Ray Goodlass

Rays peace activism

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed for today, 19 December 2017

Private schools the big winners from Gonski 2.0

Private schools are set to get more than they need under Gonski 2.0, newly released Freedom of Information documents reveal.

This led me to question whether private schools should receive public funding. I followed this by asking myself if in fact we need private schools at all. l’ll address these difficult questions later in this column, but first of all let’s look at a little more detail at the windfall private schools are about to receive.

Catholic and independent private schools are set to get more than 100 per cent of their needs from governments under the new “Gonski 2.0” plan, official documents released under Freedom of Information show, reported Peter Martin in the Sydney Morning Herald.

In NSW, 110 private schools are expected to receive more than 100 per cent of the so-called schools resourcing standard from governments, up from 65 schools in 2017. By 2027, when the Gonski arrangements are fully implemented, 212 private schools will receive more than their total needs from governments.

Why this is so demonstratively wrong is that the funding model increases the number of overfunded private schools while failing to adequately support public schools. This can’t be considered fair by anyone’s reckoning.

As Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon said “This is the proof of what so many have suspected- Liberal/National governments are not friends of our public schools. Australia already has a school system that entrenches inequality and this will make that injustice worse.”

Now to address the thorny question of the need to publicly fund private schools, and the even more difficult question about whether we need such schools.

The question about publicly funding private schools is quite easily answered, because it is a resounding ‘No’. It is indeed an oxymoron, for private schools aren’t public, and so shouldn’t be able to benefit from the public purse. They are in effect double-dipping.

The legitimacy of private schools is a more complex issue, but ultimately there is no justification for them. As SMH columnist Elizabeth Farrelly pointed out, the $53 billion we pour into the into a system can only divide us, for it “buys a system that deliberately tribalises children before they can read”. Tribalising children before they outgrow training wheels can only encourage class-based and religious sectarianism.

And all that effort leaves us with a system that year by year makes us less well educated. Across the board, public and private, quality is low and falling, with consistently dropping international test scores in literacy, maths and science.

There is a claim that private schools ease the burden for the public system. This is spurious, for each private school student sucks up almost two-thirds as much as each public one. Before the benefit of their fees, that is.

This is manifestly unfair. Private schools heighten inequality, privileging the privileged, hogging the teaching talent and siphoning off kids already equipped with reading backgrounds, so depriving the public system of beneficial peer-to-peer learning.

Let’s see what happens if private schools are banned. Forty years ago, Finland stunned the world by nationalising schools, revering teachers, ending streaming, entering school late, shrinking the school day, reducing homework and extending holidays – then topped every test. Dr Pasi Sahlberg, who as minister designed the Finnish system, will move to Sydney next year, to teach. Let’s learn from him.


My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for 12 December 2017

A week to celebrate but also a week for lamentation

What a week it has been. Some things to celebrate, such as Same Sex Marriage legislated for, and some to lament, such as President Trump’s unilateral decision to declare Jerusalem the exclusive capital of Israel, and to move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv.

While Parliament was busy congratulating itself on the passage of the SSM bill I could not but remind myself that this was the result of the peoples’ overwhelming ‘Yes’ vote in the recent postal survey, and that Parliament could have passed similar legislation years ago, and indeed, had many opportunities to do just that. So don’t congratulate yourself too much Mr Turnbull, as most people can see you didn’t have the fortitude to take on the troglodytes in your party when you should have.

The ramifications of Trump’s decision will take a while to play out, and though of course they can’t be good, I will hold off commenting, in part because it wouldn’t surprise me if he quickly followed one foolish and inflammatory decision with another, namely his Two State solution peace plan. Given the rumours of it being a one-sided pro-Zionist scheme I hope it never sees the light of day.

So instead I’ll devote my column to something worth writing about, Professor Gillian Trigg’s sensible and humane analysis of our offshore detention regime on ABC TV ‘s Q&A program last week.

