Reserving Judgement: Malcolm Turnbull’s Latest Reshuffle

THE LATEST reshuffle of Cabinet — necessitated, of course, by the departure of Sussan Ley — is questionable, and any judgement of the arrangement should be deferred; Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has chosen to eschew a comprehensive overhaul of a line-up that has mostly failed to fire since the election, rewarding leadership supporters as usual, and delivering a double kick in the guts to Tony Abbott. Yet again, the portents are not good.

This evening’s piece will be relatively brief; I have partially completed something of an omnibus piece on the government as a whole, and once this is finished, it will be published: it probably would have been up during the day today, but thinks to the interference little children are wont to run when “big people” are visibly occupied with something, I ran out of time before needing to head out this morning. Any parent reading will understand.

But despite the news that Greg Hunt is to be Australia’s new Health minister being the worst-kept secret in politics for some time, there is very little to get excited about where Malcolm Turnbull’s latest, involuntary ministerial reshuffle is concerned; it is one thing to be pushed into a corner by an unavoidable ministerial departure, but — in the broader context of a clearly misfiring government — it is another matter altogether to fail to use that inconvenience to make more widespread changes.

Watching the Coalition at work (and this was also true during the tenure of Tony Abbott) is akin to watching a very poor imitation of a decent political drama; you can almost hear the stock lines jumping out from the screen, things like “simply stand firm” and references to nights of long knives that ultimately land in the (metaphorical) skull of the leader who wields them.

“Cynical club of cronies” is another such line that is especially pertinent where Turnbull is concerned; once again, the chief beneficiaries have all been MPs who voted for dear old Malcolm at his successful leadership coup, and if Turnbull wonders why the conservative wing of the party despises him (and especially at the grassroots level, without which the Liberal Party would be unable to fight effective election campaigns), perhaps his penchant for stacking the frontbench more and more heavily with sycophants could provide a clue.

In making Hunt Health minister, Turnbull has — whether he realises it or not — probably marked him out as his preferred long-term successor; after all, Julie Bishop (solid ministerial record aside) is anathema to the Liberals’ parliamentary conservative wing now on account of being seen to have been not quite straight with her involvement in the Turnbull coup, and Treasurer Scott Morrison’s prospects are…well, they’re the collateral damage sustained from the ridiculous tax reform “debate” during the top half of last year. Beyond that, it’s hard to imagine who, on the moderate side of the party, might step forward when the time comes with a better or more persuasive claim.

But Hunt comes with risks; Turnbull and his mouthpieces have been out and about today, spruiking him as “the son and husband of nurses” — whatever that is meant to matter — whilst a willing press and a ready onslaught from the ALP conspired to quickly remind everyone that just like his predecessor, Hunt faces questions emanating from unclarified travel expense claims that ought to be resolved. More on that shortly.

When it comes to the utterances of opposition “leader” Bill Shorten, on this issue or any other, he should simply be ignored.

Moving Cabinet Secretary Arthur Sinodinis — another Turnbull man — into the Industry portfolio comes with risks; after all, he was so swiftly demoted a couple of years ago as Assistant Treasurer, when caught up in an ICAC scandal over which it was found he had no case to answer, that he remains a virtual ministerial neophyte despite his years running John Howard’s office when the latter was PM himself.

Turnbull failed to resist the opportunity to aim a kick at Abbott and his former Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin, noting that Sinodinis’ duties as Cabinet Secretary would return to being a function of his office rather than a ministerial post; saying that as proper process had “been restored” to the functions of a Cabinet Secretary on Sinodinis’ watch, there was no longer the need to assign a minister to them. It was a cheap crack that was as unnecessary as it is likely to fuel the grievances of those MPs who viscerally loathe the sight of Turnbull.

This slight, of course, was the doubling down on the failure to offer Abbott a frontbench position at all, despite the fact that whatever risks might have flowed from doing so, Abbott is more capable as a minister than most of the current frontbench — and was proven as such during the Howard years.

But when sycophancy rules, as it does in the Turnbull government, such distinctions are pointless.

