Sunday, March 13, 2011


Is Tony Abbott, the leader of the conservative forces in Australian politics, the lowest, most cynical, lying, amoral, opportunistic, venal, self-serving, vainglorious, repulsively arrogant bastard this nation has seen? Only asking. Certainly he has a propensity for the big-mouthed scatological, calling climate change "crap", and remarking on the death of an Australian soldier in Afghanistan that "shit happens". It does, and would appear to be happening in his mouth.

His latest stance, playing on the fears of the Australian electorate that they might actually have to pay for something beyond their cigarettes, booze, beloved SUVs and flatscreen televisions to help mitigate the amount of seawater their grandchildren will have to wade through to get to school, is breathtaking even by his standards. Calling PM Julia Gillard a liar for changing her mind and backing a carbon tax, he changed his mind from support for it, to opposing it. Mind you, at the same time he did tell us that he lies in public, unless he's saying otherwise, which is nothing at least if not possibly honest. Though of course, we can't be sure he was telling the truth when he said it.

Some say he is exploiting the ignorance of the electorate about the coming tax, and that the less well off will be properly recompensed for any higher living charges, blah blah blah. The truth is that Australians have had many years to acquaint themselves with this crucial issue, if they wish to, and they know that actually doing anything about climate change will cost them something. But when it comes to paying anything, they say NO, and back Abbott, who has been running round like a preschooler sing-songing "great big new tax, great big new tax!"

And what does he propose to do about the climate change he thinks is "crap". Use public money, derived from cuts to benefits and services, inevitably to the least well off, to recompense the massively wealthy transnational mining companies, to reduce their carbon pollution. He claims to be able to reduce emissions by 5% with an outlay of only, well, three or four billion of our money. What does he plans to do after that, to make real and meaningful cuts? Nothing. No word. But his only choice, if he still refuses to tax the polluters, is to tax the people, either through higher taxation, or reducing ever more their benefits and services. And the cost to us all would be immense.

The concern for planet earth of this hypocritical, self-declared liar, "anti-tax" crusader, is preicsely zero. To put it in Abbott's favoured terms, he couldn't give a shit about our world, and its survival. His single concern, is grasping political power. The best thing that could come from his mouth about climate change would be a zero emission. Fat chance.

Soon after Abbott wrested the leadership from Malcolm Turnbull in late 2009, virtually his first statement was to put nuclear power for Australia back on the public agenda, just as Howard had tried in 2006-7, and failed.  Australia is rich in every kind of renewable resource, such as solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, but the conservatives continue to campaign for nuclear power.

Nuclear will always be too dangerous, too polluting for a virtual eternity - oh, and it produces nuclear weapons materials too - but it appeals to the major corporations that are the bedfellows of political conservatives, as it is a centralised capital-intensive business that would allow them to retain control of energy in post-fossil fuel era. 

Thus the "solution" to the problem of carbon pollution will be radioactive waste, and pollution, and a yet greater proliferation of the nuclear weapons.

Soon after Abbott seized control of the Liberal Party, I posted two pieces about nuclear power and alternative sources. These are re-posted below. Given the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan, the timing is appropriate.

Wed, Feb 3 2010

As must now be apparent to almost anyone even vaguely interested in this debate, the global warming sceptics and deniers are winning. The average Australian - as indeed the average American, Chinese, Indian, Briton and European - by now has very little idea at all which side is right, and what to do about it. The end result will be policy paralysis, inertia, which is what the sceptics and deniers have wanted all along.

The current trip to Australia by lord chief denier Christopher Monckton, a conspiracy theorist cum standup comedian, is a case in point. Because of his likeness to another gifted funnyman, Lord Marty Feldman, and because he gives “good copy”, he has become the centre of a fawning media circus which has in effect turned its collective back upon all the good and patient work done by the world’s tens of thousands of expert climate scientists, dedicated men and women who are in no doubt that the world is warming and that at least part of the cause is our burning of carbon fossil fuels.

Lord Monckton is not a climate scientist, nor indeed a scientist of any sort. He is a conspiracist nut who believes global warming has been cooked up, literally, by a cabal in the bowels of the benighted UN building in New York, to usher in world government. He believes the EC is also the result of an international conspiracy which has ended democracy in Britain. More than anything else he is an attention-seeking media poodle.

His tour of course only adds to the campaign of disinformation already being worked effectively in our mainstream media by the likes of Devine, Duffy, Bolt, Albrechtsen, and Shockjock Jones. Their campaign, all dutifully published by people who know  better because it generates sales and hits, has now muddied the waters to such an extent that the public has no idea of what is going on and is simply switching off to the debate, which is exactly what the sceptics and the conservatives and those backing them  - I am wildly presuming coal and oil interests - want. 

As such it is a carbon (sic) copy of the entirely successful campaign of disinformation against the scientific evidence linking smoking and cancer, and thus we still have a drug that kills one in two addicts, openly on sale in corner shops today.

The science of global warming is clear for anyone who wants to take an honest look at it. The overwhelming weight of scientific opinion is united on this - which is why so many government leaders came together in Copenhagen in the first place. The fact that no effective world agreement came from it is not to do with doubts about the science, but an understandable reticence of developing nations to take their foot off the accelerator towards a developed world standard of living. We cannot blame them that for, but they have to know that if they achieve that standard of living they will do it in swimming flippers. That they also do not want the mechanisms to address global warming simply to be dictated from the old colonial capitals of London and Washington can hardly be surprising too. 