The former human rights commissioner described Australia’s offshore detention regime as designed to “break” refugees, warning the inhumanity on Manus Island had reached such a point that “as a nation, we have to respond”.

Labor senator Lisa Singh, whose party reopened the offshore detention centres in 2012 said they may not have done so if they had known the situation would reach this point.

Echoing Triggs, she said the government’s refusal to accept New Zealand’s offer to take 150 men suggested they wanted people to suffer or die.

That predictably provoked outrage from Liberal senator Eric Abetz, who labelled the comment as “highly offensive”.

But Triggs, a vocal critic of the policy, said the evidence suggested otherwise. “This program is designed to break these people. And to send them back,” she said.

Triggs went on to say said offshore detention regime had now become Australia’s shame. “It’s a difficult decision for both political parties,” she said. “But I think the inhumanity has reached a level where we, as a nation, have to respond.”

There was also some action on this issue in Parliament too, when a motion moved by the Greens’ Nick McKim and supported by Labor passed the Senate, calling on the government to support New Zealand’s offer to accept 150 men from Manus Island.

Commenting in the House of Representatives Adam Bandt, Green MP for Melbourne also noted that due to government sloppiness “The House passed a Greens motion calling on the government to accept New Zealand’s offer to take some of the refugees who are currently languishing on Manus,” he said.

However, through a tricky procedural move, the government got a ‘do over’ and voted again.

One MP said he missed the first vote on Manus because he was ‘detained’. If he went to Manus he would find out what detention really looks like. If such MPs can’t be bothered to turn up and vote for liberty, then they need to get out of Parliament. And take the whole rotten government with them. It is time to evacuate Manus now.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for today, 5 December 2017

Bad news for both whales and chooks last week

Last week we were finally able to see the much-delayed stomach churning footage of what happens during a Japanese whaling hunt in an Australian whale sanctuary, evidence that the federal government did not want us to see.

After a five-year freedom-of-information battle, marine conservation group Sea Shepherd has obtained unreleased footage, shot by Australian customs officials, which reveals in distressing detail the killing of a minke whale by a so-called Japanese “research” ship.

The federal government fought to have the footage kept secret, arguing that it would harm relations with Japan, prompting accusations it prioritised diplomatic interests over protecting the whales and representing the views of Australians who want the annual killing spree stopped.

Now the footage has finally been released Sea Shepherd Australia managing director Jeff Hansen has demanded the government honour a pre-election pledge to send a customs ship to Antarctica to police the hunt, which takes place in Australian waters in contravention of international laws.

Unfortunately, many of us are not surprised to find that since coming to power the Coalition has not dispatched any such vessels. Sea Shepherd announced last August that it no longer had the resources to send its boats to prevent the hunt.

Sadly, our federal government only seems capable of mounting platitudes rather than sending ships to do the policing. Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg, for example, could only manage to say that Australia had moved two successful motions at the last meeting of the International Whaling Commission to increase the international scrutiny of “scientific” whaling.

Thankfully not all politicians are as ineffective as Mr Frydenberg. Greens spokesperson for Healthy Oceans, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, welcomed the release of the Australian Government footage obtained under Freedom of Information request by Sea Shepherd.

He added “This footage lays bare the brutality that is whaling. These whales are being killed and die slowly and in pain, sometimes drowning in their own blood. This slaughter happens for no legitimate reason and should be condemned.

 “Going into summer, when Japan is about to slaughter 333 minke whales, in our waters and against international law, the Australian Government must outline their strategy to stop this happening” he concluded.

Whales weren’t the only animals to feature in the news last week. Chooks got a mention too, though unfortunately minus the visuals that might make people sit up and take notice, though perhaps some will remember footage of a couple of weeks ago that showed a Victorian factory chook farm boiling its fowls alive.

I’m referring to the draft national Standards and Guidelines for the Welfare of Poultry that were released for public consultation last week, guidelines quite rightly condemned by Greens animal welfare spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon.

“It is inexcusable that the draft guidelines and standards have simply continued the cruel conditions that over 700 million chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese and other poultry are currently subjected to,” Senator Rhiannon said.