Promoting Ken Wyatt to Aged Care and Indigenous Health is an unknown; good luck to him. But really, about the only unequivocally nice thing that can be said about Turnbull’s reshuffle is that he (wisely) resisted calls to make a female backbencher Health minister: any untried backbencher, female or otherwise, is a completely unfit option for such a senior, politically sensitive and central domestic portfolio — and those who make these brainless, unreasoning calls need to have a Bex and a lie down, and temper the blind gender crusade with more than a little dash of reality.

But Turnbull has left a slew of good people languishing either on the backbench or the outer reaches of the ministry — Dan Tehan, Angus Taylor, Alan Tudge — presumably for the sin of remaining loyal to Abbott when others were prepared to pay their 30 pieces of silver in September 2015.

And he has left liabilities like the chronically underperforming Kelly O’Dwyer, and the rank political embarrassment that George Brandis has come to represent for the government as Attorney-General, right where they are: but then again, they voted for Turnbull in 2015 as well.

For the sake of the Liberal Party and the country, I hope that the piecemeal fiddling Turnbull has engaged in today really does add just enough oomph! to his ministry to kickstart its capacity to generate political momentum; God knows, political momentum is something Malcolm has spent nearly 18 months pissing away, and now has none.

I’m unenthusiastic, to be sure.

But with several continuing ministers under the cloud stirred up over the travel rorts affair — in addition to a raft of ALP identities who have sensibly kept quiet in the hope of not being noticed — if Turnbull does not follow today’s announcements up with an immediate, rigorous and genuinely independent audit and review of all MPs’ travel expenditure claims, his government might be right back in the same situation it was a week ago before another week is out.

Readers will forgive the obvious lack of confidence I have in today’s reshuffle, but in the final analysis, we have been here with Malcolm before and, as sure as night follows day, we will be here again.



Red Herring: Abolish The Renewable Energy Target

AS THE GOVERNMENT unpicks the duplicitous, economically destructive legacy of a Communist Greens-imposed energy pricing regime that has led to punitive utility prices driving large numbers of households into insolvency, the Renewable Energy Target must be abandoned; like most of the other doctrinaire and practicably useless “clean energy” measures foisted on Australians, this one achieves little more than to rip Australian consumers off.

I have been reading a story from The Australian today, detailing uncertainty in the Abbott Cabinet over what to do about the RET; to my mind there is only one justifiable course of action to take in relation to this abominable piece of policy, and that is to abolish it.

The financial impost — and economic carnage — that is already being committed in this country in the name of so-called “Green energy” cannot be tolerated, and when it is considered that the damage rendered thus far isn’t even the full extent of what will flow from the eventual realisation of the full objectives of the RET, any desirable outcomes the policy achieves are woefully inadequate when weighed against the cost.

And that cost is significant.

According to The Australian‘s article, the only members of Cabinet supporting the continuation of the RET are Environment minister Greg Hunt and Industry minister Ian Macfarlane.

To some degree, Hunt’s position is understandable; as Environment minister — and a Liberal Party Environment minister at that — Hunt is, by virtue of his portfolio, one of the greatest targets of the ALP and the Greens, and he is hamstrung by the need to balance adherence to Coalition policy against the truculent demands of some of the vested interest groups — and the baying hordes of the Left — that his role attracts.

Macfarlane’s position, however, is unfathomable, and — if true that as Industry minister he is canvassing support for the retention of the RET in Cabinet — unforgivable.

It is bad enough that the carbon tax — yet to be abolished, thanks to the intransigence of Labor and the Greens in the Senate, and their refusal to accept the Abbott government’s clear mandate to get rid of it — has added billions of dollars to the cost base of industry since its introduction.

It is worse, however, to see the supposedly responsible minister attempting to defend an additional measure almost tailor-made to damage the very constituency he is supposedly a champion for.

There is no commercial case of any merit to be made for the schemes that have given body to the RET; the industries around solar and wind power only exist because of multibillion dollar taxpayer subsidies.

