Australia is in the last week of a federal election campaign, which has been marked by a disturbing absence of any policy vision by either main party which might address the most important issues confronting society and our land. Hopefully, the conservatives will get their marching orders this coming weekend (I have scheduled a rare…
We have a new federal government – finally some decency will hopefully return
Australia has a new federal government. We have finally rid ourselves of the worst government in my lifetime. An indecent, lying, corrupt government. A government that messed up so many important things yet never took responsibility. During the pandemic, it was the state governments that saved the day, while being hectored by the federal government to abandon restrictions. Thankfully the state premiers held firm. The outgoing federal government has attacked minorities and the poor. It has gutted the higher education system and the public broadcaster. It has installed its cronies throughout the public sector and other important regulative bodies. It has been a vehicle for the coal lobby. It has failed to support the growing needs of women against domestic violence. It has now received its marching orders. I had a glass of champagne on Saturday evening to celebrate the passing of this awful gang. I hope we have a ‘night of the long knives’ and the new government cleans out all the cronies and appoints progressives to these important positions. In general, the policy direction will improve. But all is not well given the predominance of neoliberals in senior economics positions in the new government. I hope they broaden the advice they receive. But for now – we have rid ourselves of this awful government.
Sometimes (often) social media elicits the most ridiculous statements from those who want to claim to be opinion leaders.
I was sent this Tweet this morning from one of the Covid denying gang who think the lockdowns and other restrictions in Australia were attacks on civil liberties rather than what they were – a successful strategy to avoid a high incidence of death and disease before the population was sufficiently vaccinated.
This character – from London – who parades as the General Secreatary of the Free Speech Union wrote about out May 21 federal election where the Prime Minister Scott Morrison was given his marching orders by the voters:
If he knew anything, he would know that Morrison and his gang attacked the state Premiers who introduced most of the Covid restrictions in 2022-21.
Morrison’s Ministers were out in the media on a daily basis trying to undermine the State governments, particularly those in the hands of Labor Premiers (Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia) for imposing restrictions, which the conservative government claimed were destroying our economy and freedom.
His government called Western Australia the ‘hermit kingdom’ and vilifie its Premier Mark McGowan, who maintained internal border closures for the longest.
The Federal Treasurer, who has now lost his seat in Parliament (thank god), regularly attacked Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews for maintaining the longest lockdowns and other restrictions. The Treasurer thought it was smart to undermine Victorian public health policy and thought he could weaponise the ‘freedom sov cits’ lobby (who marched around with Trump flags etc) against the Labor government in Victoria.
What happened this weekend?
1. Federal conservative government was routed and have lost office.
2. Victoria – where the lockdowns were the most intense – delivered a massive loss of seats to the government – and wiped out Liberal MPs in what have been the most safe conservative seats.
3. Western Australia – where the conservative federal government supported a private millionaire’s attempt to overturn the State Labor government’s restrictions in 2020 – delivered the death blow to the Morrison government – they lost historically conservative seats to the federal Labor Party on Saturday and those losses were instrumental in delivering government to the Labor Party.
4. Queensland – where the State Labor government maintained internal border closures for a long time in the face of massive attacks from the Federal government in 2021 – not only saw the State Labor governmen returned when their election was held last year, but also saw traditional liberal seats lost in Brisbane to the Greens (first time ever).
So to claim that the defeat of the Morrison government was about the “public finally waking up to the fact that the lockdowns caused more harm than good” is the most stupid statement one could ever make.
In fact, the election outcome this weekend just gone was a vindication of the support the public gave the State governments in protecting us from a much worse Covid outcome.
Free speech is sometimes an excuse for people to rehearse their vapid ignorance.
The decline in support for the major parties
The 2022 election saw an acceleration of a trend that has been underway for some years now (since the 1980s) – a decline in first-preference support for the major parties – the Labor Party (ALP), and the Liberal-National Party (LNPC) Coalition.
The LNP is in fact two separate parties – the Liberals (LP) and the Nationals (NP) (the latter representing allegedly the rural electorates). They both claim to be conservative voices and have typically pooled their seats to gain government.
The first-preference vote has varied quite significantly in our history since federation in 1901.
You can get all the voting data from this Australian Parliament House Library site – Federal election results 1901-2016
The 2019 Federal election results are provided – HERE.
