Abbott’s business adviser despises wind, doubts climate change

Yesterday Opposition Leader Tony Abbott launched a policy statement which was described as the direction, values and policy priorities of the next Coalition government. It contained no additional detail on climate change policy beyond what was outlined in the Coalition's 2010 election policy, which was largely expected. But what was more unnerving was outlined under economic policy:

“We will establish a new Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council to advise the Executive Government on developing the economy. The Business Advisory Council will be chaired by leading Australian business leader Mr Maurice Newman.”

Maurice Newman has an impressive business pedigree. He was Chairman of the Australian Securities Exchange and also rose through the management of what is now Deutsche Bank’s Australian subsidiary (acquired by Deutsche Bank in the 1990s) before becoming its executive chairman. This comes on top of a range of other senior business and government positions including chair of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.

But he has also made a range of public statements that indicate his advice to Abbott will be detrimental to businesses focussed on clean energy and carbon abatement.

On wind power Newman wrote in the publication The Spectator (not associated with Business or Climate Spectator) on January 21, 2012:

“Even before they threatened my property, I was opposed to wind farms. They fail on all counts. They are grossly inefficient, extremely expensive, socially inequitable, a danger to human health, environmentally harmful, divisive for communities, a blot on the landscape, and don’t even achieve the purpose for which they were designed, namely the reliable generation of electricity and the reduction of CO2 emissions.”

On the issue of whether human activity is leading to warming of the atmosphere he wrote in The Australian on November 5 last year:

“When Mother Nature decided in 1980 to change gears from cooler to warmer, a new global warming religion was born, replete with its own church (the UN), a papacy, (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), and a global warming priesthood masquerading as climate scientists.”

He then elaborated that:

“Regrettably for the global warming religion, its predictions have started to appear shaky, and the converts, many of whom have lost their jobs and much of their wealth, are losing faith. Worse, heretic scientists have been giving the lie to many of the prophecies described in the IPCC bible. They could not be silenced.”

What would Newman think of the Coalition’s pledge to allocate $3 billion to an emission reduction fund or maintaining the Renewable Energy Target at its current settings? He stated in The Spectator:

“We have witnessed the birth of an extraordinary, universal and self-reinforcing movement among the political and executive arms of government, their academic consultants, the mainstream media and vested private sector interests (such as investment banks and the renewables industry), held together by the promise of unlimited government money. It may not be a conspiracy, but long-term, government-underwritten annuities have certainly created one gigantic and powerful oligopoly which must coerce taxpayers and penalise energy consumers to survive.”

To be fair to the Coalition, Newman is not in charge of the Coalition’s climate policy. But it comes on top of a range of other actions that raise serious doubts about the Coalition’s commitment to its 2020 emissions target, such as:

-- The appointment of Dick Warburton, who also doubts anthropogenic global warming, to advise on its carbon emission reduction policy;

-- The repeated and widespread public mocking and doubt expressed about the need to address global warming by parliamentary members of the federal Coalition; and

-- The dumping of Malcolm Turnbull as leader, on the very issue of his commitment to climate change policy action.

Given this, it is especially important the Coalition provides much greater detail about the emission reduction policies it intends to implement. 

As Climate Spectator reported a few days before Christmas, Ian Macfarlane wishes to retain the two yearly reviews of the Renewable Energy Target, in spite of the investment uncertainty this would generate. In addition the Coalition remains ambiguous about whether the Renewable Energy Target could be cut to conform with Origin and Energy Australia’s ‘real 20 per cent’. 

The Coalition’s latest policy statement, also fails to clarify some important components of its emissions abatement purchasing fund.

In response to criticism of grant tendering as a climate change policy mechanism, Greg Hunt has been arguing his scheme would employ an auctioning process. Yet the recently released Coalition policy statement provides no mention of auctions and continues to talk of purchasing abatement via tender.

The statement outlines that funding for the emissions reduction fund will be $3 billion. A spokesperson for Hunt has since clarified this would be for a four year period. Yet this funding is unchanged from what the Coalition pledged for the 2010 election when it had three additional years up its sleeve to deliver on its 2020 emission reduction target. It seems difficult to believe that the Coalition could deliver the target without a major boost in funding considering the shortened timeframe.

More policy detail is the only antidote to scepticism surrounding the Coalition’s commitment to its 2020 emission reduction target.

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