“For example, there is no effort to end the use of battery cages and limit stocking densities for chickens. The pain caused by trimming sensitive beaks is ignored, and the standards for housing and slaughter are completely inadequate” Senator Rhiannon concluded.

These draft standards ignore the science that confirms the cruelty of existing poultry enterprises.

As Senator Rhiannon has rightly said, and more than once, “It’s like putting the fox in charge of the hen house.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for Tuesday 28 November 2017

New Finkel report shows government renewables war is built on lies

The headline almost writes itself: “Finkel backs Labor’s renewables policy”, for a report released last week, ‘The Role of Energy Storage in Australia’s Future Energy Supply Mix’ has found that Australia can reach 50% renewables by 2030 with limited impact on reliability.

It has, inevitably, lead to claims that Labor’s target of 50% renewables by 2030 is both achievable and correct (‘Shorten goes on the front foot over 50% renewables ‘target’’), which of course is not the case, and certainly not for the reasons Labor claims. And focusing on the politics that validate Labor’s plans would be missing the point.

The report, which though dubbed The Finkel Report, is in fact by the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA), explores how much energy storage, whether in batteries, pumped hydro or solar thermal we will need as we increasingly rely on renewables.

The ACOLA report finds that only a small amount of storage would be required to balance a system with 50% renewables.

One important aspect of the ACOLA report is that it brings into focus an unavoidable fact: Australia has serious problems with its electricity system. Certainly, system security, i.e. making sure that the system doesn’t break, is an immediate concern. Reliability, i.e. ensuring the system has enough power to meet demand is however a growing problem. And energy storage is a potential solution to both.

Our politicians need to focus on the substance of this debate, rather than the headlines. Hitting each other over the head because there are too many renewables in the policy basket is pointless and will ultimately prove self-defeating. Instead, we should focus on finding an actual policy solution noted David Blowers of the Grattan Institute

True, but the real problem that the new Finkel report shows is that Malcolm Turnbull’s war on renewables is built on lies, as Greens climate and energy spokesperson Adam Bandt MP quite rightly pointed out.

Mr Bandt said the report also highlights the need for the Greens’ policy of a national plan for energy storage, including a storage target and investment in the export opportunities of solar fuels.

The report reinforces that in the medium term, large amounts of renewable energy do not need large investments in storage, but that Australia risks losing out on export opportunities and more investment in renewables without a longer-term plan for the storage industry.

“The new Finkel report shows Turnbull’s war on renewables is built on lies,” Mr Bandt said.

It shows that the so-called ‘renewables problem’ the government’s NEG policy is seeking to fix is built on a fiction that recent investments in renewables require more storage to work.

This is further evidence of why COAG should have rejected the government’s National Energy Guarantee at its meeting last Friday, and put in place a real national climate and energy plan.

Mr Bandt went on to say “I have spent the last week in Bonn at the global climate negotiations. While other world leaders released a plan to get out of coal, Josh Frydenberg was hanging with Trump’s coal-huggers.”

Indeed, the new Finkel report also shows that Australia is missing in action on the solar fuels export market that is just taking off. With effectively more sun than any other country, we should be investing in solar and exporting it to the world as solar fuels, such as safe non-polluting hydrogen.

My Daily Advertiser column for today, Tuesday 21 November 2017: Lessons to be learnt from the Vote No campaign’s spectacular own goal

Last week we finally got the result of the marriage equality survey and Australia has resoundingly voted ‘Yes’. 61.6% in fact, with only 38% voting No, which compares very well with Ireland’s vote a couple of years ago, which had 62% of votes in favour of the change and 38 per cent against. Ireland’s was a formal referendum yet only 60% of the people turned out to vote, compared with almost 80% here in an in formal postal survey.

The Riverina electorate’s vote of 55% is also very encouraging, as is our federal MP Michael McCormack’s announcement that he will honour the wish of his constituents and vote for same-sex marriage when it comes to a parliamentary vote. It adds some credibility to his apology for his previous hostility to the Riverina LGBTIQ community.