The highest attained first preferences by party over our history are:
1. ALP 50.9 per cent of the total – 1914.
2. LP 41.8 per cent – 1975.
3. NP 12.6 per cent – 1922.
3. Greens 11.8 per cent – 2010.
The lowest first preferences attained:
1. ALP 26.8 per cent – 1934.
2. LP 28.1 per cent – 1972.
3. NP 3.7 per cent – 2010 (but result affected by amalgamations in Queensland).
It is hard to compare the complete history since 1901 because of changes to the parties. For example, the Liberal Party only came into existence in 1944 as a successor to the United Australia Party.
The National Party was formerly the Country Party. It also amalgamated with the Liberal Party in Queensland to become the LNP in that state only after the Liberals were all but wiped out in a State election there a few years ago.
The following graph shows the first-preference proportions of the total for all Federal elections since 1949 by major party. The 2022 results are tentative because the full count has not yet been completed but the overall result will not vary much.
The Labor Party gained (so far) 32.82 per cent of the first preference vote at the weekend (down from 33.34 per cent at the last election). So a slight decrease.
But the Liberal Party (the senior conservative coalition member and the party of the outgoing PM) scored 23.8 per cent of the first preference vote, down from 28 per cent in 2018.
The National Party and the LNP – the partners in the Coalition were down from 13.3 per cent to 11.6 per cent of the first-preference vote.
The outgoing Government Coalition overall fell to 35.4 per cent from 41.2 per cent, quite a slump.
The significant feature of this election is that normally when the first-preference vote of a major party falls that far, the other major party gains.
In this election that didn’t happen with both the Coalition and the Labor Party going backwards in the face of a massive gain by the independents and the Greens.
The Greens had their best outcome since inception.
The independent vote was boosted by the new group of so-called ‘teal’ independents, who were high-profile professional women, funded by grass roots movements and a large Climate Action lobby (funded itself by millionaires), and contested heartland conservative government seats.
While that grouping is not homogeneous, it is fair to say that they historically would have had liberal leanings but were sick of the inaction by the government on climate, women’s equality and safety, and the government’s refusal to introduce a federal anti-corruption commission in the face of their own clear corrupt behaviour over the last three years particularly.
The importance of the ‘teal’ group is that they have decimated the first preference liberal vote in the safest conservative seats and that is a game changer for Australian politics.
Further, they have hollowed out the Liberal Party representatives – particularly the most moderate members (although don’t get the idea they are moderates or progressives).
That has left the elected Liberal MPs as mostly coming from the right and far right of the Party and the new leader is likely to be of that leaning.
Which means that they will be unable to understand why they have lost government.
Already, the Murdoch Sky media is wheeling commentators out telling the Liberal Party to reject the woke progressives and harden up on immigration, women and the climate (reject any action to decarbonise).
So it is probable that the Liberal Party will drift further to the loony right and be increasingly unappealing to the middle classes who were their major supporters.
It is now clear that Australians want strong action on climate – a much more ambitious decarbonisation agenda – and the incoming ALP government will also have to review their cautious targets on emissions or face loss at the 2025 election.
In terms of the global trend away from the tradition right and left parties that has been observed, the same pressures are clear in the graph (above).
The two major parties – the Coalition and Labor – which have dominated the scene are now facing stiff competition for first-preference votes from minor parties and the independent lobby.
That is no surprise, given the fact that both the Coalition and Labor have become so alike on important matters that it is hard to distinguish them.
And as some of those matters have become increasingly important – like climate – the homogeneity among those two major parties – has created the space for the Greens and the ‘teal’ independents to mount successful campaigns which appeal to an increasingly concerned electorate, particularly as younger Australians are now becoming voters.
The Coalition is crippled on climate because of the National Party who represent the farming and coal communities mainly. They have not shown any willingness to embrace the challenge to protect the jobs in those communities while transitioning away from coal etc.
But their hold in those communities is slipping as the climate activists get smarter about the way they prosecute the issue. In the past, the urban Greens would go out to the regional communities dependent on coal or cutting down forests and mount demonstrations to stop these damaging activities.
Their entreaties were rejected by the voters in those areas because they, rightly, saw these climate gangs as not valuing the need for jobs and incomes.
