Research and Development (R&D) of the “technology” that they now proclaim will be our saviour.
Here’s a bit of a list. To kick it off, we’re going right back to where it all started, back in time when the biggest technological atrocities were the ‘Harlem shake’ and Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks, 2013 when the man who would go on to say Australia wouldn’t invest in wind energy because they are “dark satanic mills of the modern era”.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott
- September 16, 2013 – Immediately upon entering the Prime Ministership, Tony Abbott abolished the ministerial positions of climate change and science. A bold start for a man who declared:
“We understand, deep in our DNA, that you can’t have a strong society and strong communities without strong economies to sustain them and you can’t have a strong economy without profitable private businesses.”This, despite research, from US Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR), suggests R&D grants allow firms to prove the viability of a technology, enable proof-of-concept work that a firm could not, or would not otherwise finance.
- September 19, 2013 – Abolished the Climate Commission
Professor Will Steffen from the Australian National University’s Climate Change Institute recalls about how quickly it all happened, “They got rid of us and you could probably measure it in hours rather than days.”Their website gave basic information that was being used by teachers and others to gain a better understanding of what climate science was about. Remember, this was back in the days when it was still called global warming people needed more information. Good thing in 2021 nobody attributes some snow to the fact that global warming doesn’t exist, because we had websites like this to learn from.
- November 8, 2013 – The government cut 600 jobs at the CSIRO, will go on to take a further $111.4 million over four years out of the operating budget of the CSIRO, and then cuts hundreds more of jobs at the CSIRO, only to cut CSIRO funding, which means that CSIRO will lose 1/5 of its workforce.The CSIRO has a 7.6-to-1 return on investment. Which isn’t everything, they produce countless bits of useful information, even providing a study that backs up Angus Taylor’s current claim of 1 in 4 homes having solar power. The CSIRO was a world-leader in solar thermal applications in the 1970s and 1980s but nobody looks like they did back in the 70s and 80s and thirty of our universities have recently been rated as producing research in environmental science significantly above world standard.Of course, this is exactly the type of research that the government is now trying to claim means they don’t have to do anything about climate change. But from the very beginning, they’ve been cutting and cutting and cutting. It’s almost like the entire Federal Government is just a huge bunch of cuts.
- November 12, 2013 – Abandoned Australia’s emission reduction targets then would go on to say Australia will cut greenhouse gases by no more than 5% until he sees more commitment from other nations. The target, established under the Howard government and expanded under Labor, mandates that at least 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity comes from renewable energy sources by 2020. Yes. John Howard.The review was supposed to be carried out by the independent Climate Change Authority, although the government was seeking to disband the body alongside the carbon tax.An earlier review of the renewables target by the Authority in 2012 found it should not be changed because it would hurt investor confidence in the sector.
- December 10, 2013 – Approved the largest coal port in the world, and a coal mine for Fucking Clive Palmer which opponents say would severely damage Great Barrier Reef .Only a year later he cut 480 jobs from the Environment Department which helps protect places such as Kakadu, Antarctica and the Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef, like trees, is a large natural carbon capture. When carbon sinks are damaged or destroyed, the carbon is released back into our atmosphere, significantly increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide and contributing to global warming. Oops.
- December 17, 2013 – Cut funding to the Energy Efficiency Opportunities Programme which makes it mandatory for large- energy-using-businesses to improve their efficiency. That’s right, Abbott decided to just let businesses decide to be better without any pressure on them. Because if there is one thing we have learnt over and over again it is that when left unchecked capitalist entities are always trustworthy, reliable, and never steal money from employees or do anything wrong, good call Abbott.By 2015, this meant that there were ten companies who were directly responsible for a third of Australia’s greenhouse gas pollution were in no way held responsible for the damage they did and not at all encouraged to build any sort of new efficient technologies.
- February 19, 2014 – Blamed carbon pricing for the closure of Alcoa smelters and rolling mills and the loss of nearly 1000 jobs, despite the fact the company stating it had no bearing on their decision.
- May 13, 2014 – Scrapped the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) which was set up to support new and emerging renewable technologies. Axed industry and community clean energy programs including the Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund, the National Low Emission Coal Initiative, Energy Efficiency Programmes, the National Solar Schools Plan, Energy Efficiency Information Grants and Low Carbon Communities. Broke a promise to have one million more solar roofs across Australia and at least 25 solar towns.This was a busy day it seems.
- May 14, 2014 – The abolition of Australia’s renewable-energy agency (ARENA), as well as cuts and job losses amongst scientists at the government’s science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). The Australian Research Council (ARC) is also hit with a $74.9 million budget cut over three years. While 181 ARENA projects continued to be funded, new projects did not get support.