Referring to individual politicians reminds me of the sordid role some of them, such as Messrs Abbott and Abetz, played in this campaign. Frustrated by the Senate’s vote against a formal plebiscite they foisted the very expensive postal survey on us and then proceeded to mastermind a very misleading ‘Vote No’ argument that in truth was seriously dishonest in its claims about what same-sex marriage would lead to.

But now they should be eating very humble pie, having spectacularly scored an ‘own goal’ – and with the whole world watching too!

It’s the most spectacular own goal on the conservative side of Australian politics since Malcolm Fraser called the early 1983 election and lost.

Indeed, the marriage equality survey was an utter miscalculation by the conservatives on several fronts. They thought they could defeat marriage equality. They failed.

What will the wider results of their pig-headed miscalculation be? Firstly, many more young people are now on the electoral roll and engaged in politics. Young people are likelier to vote Labor or Green, so they have enriched their opposition.

Secondly, the “yes” vote for marriage equality is also a “no” vote for the shock-jock, News-Ltd totally untrue view of the world that political correctness has gone mad and the world is full of dole bludgers and refugees wearing Armani outfits.

Thirdly, a repudiation of the myth that “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

The survey result could also be a game-changer for Australian politics. This is because Malcolm Turnbull has at least 18 months before he faces an election. He has time to fix the mess he allowed to happen. If he is agile and innovative, he could make the survey result in his epiphany. He can take no kudos from the survey result for that belongs to us, the Australian people who, having had this unwanted agenda from the right-wing rump of the Coalition thrust upon us, turned the result around.

But Mr Turnbull can take lessons from the result, which means, unlike marriage equality, he needs to address things that are broke and need fixing, such as an energy policy that addresses climate change, housing affordability, a tax policy to fix the rorts exposed in the Paradise Papers, our inhumane treatment of asylum seekers, the appalling conditions our First Peoples have to endure, and so on.

A good start would be to limit the damage that those MPs amending the Marriage Equality Bill are trying to do by including provisions such as allowing marriage celebrants and wedding caterers to discriminate against LGBTIQ people under the false guise of religious freedom. Don’t let them legalise discrimination, Malcolm!

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for Tuesday 14 November 2017: Australia must take on UK re tax havens

Last week’s 4 Corners (ABC TV) revealed that files from an offshore law firm showed that the big multinationals organise their finances to avoid paying very much tax.

No surprises there, as we have long known this about corporations such as Apple and Nike, but what excited both the media and the public was that these rorts are also practiced by very wealthy individuals such as the Queen, Prince Charles, pop stars, leading sports figures, and members of Donald Trump’s cabinet. Well, perhaps no surprise about the latter.

Having said that it does need to be noted that tax avoidance is not illegal, unlike tax evasion, which most definitely is. 

The 4 Corners screening revealed that the world’s biggest businesses, heads of state and global figures in politics, entertainment and sport have sheltered their wealth in secretive tax havens. The leak of 13.4m files exposed the global environments in which tax abuses can thrive, and the complex and seemingly artificial ways the wealthy can legally protect their wealth.

Dubbed the Paradise Papers, it revealed, amongst other details, that millions of pounds from the Queen’s private estate have been invested in the low taxing Cayman Islands, a British territory in the West Indies.

The report also showed extensive offshore dealings by President Donald Trump’s cabinet members, advisers and donors, including substantial payments from a firm co-owned by Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law to the shipping group of US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross

The publication of this investigation comes at a time of growing global income inequality. Meanwhile, multinational companies are shifting a growing share of profits offshore, €600bn in the last year alone, as leading economist Gabriel Zucman revealed.

“Tax havens are one of the key engines of the rise in global inequality,” he said. “As inequality rises, offshore tax evasion is becoming an elite sport.”

Hopefully the disclosures will put pressure on world leaders, including Trump and the British prime minister, Theresa May, who have both pledged to curb aggressive tax avoidance schemes, but we shouldn’t hold our breath waiting for this to happen.