Now, the climate activists have worked out that jobs, jobs, jobs must be at the forefront of the narrative, and, finally, the transition narrative is starting to have impact.
The outgoing government tried the usual anti-Labor/Green message again this time in those communities and went backwards. So that is a hopeful sign for the future.
But all is not well
Yes, we have shunted the worst Australian government in my lifetime out of office at the weekend.
The massive loss of government-held seats did not flow to the Labor Party who look like just winning enough to hold a thin majority in the lower house (House of Representatives).
The large difference between the seats the government lost and those that the Labor Party gained went to the Greens (up 2) and the ‘teal’ independents.
So the balance in the lower house has swung to more decent perspectives on:
1. Indigenous affairs – treatment of this group has been terrible.
2. Climate Action – the outgoing government continued to claim it was investing in carbon-intensive industries.
3. Geopolitics – the outgoing government tried to win votes by threatening a war with China – but lost a lot of votes in seats where Chinese-speaking Australians are concentrated.
4. Women – the outgoing government lost a lot of votes from females as a result of their mysogynist views and their coverups of scandals involving attacks on women.
5. Integrity – the outgoing government has taken rorting and corruption to a new level and declined to introduce legislation to create a federal anti corruption commission to mirror the structures set up at the state level, which have purged a lot of corrupt politicians.
The outgoing PM even attacked the NSW ICAC as a ‘kangaroo court’ because it has found many liberal state officials to be corrupt over the years.
The Senate (upper house) looks as though the Greens will hold the balance of power, which is also good.
So a much more sophisticated approach to these important issues is expected and I hope Australia can rise above its pariah status in world affairs after 10 years of conservative rule which has made us a laughing stock, particularly on climate policies (or the absence of it in our case).
But all is not well.
On Sunday (May 22, 2022), the day after the election, the new Federal Treasurer gave a press conference in Brisbane claiming that he had begun the process of “budget repair” and was going through the previous government’s spending actions “line by line” (Source).
He claimed there was “pressure on the budget” and that he had “inherited $1 trillion in debt.”
The incoming finance minister also spent the last several years railing against government debt and deficits.
The ‘economics’ team within the new government have demonstrated their neoliberal credentials on macroeconomics.
I also wrote this blog post – The last thing we need is a return to fiscal surpluses and rising household debt (February 21, 2022) – in response to an Op Ed written by a former advisor to the last Labor Prime Minister and now, newly elected MP for Labor.
It will be suicidal if the new Labor government continues to adopt New Keynesian style macroeconomic fictions and limit the scope of their actions accordingly.
The reality is that the new government has a massive backlog of repairs to do and none of them involve targetting fiscal surpluses.
It must immediately:
1. Reverse the funding cuts to education and provide significant boosts to research and development and that doesn’t mean turning the universities over to business in the form of pro-business research capacity or free student labour (so-called ‘work experience’).
2. Inject funding into the vocational training sector which has been decimated by the ‘privatisation’ schemes that have delivered little.
3. Inject funding into the health system given the stress it is under with Covid and an ageing population.
4. Massively fund the transition to a decarbonised economy.
5. Create a million or more jobs to reduce the waste of joblessness and underemployment – see my blog post – A 10 per cent unemployment rate is not a “tremendous achievement” – it is a sign of total policy failure (April 15, 2022).
6. Inject funding and expertise into indigenous communities.
7. Fund major transformations in our urban design and construction – see my blog post – Biodiversity Sensitive Urban Design and the silence of our political parties (May 16, 2022).
8. Increase foreign aid, particularly in the Pacific region – see my blog post – Myopic meanness – Australia’s ODA cuts to its neighbours in the Pacific (April 5, 2022).
9. Build 450,000 social house units within the next few years – see my blog post – The same erroneous logic that created the social housing shortage is apparently the solution (November 29, 2021).
10. Legislate to instruct the wage setting tribunals to raise the minimum wage by at least 5 per cent.
11. Increase the unemployment benefit to ensure it is above the poverty line (doubling it at least).
12. I could go on.
With household consumption expenditure slowing and private investment expenditure still wallowing, any talk of cuts to the fiscal deficit will be destructive.
Yes, there is a lot of funding that the outgoing government was providing that needs to stop.
Yes, the tax cuts promised in 2023 which will favour high income earners have to be withdrawn.