So-called renewable energy represents the most expensive form of generating baseload power, despite these subsidies — a reality that, at the domestic level, has been directly responsible for average utility prices doubling over the past few years.

And to my mind, it is a criminal affront to common sense, economic reality and the decency of everyday folk that this outrage is being perpetuated in the name of “emissions reductions” when the cheapest reserves of fossil fuels in the world exist in almost inexhaustible volumes in this country.

The great global “climate change” ruse that has been used by the Left as an economic weapon to attack traditional industries and create others wholly dependent on its pedagogy is, as I have opined previously, the greatest ruse of the 21st century and will eventually come to be seen as such.

Nobody — not even most of those labelled as “deniers” or “sceptics” by a political Left that attempts to simply abuse dissent and opposition out of existence — doubts that the world’s climate is, indeed, changing.

The problem with the theory, however, is that the climate has been changing for millions of years, and will continue to do so — irrespective of the effects of human behaviour.

In any case, the “warming” phase that was the basis for the alarm that in turn gave rise to all this expensive claptrap stopped years ago.

An example of this came to light during the week; a reminder of one of the more outlandish predictions of former US Vice-President Al Gore — a figurehead of the tax-industry-into-oblivion model of climate change advocacy — that has been doing the rounds pointed out that his public warnings that the Earth’s polar ice caps “will be gone by 2015” has amounted, unsurprisingly, to nothing.

Yet it is this kind of blatant scaremongering, and attempts to frighten the living hell out of people using the “substance” of Gore and other public figures like him to engender credibility, that economically lunatic concepts like the carbon tax and the RET are predicated on.

To put all of this into an Australian context, in the past year we have seen two car manufacturers announce they will shut up shop in Australia, citing unsustainable cost factors associated with operating here; Qantas and SPC Ardmona, despite protestations otherwise by the Left, are rapidly approaching financial unviability for similar reasons; and it needs to be remembered that Qantas’ competitor, Virgin, lost $100 million the financial year before last, and would be in real trouble were it not for the bottomless pockets of its foreign owners funnelling cash into the company to pursue their own commercial agendas.

Where there are some, there are others.

The point is that whilst labour costs are a large component of the problems these companies (and others like them) face — and we’ve talked about them at length, here and here for example — the energy regime implemented by the Gillard government (as the tail wagged by the malignant, malevolent, socialist Greens dog) is as much of a problem as considerations of labour costs are.

To complete the point, those five companies I’ve mentioned employ almost 200,000 people: and for the Left to cry about “job losses” without accepting responsibility for the real imposts its own policies have inflicted is to deny reality.

Some or all of these companies will disappear in the next few years, and when they do — far from lambasting the Liberals over the loss of all those jobs — the Left, and Labor and the Greens in particular, will have only themselves to blame.

The only viable alternatives to coal, oil and natural gas that can meaningfully generate a significant portion of Australia’s energy needs are nuclear and hydro: technologies which, thanks to the best efforts of the Greens, are political poison, despite the fact both are cheaper (and arguably greener) than those which extortionate taxpayer subsidies have contrived to shove down the throat of Australian industry.

And given the rest of the world isn’t going down the path of sabotaging their economies and destroying their industry bases with carbon taxes, punitive renewable targets and the like, Australia shouldn’t be either; comments from the Left have in the past responded to my articles in terms along the lines of China “looking at” Australia’s so-called clean energy regime and similar statements about the US. The reality is that looking is one thing. Doing is another. And neither of these countries are stupid or suicidal enough to engage in anything of the kind.

Far from “leading” the world with all of this rubbish, Australia is abrogating its future to it.

The suite of measures that encompasses the carbon tax and the RET is indeed driving demand for electricity down — a change largely driven by the old, the poor and the barely solvent failing to heat their homes in winter, curbing their use of essentials such as cooking apparatus and hot water, or not cooling their homes during summer because they simply can’t afford to.

If the Greens had set out to start a process of driving living standards in this country back to Stone Age levels, they could not have chosen a better way.