The problem is of course that short of world governments unanimously legislating to make tax avoidance as illegal as tax evasion already is, there is no easy solution.

However, there is one action that could seriously put an end to all these sadly legal rorts, which is to crack down on these so-called tax havens, preferably by closing them down entirely, or at least lifting the veil of secrecy they operate under. Interestingly enough, most, though not all of them, are British territories.

This has provoked Greens Treasury Spokesperson, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson to propose a very do-able solution. He has called on the Government to call in the UK Ambassador to ask why the UK continues to allow negligent levels of tax secrecy in their Overseas Territories.

“Australia needs to let the UK know that we can no longer tolerate its overseas territories, including Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands, being used by Australian citizens or companies operating in Australia for aggressive tax avoidance and potential tax evasion strategies” the Senator said.

Australia is in the early stages of negotiating a trade agreement with the UK. In Britain’s vulnerable post-Brexit state, our Government must seize the moment and immediately rule out signing any deal which would facilitate further use of the tax and secrecy havens of the UK overseas territories.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for 7 November 2017: The Consequences of the Battle of Beersheba nothing to celebrate

The consequences of Beersheba are nothing to celebrate

Last week’s national chest beating over the centenary of the Battle of Beersheba reminded me that the consequences of that victory are nothing to celebrate, and neither is last week’s other centenary, Britain’s Balfour Declaration.

Both need a dose of honest assessment, rather than the uncritically jingoist interpretation they have been given by the mainstream Australian media.

The Battler of Beersheba first. Essentially what was celebrated was the charge of the Australian 4th Light Horse Brigade of the ANZAC Mounted Division on 31 October 1917 that captured Beersheba and thus fatally compromised the Ottoman Turkish defensive line stretching across Palestine. Jerusalem, the rest of Palestine and then Syria rapidly fell to the British under General Allenby.

While this famous cavalry charge is much celebrated by the victors and the ultimate beneficiary, Israel, the immediate consequences for the Palestinians were devastating. The initial rapes and famine that killed 100,000 was bad enough, but the long-term consequences for the indigenous Palestinians were disastrous.

The post WW1 British Mandate of Palestine, the UK’s prize for its defeat of the Ottoman Turks, opened the land up to Zionist colonisation, the creation of the State of Israel, and today’s ongoing occupation by Israel of Palestine’s West Bank and Gaza Strip

As Greens MP Lee Rhiannon posted on Facebook “The dark history that followed that charge has been largely swept under – from the massacre by ANZAC soldiers in Surafend that went unpunished a year after the charge to the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population of the land by the Israeli army 30 years after that.

“But the grand re-enactment that is taking place, attended by Prime Minister Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will have no mention of the people who belong to that land – who have since been expelled,” Senator Rhiannon’s post concluded

To which I add, where were the Palestinians while Australia, NZ and Israel were partying on last week? Nowhere in sight of course. The only Arabs in view both in 1917 and 2017 were the horses.

Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten should hang their heads in shame for participating in this jingoistic piece of military play acting.

Now to the Balfour Declaration, which is not as well known in Australia as the Beersheba cavalry charge, but had even more disastrous consequences for the Palestinians.

In the Declaration the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Arthur Balfour, promised the land of Palestine as a homeland for the Jewish people. In an amazing piece of Orwellian doublethink (the ability to hold two completely contradictory thoughts simultaneously while believing both to be true) Lord Balfour added “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.

Britain’s motives were various, and though some in Lloyd George’s government, himself included, genuinely wanted safety and security for the Jewish people, the motivation was essentially ‘realpolitik’, namely to win support from the Jewish populations of Russia and the USA for the war.

So last week approximately 13 million Palestinians scattered throughout the world marked its centenary by lamenting what noted Palestinian-American academic Edward Said has rightly dubbed the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, the creation of the State of Israel, its occupation of what remains of Palestine, and millions of Palestinian refugees.