But the challenges ahead require more government sector net spending not less.
I also suggest the new government broadens the economic advice it receives to ensure they don’t fall into the neoliberal trap.
Having said all of that, it is still a better day with Morrison and his crooks out and a decent man such as Anthony Albanese as the Prime Minister.
I trust he will lift the integrity of our government and treat minorities in a better way than we have in the past.
Already I note, the indigenous flag has been restored to the Parliament (symbolic but meaningful).
I also note the outgoing French foreign minister was happy Morrison had gone. Remember Emmanuel Macron told the Australian press that Morrison was a liar. Macron was correct in that.
That is enough for today!
(c) Copyright 2022 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.
This Post Has 28 Comments
We shared a bottle of Prosecco rose during Saturday evening and were delighted with the demise of the z Morrison regime. I do share your concern about the dysfunctional budget ‘repair” mantra Labor is repeating though the Greens now are showing signs that they understand MMT.
If so the Greens might exert some influence on Labor given Labor may need their support.
Bill, another critical area is the woeful MSM. A Royal Commission into Media funding, bias and extreme partisan propoganda is urgently required. Personally we need to see the back of the Murdoch’s and their blatant propoganda. Without a functioning media legislative change will be difficult given the influence of that vile family IMHO. Hopefully take their influence toy totally away for the good of democracy.
How overjoyed I was to see the back of Morrison and his goons! And even more gratifying to me was the abject failure of Clive Palmer to win a single lower house seat, despite running candidates in every electorate in the country and pouring something like $100 million into his ventures to degrade Australian democracy. I laughed out loud when his poster boy Craig Kelly – the only member of his party to actually be holding a seat (which he gained as a Liberal Party member before defecting to Palmer) – became the first MP to be named as losing their seat.
It’s a shame you’re heading to Japan Bill – now is the time that my region could really use your expertise in regional employment programmes.
Employment in my region is heavily dependent on a dying resource – coal (and gas). Not that the coal is running out but rather that it must be phased out due to it’s polluting nature.
But how do you dismantle an industry that is the backbone of a region of a couple of hundred thousand people without causing widespread unemployment and a withering away of towns and communities? Unlike the major cities, there may be few or no alternative job opportunities.
Further, previous analysis of the situation has often seemed inaccurate to me and has downplayed just how many jobs the coal is responsible for here by only counting direct coal mining/shipping chain employment – it seems to ignore local demand created by coal workers wages and also the fact that many local firms do a lot of business with the industry but are not counted as part of the industry.
A report I read some time ago by the Australia Institute conceded as much, noting that government intervention would be necessary in regions like Fitzroy to prevent the winding down of coal causing serious harm to local populations.
I perused Labor’s policy on this but on the crucial issue of what happens to coal jobs (and by extension, many other jobs and communities in the coal regions), it seems conspicuously vague – just a few references to some unspecified sum for some unspecified projects.
Dismantling an entire industry in regions where few other opportunities exist without destroying the place seems to have always been relegated to the too-hard basket. The term “just transition” has been bandied about ad nauseum with never any really concrete details on exactly what it means and how it will be implemented. That does not instil people in the regions with confidence but rather, tends to make them suspicious – it’s telling that despite their overall victory, Labor failed to win a single Queensland seat outside the fringes of the Brisbane metropolitan area.
I am hopeful that they have a crew of very smart people who are across this. I don’t work in coal or gas myself but my brother, four cousins and many friends all do. Coal has to go but coal workers and their communities supplied the energy that built this country and it’s cities after World War 2 – they should not be forgotten and left to wither.
you forgot one important item on your list of priorities ,bill,
a commission of inquiry into the economics profession, in particular the teaching of it,
it also wouldnt hurt to investigate the exact state pf play within the treasury and the central bank , in terms of its intellectual capital.
unfortunately , as far as the economic narrative is concerned, re debt and deficits , same leopard , different spots 😉
I have to say that glancing at the Greens policy on the issue I raised above leaves me unimpressed and a little concerned about the future of my community.
While the Greens do not govern, Labor may end up needing them to form a government yet. Even if they don’t they will likely need to do deals with them in the senate to ensure the passing of their own policy – and they will want quid pro quo.