- July 17, 2014 – Axed the carbon tax with no viable policy to address climate change or Australia’s emission targets. Look at this chart! That was working to cut emissions! What the fuck were they thinking?!
In fairness, ‘Ax the Tax’ did rhyme. And economic strong-arming is only an acceptable policy when used to tell those on welfare how to spend their money.
- October 07, 2014 – Cut spending on science and innovation to the lowest levels since the data was first published.An analysis of OECD figures now in 2021 shows our ranking on the global innovation index has also slipped over the last 10 years. Australia’s expenditure on R&D is 1.8 percent of GDP, which is higher than the 2014 .56 percent but pales in comparison to the average of 2.4 per cent across the OECD.
- November 17, 2014 – Refused to contribute to the fund Green Climate Fund, which Abbott described the year before as “socialism masquerading as environmentalism.”Abbott said that Australia would not contribute to a United Nations climate fund to help impoverished countries cope with global warming.You can already see the movements of the Rube Goldberg machine of neglect starting to fire up, it is only 2014 and the ramifications of these actions carry through time to the present. Every time I read about one of these cuts made by Abbott I can hear the Raymond Scott Quintette playing over and over again.
- December 21, 2014 – Appointed Bob Baldwin, a climate skeptic who praised Rupert Murdoch as the “starting point for green innovation” to the position of Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment.
- July 2, 2015 – Intense lobbying keeps the Great Barrier Reef off UNESCO’s world heritage in-danger list despite many government decisions which threaten it. Again, The Great Barrier Reef is a major natural carbon capture source.This is a problem the Government says they were blindsided by in 2021 when UNESCO was pressured to not list the barrier Reef as in-danger. Despite intense lobbying keeping Great Barrier Reef off UNESCO’s world heritage in-danger list in 2015, UNESCO was urged to label it “in danger” in 2020. Current Environment Minister Sussan Ley successfully fought the move, calling the Government’s multi-mass bleaching of the barrier reef the ‘gold standard’ in reef management.
- July 12, 2015 – Directed the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to stop investing in wind power and from investing in roof top solar panels and other small scale solar energy.Treasurer Joe Hockey and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, the man who would go onto leave his position in Government to take a role with the OECD and push for countries to take on a carbon tax, wrote to the corporation directing it to change its investment mandate, banning new funding for wind projects.As a side note, a 2012 study by SKM on the economic benefits of wind farms in Australia found that, for every 50 MW in capacity, a wind farm delivered the following benefits:
- direct employment of up to 48 construction workers, with each worker spending approximately $25,000 in the local area in shops, restaurants, hotels and other services – a total of up to $1.2 million
- direct employment of around five staff – a total annual input of $125,000 spent in the local economy
- indirect employment during the construction phase of approximately 160 people locally, 504 state jobs and 795 nationwide jobs
- up to $250,000 per year for farmers in land rental income and $80,000 on community projects each year.
But yeah. Let’s not invest in that.
Abbott, who has previously described wind turbines as “visually awful”, said the Government believed the CEFC should instead be investing in “new and emerging technologies”, just not THIS new and emerging technology because its so awful to look at.
- August 11, 2015 – Reduced Australia’s carbon emissions reduction target.Abbott said the move was part of the government’s objective to put jobs and growth first. And I am not a entrepreneur but if the semester I did of business school taught me any lasting lesson it was the best way to stimulate jobs, growth, and economy, it is to stagnate the development of all new technologies. After all, we already have things, things we built. And as time goes on they will get worse and worse we will need more and more people to maintain them at their minimal terrible capacity. That is how you create jobs!The reduction of the target was down to 26-28% in emissions reductions by 2030, from the previous 30%. This is the same 26% that caused Australia mass embarrassment at COP26, left Scott Morrison talking to an empty room, and that Morrison claims we will beat, maybe hitting 30% taking us no further than we would have been seven years ago if we had just left it in place.But the message was clear, we don’t want a dinosaur like Abbott, we need someone with an eye for the future. Someone who dreams big who looked to initiate the National Innovation and Science Agenda, who worked to promote STEM education, Remember STEM? Its been so long, who was set to increase venture capital funding for new start-ups, and launch an “ideas boom”. So what was the first great idea?
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
- October 15, 2015 – Approved a Carmichael coal mine and Abbot Point Coal Terminal expansion. Malcolm is a man of the future, a man of science. And you know the science on coal says it works. It’s old science, proven science. After all, coal will be important for “many, many decades to come” and knowing us it probably will right up until 2049.
- January 28, 2016 – Presided over a drop in Australia’s ranking on the Environmental Performance Index of 10 places.This is our fate for years to come as Turnbull oversaw a 3.4% rise in emissions within 12 months and 7.5% increase since the Abbott-Turnbull government scrapped the carbon price.Australia received bottom three ranking for environmental policy among wealthy nations. A position we have failed to rise above, to this day.In 2018 Australia’s emissions grew at fastest rate since 2004 and Australia was named as one of the worst environmental performers on the global stage. In 2019 our carbon emissions reached another record high.