The centenary was met with huge protests in Occupied Palestine, and in London, where there were demands for a British apology.

As for me, I would have liked to have attended street artist Banksy’s ‘Apologetic Party’ at his appropriately named ‘Walled-Off Hotel’, my favourite place to hang out in Bethlehem.

My Daily Advertiser column for today, 31 October 2017

AWU Raids a Political Act by a Desperate PM

Last week Australian politics reached a new low, and with Team Turnbull beating the xenophobia drum with all the energy it can muster, that’s saying something.

The new low was of course the raids on the Sydney and Melbourne offices of the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) by the Australian Federal Police (AFP). The AWU is expected to mount an urgent Federal Court challenge.

The raids dramatically featured on prime-time evening TV news broadcasts, which at the time made me think that the media must have been tipped off about them, and as we soon found out, they were, by one of Employment Minister Michaelia Cash’s staff.

Ms Cash spent the best part of a day denying that important piece of information, which quite rightly has resulted in calls for her resignation, for given that under the Westminster system of government a minister is ultimately responsible for the actions of their department and their staff, Australian Greens Acting Co-Deputy Leader Adam Bandt’s comment that Cash’s position was untenable and that she should resign is entirely appropriate.

However, back to the main story. The AFP raids were part of an investigation by newly re-established union watchdog, the Registered Organisations Commission (ROC) into AWU donations to activist group GetUp! when Opposition Leader Bill Shorten led the union.

It’s clearly part of the Government’s ongoing attack on the union movement in general and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten in particular. It is also an attack on Get Up, for Turnbull & Co certainly don’t like community based activism. As Mr Shorten said, the “AFP is doing government’s dirty work”.

The ROC said the raids were triggered after it received information that documents relevant to the investigation were being “concealed or destroyed” and sought authorisation from a magistrate for immediate AFP access to the documents.

The commission’s investigation, launched earlier this month, is examining whether the $100,000 donation was within the AWU’s rules.

AWU national secretary Daniel Walton labelled the raids “an extraordinary abuse of police resources” and part of an attempt to smear Mr Shorten.

In a statement, GetUp! said the dramatic police actions raised “concerning questions” and said that the organisation handled the 2005 donation appropriately.

“This is part of a pattern from this government trying to silence its critics or anyone who challenges it,” GetUp! national director Paul Oosting said.

Greens industrial relations spokesperson Adam Bandt MP added that “This is part of a worrying broader crackdown on dissent in Australia”.

Australian Council of Trade Unions Secretary Sally McManus pointed out that the raids “Meant to intimidate us. But we will not be intimidated or stopped for standing up for what’s right and standing up to the powerful. We will continue to call them out and fight for a better deal – better and stronger rights for working people.

“When the big banks were found to have allowed terrorists and drug dealers to launder money, they did nothing. This authoritarian behaviour is what you’d expect from a dictatorship”.

Greens NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon has condemned the raids as a ruthless political act carried out by a government desperate to protect its own power and that of the business constituency it serves.

“Like the government’s shrill and baseless attack on GetUp! this raid is a sign of an insecure government desperate to tie up the largest organised sections of our progressive movement” Senator Rhiannon concluded.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for today: Turnbull has capitulated to the climate terrorists on his backbench.

Last week’s news that the Turnbull Cabinet was dumping the Clean Energy Target proposed by the Chief Scientist for a new so-called ‘affordable, reliable’ power plan is of doubtful short-term value for households and is certainly a long-term disaster for the climate and the environment, both on which of course we all depend.

This is because clean renewable energy’s share of the electricity sector will plateau from 2020 under the government’s new energy plan. Critics say it will make it harder for Australia to meet its climate goals and dent jobs in the industry.

According to the briefing documents provided this week by the government the share of renewable energy would be a paltry 28-36 per cent, including hydro and solar photovoltaics, by 2030. Even more alarmingly, the share of intermittent renewable energy, such as solar and wind, would only be “about 18-24 per cent”.