The impression I’m left with is that they have no intention of doing the hard yards to try and come up with a way to replace the regional jobs provided by the coal industry at the same scale in the same place. Rather, they will provide some sort of subsidy to existing coal jobs while phasing it out over a decade – and then whatever is left of communities such as mine will be left to fend for themselves.
So it seems that their idea of a just transition is that they provide a bit of support to those directly employed in the industry while they slowly choke it to death, and then after that everyone still living there can just piss off who-cares-where, leaving communities as hollowed-out shells.
What about all those who aren’t directly employed by the industry but whose jobs still rely on it? What about the fact that we don’t want our communities to be allowed to wither?
@hillbilly. I live in the Latrobe Valley which is living through the closure of brown coal power stations. The industry was privatised by Jeff Kennett with no support whatsoever. The area suffered much and took decades to recover.
Here, the Victorian government is trying to attract and foster new industries to minimise the pain and the loss of technical expertise. Having said that some degree of pain may be unavoidable, depending on the speed of the closures.
The Greens have announced they will pay workers their current wage for some five years and this would help. Some workers may have to relocate too.
Good luck Australia !
In Scotland the so called left the SNP and the Greens have folded on every issue and moved further to the right. No different to the neoliberals and more concerned about identity politics. Just like sleepy Joe’s liberals.
The history of failure and U turns are documented here.
Which is no different to the German Left and German Greens or the British left and Greens. Who still believe in Tony Blairs ” third way”.
It is Australia’s crossroads and one way or another a moment of enlightenment.
Are you going to be different or are Australian voters going to end up with the same definitive conclusion as everyone else, and that is, that their country is now a one party nation state.
Only time will tell and I wish you all the best.
The French left seem to be the outlier but they can say anything they like just as the Scottish greens and SNP did. Nobody will know their true colours until they have power. As recent history shows the French left are just as good at U turning and folding as everyone else.
You know what I think. That both foreign/ trade policy and the geopolitical map prevents any real change. I sincerely hope to be proven wrong and Australia plays out differently than everywhere else. Somebody is going to have to be the first and lead the way if real change is going to happen.
Why not Australia ?
All will be doctored to keep the elite’s interests above everyone’s else.
You can see what happened in Greece, Spain and Portugal, where allegedly left parties took power, and then all the government’s key tenets got occupied by neoliberals.
When the push comes to shove, money goes around to make shure power doesn’t fall in “wrong hands”.
In those times, we will find many self-proclaimed progressives turn into ferocious defenders of the elite’s privileges and the media will make shure the “there-is-no-alternative” narrative remains the dominant one.
I’ll give you an example. In the eleventh of last April, a prominent British journalist wrote an op-ed in “Social Europe” where you can find the following “pearl”: “(…) western politicians and electorates need to understand this fate, even though it is not one they chose.”
It was about the Ukranian war, but it is insightful of the way they operate: they have the knowledge; we need to understand it – as FATE!
Here in the U.K. a banker said the quiet part loud
A very good political summary Bill. It will be very interesting to see how the new Labor government handles their internal contradictions of more government services and reducing deficits and debt. If they prioritise improving government services and just keep quiet about the deficit like Biden does in the US then they can be a good government, if not then just being a more humane, less corrupt and competent neoliberal austerity government will likely lead to their early demise.
I live in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs and was so glad to see the voters in my seat of Chisholm ditch Liberal MP Gladys Liu for the Labor candidate and also my adjoining seat of Kooyong ditch Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg for one of the ‘Teal’ independents Monique Ryan. I was also so glad to see that hard right sleeze bag Liberal MP Michael Sukkar being ditched from another adjoining seat Deakin, or at least that is what I thought on election night but unfortunately the count today shows that he is now slightly ahead and may win. Perhaps this bit of bad news may turn out to be good news if it means Labor won’t have an absolute majority in the House of Representatives?
Interesting to see that “Free Speech” guy comment on Jacinda Adern. Adern was following advice of the Department of Health. Failing to 100% subsidize wages was her Cabinet’s mistake, but on that she was following Finance and Treasury (neoliberally infested) New Keynesian advice. As far as being honest and non-corrupt she’s been the best PM we’ve probably ever had since Michael Joseph Savage. She may yet lose the next election if the trolls are loud. But she can stand proud. It’s not a terrible fault to listen to top neoliberal advisors, her fault was not being well-prepared and knowledgeable enough to push back.