That there is now a climate of utter confusion is evidenced by the hide of the conservatives in Australia to propose a scheme which is no scheme at all, but an insult to the Australian electorate. Opposition leader Tony Abbott is being marketed as a straight-talking action man, whereas in fact he is as sly as a Jesuit double agent and as cocky as Barnaby Joyce. This “scheme” will take no action whatever to reduce the emissions of the coal and oil companies whose products are creating the problem. Its “target” is a 5% reduction by 2020 by using taxpayers’ money to try to bribe the companies to emit a bit less - but Abbott is yet to be asked by what means would deeper reductions be achieved after that. Surely this is the most glaring omission, and yet I am yet to see or read of him being questioned about it.

Abbott has no proposal to curb carbon emissions because he truly does believe global warming to be crap. His country cousin Joyce doesn’t even believe in home insulation, except as fluffy stuff in the roof that rats piss in. 

These men are not sceptics, they are deniers. Monckton is not a sceptic, he is a denier. The same goes for the posse of media commentators. If they were sceptics they would propose what Rupert Murdoch did - and many before him did as well - that while the arguments go on we give the earth the benefit of the doubt and reduce emissions effectively. That they do not propose that shows them to be deniers. Presumably Abbott’s first act as prime minister would be to order a new fleet of ministerial V8s. Why not, if carbon is not a problem? He could send it around for Miranda Devine and Bolt and Jones, and they could celebrate by lighting sparklers. And light up Marlboros all round.

Sunday March 21 2010

From last week's post...

...the taxpayer will have to foot at least part of the bill for this enormously expensive scheme which would place nuclear reactors up and down our coastline, sites which would become prime and very dangerous terrorist targets, and which would generate waste which would remain highly toxic for thousands of years, and which we would dump in a big hole in the ground on or near tribal Aboriginal lands, and pollute the last water we could rely upon in the droughts to come. And that is not to mention the danger of increased nuclear proliferation.

So all in all, it’s obviously a very attractive idea, this “clean and green” nuclear energy. 

Then why would any political party ever consider a scheme that is so vexed, and that no-one wants? The reason Liberals are again pushing it, as part of their brawl-crafted non-response to the global warming many of them don’t believe humans are causing anyway, is the profit would stay in the hands of those would build and operate the plants. It is a big money-led, centralised, top-controlled model, with the bonus of lots of space age decontamination suits, white coats and clipboards.

The billions spent to create an Australian nuclear nightmare could so readily fund an effective, safe national solar power scheme.

Solar offers the opposite solution to nuclear: the potential for individuals to meet their own electricity needs through the power they generate off their roof. Decentralised and localised, it also provides employment to a wide range of small industries and businesses. 

Critics of the solar option say it cannot provide the holy grail of 24/7 baseload power. 

But according to the CSIRO, solar technology could supply all of Australia’s electricity needs by 2020, using an aggregate of only fifty by fifty kilometres of otherwise arid land. 
Its solar/gas prototype uses solar energy focussed from mirrors to energise natural gas, embodying the captured solar power into the gas so that there is a 25 percent increase in energy yield. This means both a 25 percent reduction in Greenhouse Gas emissions, and an extension of the life of Australia’s gas reserves by a similar amount. 
The “solar-embodied” gas could be piped to cities for baseload power generation, and exported in liquid form too, to resource-poor countries such as Japan and Korea.
Such a technology could also be part of a set of solar options that could obviate the nuclear option. 

Australia is now dotted with homes whose owners took advantage of the Federal Government’s solar rebate scheme, which allowed them to install a 1 kilowatt system on their rooves for as little as $1200 after the $8000 rebate. Mine is one of them.

One thousand houses doing the same thing could generate a megawatt. As there are literally millions of homes, apartment blocks, commercial, industrial and other structures in Australia, it’s not difficult to see how far we could go as a nation towards meeting our collective power needs, from our own rooftops. 

We also have open areas around many of our cities and towns suitable for siting large arrays of solar cells for solar power stations. Thus we could use a combination of solar arrays on rooftops throughout the nation, as well as solar power stations attached to cities and towns, to generate power for the grid by day - and switch back to fossil fuel generation at night, or in cloudy conditions. 

Such a measure would provide a significant reduction in Greenhouse emissions, while buying time for other alternatives such as wind and tidal power, and “clean coal” - should that ever eventuate - to kick in significantly. The imminent wave of hybrid and electric vehicles could be re-charged from solar generation too, reducing transport emissions.

Such a scheme would require a huge national investment, but it would be a once-off. Installed, the solar network would require minimal maintenance, as opposed to the safe disposal for many generations to come of deadly nuclear waste. 

But still the nuclear lobby is present and it is vocal. And make no mistake, it is not confined to the Liberal Party. Uranium has tainted the very heart of the Labor Party, which has the hide and hypocrisy to flog it off to distant nations while seeing it as too dangerous for our own use. The Liberal push for nuclear power has possibly less hypocrisy, but poses an even greater peril for Australians. One can only hope Tony Abbott can resist the temptations of that shiny, ugly Lucifer, nuclear power. 

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