- February 3, 2017 – Opened $5 billion infrastructure fund for “clean-coal” power stations and in May diverted funds from Clean Energy Finance Corporation to fund coal with carbon capture and storage.Carbon capture is a main feature of the net-zero plan in 2021 despite an MIT study into the future of coal which examined the potential impact of clean coal technologies on CO2 emissions, spoiler alert it’s not great.With carbon capture and storage, more coal will be used in 2050 than today, so you can see why it is so appealing, they are set to put the coal in The Coalition. Most importantly, the study concludes that there is still no convincing evidence that the technology will be effective.
- February 13, 2017 – Ignored advice that renewable energy was not to blame for South Australian blackouts. And in August would attack the South Australian pursuit of renewable energy projects policy as “ideology and idiocy in equal measure.”SA still has the world’s most powerful ion lithium battery from Tesla, though more powerful ones are on the way, which received a 50 per cent expansion independent review by consultancy firm Aurecon found the Tesla battery has saved SA consumers more than $150 million since it was built in 2017.But presumably this renewable energy and battery economy will all fall apart when we transition to the Mad Max economy. After all, electric cars can’t carry 100 speakers and a man playing a flaming guitar, it’s the end of the weekend raiding party.
- December 19, 2017 – Data released the week before Christmas shows highest greenhouse gas emissions on record when land use change emissions excluded.This is a fun trick we are still pulling and when Scott Morrison was asked about the inclusion of land use emissions he said “Why wouldn’t we?” Nobody bothered to mention that data shows emissions increasing to 2030 and beyond. It also confirms the government will in 2018 start developing “a long-term emissions reduction strategy by 2020”. Start! Start developing, which we still haven’t done.In an interview with the SMH Monash University economist Jakob Madsen said of Australia’s economy. “The Australian economy is far too undiversified; deriving a large part of its foreign income from a few minerals and agricultural products.”We are basically the weed dealer nobody would hang out with if they just made cannabis legal.
- July 31, 2018 – Turnbull approved a $444 million fund for Great Barrier Reef Foundation, an organisation with ties to BHP, Shell and Peabody Energy.This decision would be described by Scott Morrison, who was treasurer at the time, as the “right financial decision” in 2018. Though it’d only go on to raise just $21 million of the $357 million target fundraising target in donations more than two years after it was awarded the largest single environmental grant in Australian history.If they’d just put their $444 million grant in a bank account for a year and received interest at 2.5 percent they’d have raised $11.1 million, more than half of what they raised.In 2020, The Coalition backed a ‘cloud-brightening’ trial on Great Barrier Reef to tackle global heating. A government-backed research program to make the Great Barrier Reef more resilient to global heating by spending $4.7 million developing technologies that could shade corals and make clouds more reflective during marine heatwaves. Sounds neat, huh?
Well, the science-led approach of Turnbull didn’t work, so it was time to get back to the kind of leader who is fearful of the titular God that will stop you getting an insurance payout when acts of God are named.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison
- September 2, 2018 – The Australian government-funded Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Revealed that they had to scale back surveys in 2017, a year of massive coral bleaching, due to lack of government funds.If only there were a large-scale funding opportunity that were being offered to support the barrier reef.
- September 5, 2018 – Angus Taylor said there was too much wind and solar in the electricity grid. Two days later, resources Minister Matt Canavan said the Paris agreement “doesn’t actually bind us to anything in particular” and doesn’t stop Australia building new coal plants.Australia would meet its Paris emissions targets “at a canter” despite no emissions reductions policies and statements from the Energy Security Board to the contrary.The Government’s own projections would go on to show them missing our Paris targets by a “vast margin”, despite Morrison’s repeated insistence that we would meet them “in a canter”. A statement he stands by to this day.
- December 13, 2018 – Morrison signaled taxpayer support for new and existing coal projects.Even with Australia’s emissions now the highest on record. Australia would later be named the only country in the world to use climate funding to upgrade coal-fired plants in 2019 than waste a cent of taxpayer money holding up dying industries like solar, the sun will eventually die you know!According to the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Federal Government cut environmental spending by 9.7% from 2013-2017.More recently, members of both the Liberal and Labor Partys have pledged support for Australia’s coal mining industry, Labor has even backed increasing Australia’s coal exports, a rare show of bipartisanship for this.
- April 16, 2019 – Morrison claims Bill Shorten wants to “end the weekend” with his electric car policy, a policy which is only marginally more progressive than that of the Coalition.Coalition climate policy will go on to be rated 4/100 by the Australian Conservation Foundation.But it’s not like they were doing nothing. Liberal MP John Alexander said Australia should “help Fijians move to higher ground” rather than limit coal.