It will be a shame, because people might forget in the midst of COVID New Zealand held the America’s Cup regatta (a sport for the rich elites, so a lot of bullsh*t, but it was not an event to sneeze at). You cannot call holding an event of that scale a full lock-down and cut-back of “liberties.” Kiwi’s were freer than any other nation because of the lock-downs. Constraints on travel do not count, they are a luxury, not an inherent freedom in the context of a global pandemic. If we had run a Job Guarantee Adern could have been the GOAT.
… I should add, if the Adern government lose power, it will probably not be due to COVID policy, but due to Kiwi’s having a genetic aversion to any government being in power for more than 6 to 9 years. (Our cycle is 3 years). NZ Labour won too many seats in the mid-COVID election, a curse because it makes them appear to be “too powerful.” There should be a natural swing away from Labour with the pandemic know less of an issue with decent vaccination rates.
94% of COVID deaths in NZ have occurred after lockdowns, after 95% cover of two vaccine doses, all after March 2022.
Is there a greater testament to the efficacy of lock-downs preventing needless deaths than this?
I think our biggest problem up here is that coal in Central Queensland is not merely a source of fuel for local power stations but a major export industry. It is a large region, home to many huge mines and most of these have towns attached to them.
Coal and gas are transported through a vast railroad and pipeline network to the major town in the region, Gladstone (Rockhampton is actually bigger but it is slightly inland, Gladstone has the bulk commodities port) where they are exported to the world, along with alumina and aluminium ingots.
There are about a quarter of a million people spread across the region but the fossil fuel industry here is a big one in relation to the population size – it is essentially the backbone of industry here and a significant amount of non-fossil fuel employment indirectly owes it’s existence to coal.
My problem with the Greens policy is that they appear to be intending slowly kill the industry off over a decade, offering some support to those directly employed in coal (I didn’t see any mention of aid to all those who jobs exist indirectly due to coal)………and after the killing is done, essentially let the chips fall where they may when it comes to the communities here.
It’s difficult for me to regard this as anything resembling a just transition. A just transition leaves behind the prosperous communities that previously existed – not hollowed-out shells. When the main industry is dismantled and not replaced with anything, opportunities and the quality of life withers. We already need to drive 600km to get some medical procedures city dwellers take for granted.
It seems that we are in the too-hard basket.
I couldn’t agree more with your concerns for the lack of plans to transition communities away from coal. However I’m surprised you made the same conclusion of the Greens policy – my reading of it is that they have finally (I’ve written to them more than once on this very issue) woken up to the need to deal with it comprehensively. Their policy document “Coal and Gas Communities”…
…proposes to facilitate communities to create community bodies to come up with their own proposals for local green industries, and for the government to fund these proposals. Sounds good to me, at least on paper!
Hillbilly, I think both the greens and labor have some great plans for the regions.
Saul Griffiths, in his book, The Big Switch, stated that Australian iron ore exports are currently worth about $70 bn, whereas green steel exports could return $700 bn.
A similar case can be presented for green aluminium.
The fact that renewable energy in Australia can be produced so cheaply enables the development of a highly competitive manufacturing sector, and the world is increasingly seeking green products.
The future is in the electrification of everything. The efficiency of electric power will be a windfall for the nation and we will no longer confront the cost of importing energy and subsidising the fossil fuel export industries, and there is great potential for building a renewable powered manufacturing sector that will provide plenty of work.
It takes vision, belief, willpower, and leadership. I think the newly sworn in PM has a vision for the nation, and I think he will be a great unifying leader.
@Ted Carter: a wonderful vision. Indeed Albo ought to be able to guarantee job and wage security for every fossil worker, during the transition (including retraining) .
Could government have prevented Detroit’s fate? (International competition destroyed the city’s car manufacturing).
In the case of Gladstone, some workers may be required to FIFO to the Pilbara and elsewhere, to build the massive solar farms and inter-connectors required to fuel Gladstone’s new green hydrogen and green steel for export, but much work would be necessary in the city itself, to build the new industrial plants. Presumably more than enough work for everyone?
I tend to agree with with HillBilly, if you can’t guarantee my family’s existing wage structure (or better) , ie a just transition, then don’t expect my vote.