This insanity is everywhere: even shopping centres, once renowned as a place to “escape the heat” in summer, now set their commercial cooling units to an unpleasant 26 degrees to comply with government environmental regulations with the result even these oases are uncomfortably warm, humid holes in summer and veritably stifling furnaces in winter — and here again, there is an impact on the turnover of businesses and economic activity generally that all feeds back into the colossal damage the entire, mad regime is doing.

The government must abolish the RET. Hunt’s intransigence can be excused on the basis his portfolio compromises his position on it. Macfarlane, however, should either fall into line with its abolition or resign from the government.



Climate Change: No-Show At UN Talkfest No Big Deal

FOR ONCE it doesn’t really matter whether you subscribe to the mad theories of man-made climate change, or if you’re what proponents of the so-called “settled science” peddled by those who do would call “a denier:” Australia’s non-attendance at a UN talkfest in Poland next week is inconsequential.

If Kevin Rudd were still Prime Minister (as he was in 2009, when a similar non-event was held in Copenhagen), the Australian government would be sending a “delegation” consisting of the Prime Minister, a number of senior cabinet ministers, and a small army of advisers, bureaucrats and quasi-official hangers-on — all at taxpayers’ expense.

Too often, governments and international forums that are convened and/or dominated by the Left pay more attention to the appearance of “doing something” on given issues instead of actually knuckling under and doing it.

When that issue is climate change, considerations of domestic and international prestige take precedence over the formulation of practical, workable solutions.

What was once boldly proclaimed by Rudd as “the greatest moral challenge of our time” has evolved into little more than a political football, laying bare the lie that urgency is paramount in addressing it.

Each year for at least the past ten years, one globally renowned authority on climate change or another has decreed that if “we” fail to act by the end of next year (insert year here), it will be “too late.”

Taken at their word, these supposed experts have already told us the damage is done.

Of course, the reality is somewhat more straightforward; the so-called “settled science” surrounding climate change and its causes is nothing of the sort.

In fact — depending on to whom you listen — there is growing evidence that the global climate has ceased to warm and, in fact, has resumed a phase of cooling.

I have little doubt that the Earth’s climate is changing, and as readers have heard me say on multiple occasions, I believe changes in the global climate are part of a natural cycle that has continued, through warming and cooling, for millennia.

Even so, world forums conducted by the United Nations on the question of climate change have never resolved a thing (although the 2009 session in Copenhagen could arguably be seen as the point Kevin Rudd’s leadership of the ALP was rendered terminal, and in converse that Tony Abbott would likely end up as Prime Minister of Australia).

My point is that whether you’re a “believer” or a “denier” on climate change there’s nothing for you at the Poland forum, so what’s the point of sending a delegation to it?

This is a fraught issue; politically speaking it costs votes — a lot of votes.

To date, it is beyond question that three Prime Ministers and two opposition leaders — across both the major parties — have been destroyed by the politics of climate change.

But prancing and posturing at a United Nations talkfest is an utter waste of time.

It’s pleasing to note that the freshly minted Abbott government is sending nobody on behalf of Australia: not the Prime Minister, nor his Environment minister, nor some lackey rustled up from the civil service to push paper and take notes.

The issue of climate change needs to be excised from the question of the management of the environment, with the latter given precedence; after all, if the phenomenon is a natural occurrence (as I believe it to be) then “adaptation” is the premise that must underpin any response, for management and prevention are obviously meaningless objectives.

In that context, there are options for governments to consider. But carbon taxes, emissions trading schemes and the like should be seen for what they are — instruments of revenue generation, not climate management — and the obsession with inefficient, unreliable and colossally expensive “renewables” should be abandoned.

Until those changes occur, and until the climate change debate is shoved onto a less ideological and fanatical basis in spite of its most ardent proponents, there is little point wasting good money sending elected representatives and their minions to talk about it.

To this end, Australia’s non-attendance at the latest UN forum is to be applauded: and aside from the obvious reasons for doing so, the government is also saving the overstretched taxpayers of this country a little money in the process.