- August 19, 2019 – Australia became the third largest exporter of fossil fuels behind Russia and Saudi Arabia.We will go on to break this record in 2020 becoming the largest exporter of coal and LNG. While still leaning on our Kyoto accounting loophole of carry over credits.Australia has been accused of using the loophole to back out of a promised emissions cut nearly eight times greater than the combined annual fossil fuel pollution released by the rest of the Pacific.Scott Morrison then went on to say there is no evidence that links Australia’s carbon emissions to the black summer bushfires. Australia was close to its peak emissions and mere months into a unusually intense and deadly fire season with fires so large they clouded the skies above Canberra and Sydney, creating some of the worst air pollution in the world and smoke so dense satellites could see it from space, and you can’t see many earthbound things from space so that is pretty good, even the Great Wall can’t actually be seen from space, only from lower earth orbit.Unsurprisingly, Australia would go on to be ranked worst of 57 countries on climate change policy.
- November 14, 2019 – The Coalition’s inaction on climate change and health is risking Australian lives.Black summer bushfires aside, Australians were found to be at significant risk of illness through heat, fire and extreme weather events. Home affairs had warned the government of growing climate disaster risk as far back as the May election.
- August 19, 2020 – Large-scale renewable energy investment in Australia fell to the lowest levels since 2017.With diverted renewable energy funding away from wind and solar. Morrison’s tech roadmap flagging more investment in carbon capture and storage. The talk of the ‘gas-led recovery’ have begun.Australians were faced with the possibility of being charged for exporting energy from rooftop solar panels to the grid, a law that was dismissed later in the year. This is despite the household solar uptake leading to demand on Australia’s grid in summer peak falling to a five-year low. All while flagging $540 million for hydrogen and carbon capture.
- August 13, 2021 – Large-scale solar and wind farm investments in Australia record major dropped in 2021.Australia has been warned by a senior UN official the climate crisis will ‘wreak havoc’ on the economy if coal isn’t phased out. While poor EV take-up looks to cost Australia’s health system $1 trillion by 2050 according to modelling by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF).Taking the moral high road the government refuses to join 40 nations that pledged to phase out coal, saying it won’t ‘wipe out industries’. Unless those industries are renewables, or the car manufacturing industry.
The technology-led utopia that Scott Morrison is dreaming into existence is underpinned by eight years of dis-investment in everything he’s now claiming will get us there.
The cuts have driven Australia’s overall R&D investment below that of Europe, China, the United States, South Korea and Japan and large corporates such as Samsung, Alphabet and Huawei each spend more than half as much on R&D per year as Australia, according to business and economists.
Dr Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, Senior Lecturer, School of Science UNSW Canberra says the government just needs to jump in.
“If the government just went right that’s it by 2050 we’re switching off coal. In 20 years we’d have the most efficient solar panels,” Dr Perkins-Kirkpatrick.
Treasury’s own research shows the lack of innovation has hurt productivity and overall wage growth, which has struggled to get above historic lows across the economy, this isn’t a concern of the Coalition persae but we thought you might like to know about it as you are probably a bit more empathetic.
“There’s underdeveloped countries that deserve to have a better quality of life, 100%. But why are we handing them coal, which is a dirty fuel, we should be handing them solar panels or wind turbines,” Dr Perkins-Kirkpatrick said.
While the Australian government claims to spend about A$10 billion on research each year, one-third of this is in controversial tax breaks. The Coalition has also slashed $4 billion from R&D tax incentives in the past two federal budgets, while clawing back millions of dollars in previously approved claims.
UNSW published a study examining the impact of Australian government grants on a firm’s engagement in innovation and its ability to attract additional funding from venture capital. They found receiving a grant increases a firm’s innovation, measured by R&D expenditure, patents and patent quality because even businesses need handouts from big government.
Firms that received grants were also more likely to gain funding from Venture Capitalists. Grant recipients that gained subsequent VC funding, produced more patents and higher quality patents than grant recipients who did not receive VC funding. So the government has failed to provide the necessary support for technology in the renewable sector and has actively sabotaged the industry.
So, what does it all mean for the future of Australia?
“In terms of what our future is looking like I just say it’s more of a Mad Max world at least here in Australia,” Dr Perkins-Kirkpatrick said.
“I guess it’s a mix of both [Waterworld and Mad Max] like very coastal will be more water world, but I think in general in terms of civil, unrest, and that what our summers are going to be like, you can think Mad Max.”
On the plus side our electric cars will be strong enough to tow our boat when you travel from the oceanic waterworld to the inland Mad Max world on your big weekend trip.