The situation in the coal mining industry presents a terrible dilemma to any government which believes in the mitigation of the effects of climate change.
Anybody can understand the way you personally respond to this problem.
The Labour Party attempted to avoid dealing with this vexed problem because it feared the electoral consequences and in part it explains why, ironically, its primary vote retreated.
Again, a Labour government has been left to deal with a critical situation. In the 1970s and 1980s, it was internationalization of the Australian economy. Labour progressively dismantled the trade tariff structure, decimating Australia’s manufacturing industry which also had a profound affect on labour markets. A large section of the Australian economy was gutted but we got cheap TVs, cheap apparel and cheap motor vehicles (and cheap etc.) in return.
Restructuring our power generating industry will bring new opportunities.
It’s difficult to see the Australian government withdrawing coal export licences given the international demand for both steaming and metallurgical coal. This will largely depend on how quickly the Chinese can be weened of coal. Given the Chinese are installing dozens of new coal fired power stations and that it is likely that the transition to the use of the hydrogen as a reductant in steelmaking will take time, this seems unlikely.
Grand economic adjustments are always painful but necessary. Hopefully the damage can mitigated.
@Ted Carter & Neil Halliday
It’s an apprehensive time because we simply don’t know exactly what government – or those whom the government may have to do policy deals with – are planning for the future of our region. There has long been so much wonderful rhetoric that has always been rather vague on specifics.
Not meaning to overstate it but in some ways the coal is to this region what the spice is to Dune. My family has been here since about World War 1, before the coal was a major thing, a lot of these communities weren’t much more than collections of shacks compared to after the coal came to town.
I can see the possibility of some partial replacement of the industry here in my home town of Gladstone – this is because there is already an industrial base here. In addition to sprawling coal facilities, there is an international bulk commodities port (which should be a major advantage), a power station, two alumina plants, an aluminium smelter and various other smaller industrial plants. Many of these plants are ageing – my father worked on the construction of the original alumina plant and power station in the 60’s and 70’s. Some of the newest infrastructure are once again coal facilities, that have been further upgraded and expanded since the turn of the century in response to the China boom.
So I see the possibility of the old coal-fired power station being decommissioned and replaced with renewables. And if it truly is significantly cheaper and more competitive to power them in such a way then it’s possible that the ageing alumina plants and smelter may get a new lease on life – no one has built such a plant in a western country that I’m aware of this century, much cheaper in the developing world. There’s also the possibility of a steel foundry, it was talked up during the boom but never came to fruition.
Note that such industrial plants don’t produce the number of permanent jobs that might be expected – roughly, for every 10 workers required to build a plant it only takes 1 to run it once complete. With increasing automation we can probably expect this ratio to further diverge.
As an aside, when you are sitting right on top of trillions of tonnes of high-quality coal, the only reason renewables are cheaper with such a massive coal supply available is that the multinational companies who extract it are able to demand world price parity.
So I can see the potential for some offset here in Gladstone, though whether it would be jobs-rich enough is the question. It will certainly require plenty of government assistance. But I have no idea what is going to replace the coal for the mining towns themselves that lie to the west of here.
As I said to Steven Hail, my problem is with the Greens policy approach – it appears to speak of supporting some workers through the dismantling of the region’s major industry………and that’s that. They seem to see their job only as demolition – not rebuilding at the same scale in the same place. . When we are talking about people and their communities, that’s not what I would call a progressive approach.
Today on ABC radio, Danny Price was banging on about the “cost” of transition,,,and the fact that even if Oz shut down completely, the climate wouldn’t change.
Which just goes to show that a World Bank will have to spend money into existence, to fund transition in China, India and Africa.
Ouch, all you “invisible hand” free marketeers….. only an at least 90% planned global economy can save the planet.
I think Central Queensland will have to be a lot more proactive than you seem to envisage possible.
From historical precedents I can see, it would be reasonable to assume that the fossil fuels industry has several orders of magnitude less concern for the future welfare of CQ than either the Greens or the ALP are capable of imagining.
If CQ can’t clearly articulate vision for its own post coal prosperity, if it tries to put that burden on outsiders, then the result will not be pretty.
The fossil fuel industry will loot the place during its inevitable retreat and CQ will get a few well meaning handouts from the progressives before the compassion circus moves on.
In any case, it seems clear that the Nationals’ strategy to dig in and stay the execution at all costs came to a sticky end on May 21.
A curious comment from me. We, including me are looking to government to do the transition from carbon based industries, as we can see the need to keep communities alive.
I am curious why the billions being made by said industries aren’t being put aside in some form to provide for said transition?
If those companies wanted to shutdown today. They would make everyone redundant and have no care for the future of the employees, or communities. We have seen that many times in the past.
Thanks Henry, I hope so too.
I don’t work in coal or gas myself but my brother, 4 of my cousins and many friends all do. A lot of people here are dependent on it directly and even more people indirectly.
Henry Rech writes:
“Again, a Labour government has been left to deal with a critical situation. In the 1970s and 1980s, it was internationalization of the Australian economy. ”
…which had to happen, unless you think nations should be closed to trade, thereby eliminating technology transfer. The solution is fair trade not free trade. Fairness being defined by an international institution. The “invisible hand” is now inadequate.
Whichever kind of trade we got it destroyed the soul of the Australian economy.
The Australian manufacturing industry has been replaced by businesses which sell phoney diplomas to overseas students and koala petting tours.
” (although don’t get the idea they are moderates or progressives).”
Thank you, Bill!
So many seem so convinced the Teals are just that, I’m quite alarmed. I’ve come across so many comments asserting the Teals and Greens will use their numbers to force Labor into progressive economic policies- like repealing the Stage 3 Tax Cuts! The Greens might try, but the Teals? Never! How do I know? Because they’ve said so! Right from the word go: small government; lower taxes for individuals and companies; hands off negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions; don’t touch the 15% tax on super contributions which largely benefit high income earners; don’t touch public funding of private schools. You might as well be reading the Liberal Party’s economic platform- there’s no difference!
I’m not disparaging the Teals. They’ve been very upfront and honest about their economic viewpoint – and you’d have to be a fool to think they’d see the world any other way, given they effectively represent the 1%- but this Teal fever sweeping the nation, that sees people pinning all their hopes on them and believing they and the Greens are different sides of the same coin? That worries me.
Take climate change action and the transition to renewables, for instance. Both the Teals and the Greens are strong in this, but only the Greens have policies aimed at a just transition and they’ve had them for years. Only the Greens have policies to try and fix the living hell that is FIFO and again, they’ve had them for years, because they realise this will be the only path for miners currently working in coal to continue making a good living in mining in the boom that’s coming in renewables minerals without uprooting their families as well.
I can foresee a time when our parliament is full of Teals, Labor and LNP MPs. No Greens. No progressive economic voice at all, anymore. The left is never going to get millionaires and billionaires backing leftist economic independents, so we’re never going to be able to compete. Not only will we not have the money to finance candidates campaigns, our volunteers won’t have the money to drop work and give themselves entirely to the campaign either, not like well off people in wealthy electorates can. All we’ve got is the Greens, flawed as they are. They’re our grassroots movement.
I hope I’m wrong, but all this crowing about and wilful misrepresentation of the Teals has me deeply worried.
” In any case, it seems clear that the Nationals’ strategy to dig in and stay the execution at all costs came to a sticky end on May 21.”
I’d say it ended before that. The Liddell power station workers lived the reality of what that looks like. It must never be allowed to happen again. As flawed as the Greens just transition policy is – and it is, no mistake- at least they have one. The LNP don’t. All they offer is denial. Neither do the ALP- too busy straddling the fence.
Here, in the UK, Toby Young is known as “Captain Bellend”. Quite how Tobes came to acquire such a sobriquet is a bit of a mystery His zany adventures are faithfully recorded by the blogger Tim Fenton at Zelo Street. You may have guessed that his Free Speech Union is an astroturf organisation..
A typically thorough and astute summary, thanks Bill. I too raised my glass from across the Tasman. Alas, the early policy indications from the Finance Minister are not good – indeed, they are much like those neoliberal moves our own Labour Government has consistently made (albeit with much weaker Green coalition constraints), like fetishising surpluses, the household analogy, and doing little to invest in productivity and quell rentseeking. I do acknowledge Bijou’s point that Ms Ardern and co led NZ through the pandemic – in economic and public health policy – in a way that made us the envy of the world.