Though, at the time of writing, Labor may well, and to its shame, back the plan, there is opposition from State leaders, rightly worried that any gains they make in setting deeper emissions reductions through more ambitious renewable energy targets will be nullified by the federal scheme.

Energy analysts and the Greens have also criticised the proposal, noting the renewables share is even less than the “business as usual” forecast for 2030 contained in the Finkel review.

The national energy guarantee is “is worse than doing nothing,” Greens climate change and energy spokesman Adam Bandt said.

“It takes a particular malevolence to not just cut support to renewables but to actively pull them out of the system.”

One hotly debated detail is whether the proposed scheme will generate a shadow’ carbon price, as market watchers and others say it will. John Pierce, chairman of the Australian Energy Market Commission tries to argue that “We are not pricing carbon. What we are pricing is reliability…the ability for the mechanism to be dispatched.”

Others though, more concerned with truth than spin, highlight that as soon as trading takes place between retailers a price will emerge.

But it is the projected 2030 level of renewables that has many in the industry puzzled.

Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton said the share of renewables in the National Electricity Market will slow rapidly, perhaps by more than half. “That’s surprising and disappointing,” Mr Thornton said, noting that any slowdown would come even as prices of renewable energy are sinking fast.

Australian Greens Leader Richard Di Natale succinctly said it all “Today’s climate announcement, to scrap the already underwhelming Clean Energy Target and put more dirty power into the network, is dangerous and infuriating. This plan abandons renewables, abandons action on climate change and abandons households who will be paying more for their power. This is a big win for coal, for the Liberal Party’s donors and for Tony Abbott.”

Clearly this is the policy you get when you capitulate to the climate terrorists on your backbench. It’s a policy of appeasement designed to please Tony Abbott and the other Trumps on the backbench. Of course, it is also a cheap political ploy to bolster the Liberal/National coalition’s chances at the next federal election.

It is ironic that the Liberals, the party based on supporting private enterprise, is prepared to massively intervene in the free market when it needs to do so to save its own sorry skin.

My Daily Advertiser column for today, 17 October 2017: The Turnbull government’s national security agenda is all about its own survival.

A government that exploits people’s fears to win elections is nothing new, but that doesn’t mean it is anything to be proud of.

Nonetheless, examples abound, such as Britain’s 1914 ‘Khaki election’, Nazi Germany playing on fears of communist USSR, and most Western governments playing on the same fear during the Cold War.

So it needs to be made very clear what Malcolm Turnbull and his colleagues are up to when the government pushes its national security agenda.

Peter Lewis recently wrote “Are war and terrorism the last hope for a revival of Turnbull’s government?” (The Guardian), which got me thinking that this would be a topic worth teasing out.

More than half of the Australians in a recent Essential poll are quite rightly concerned that the nuclear brinkmanship displayed by both Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un will lead to all-out conflict.

And so as the Turnbull government fails to make any headway on most domestic issues it is increasingly turning to external threats to reset the political agenda to its advantage.

The first issue is the face-off between two crazy-brave hot-heads with their fingers way too close to the button. As this week’s Essential Report shows, most Australians now think war between the US and North Korean is more likely than not.

Today’s reports that President Trump told his national security advisers in July that he wanted to increase the country’s nuclear arsenal by nearly tenfold (The Age) is likely to increase our fear. Trump now of course claims this to be ‘Fake News’, as he invariably does when caught out.

Frighteningly the Turnbull government has already signalled it will follow President Trump wherever he cares to go. Real war on and possibly off the Korean peninsula ironically would relieve the current internal pressure on the Coalition, with all parties except the Greens unifying behind the US alliance.

The second threat likely to benefit Turnbull & Co is the increasing possibility of a home-soil terrorist attack. As last week’s Essential report shows, this still represents the greatest challenge to Australian’s sense of personal safety.

It is here that the Coalition has been pursuing its most proactive groundwork, establishing the truly Orwellian sounding homeland security super ministry and seeking more and more powers in the name of anti-terrorism.

What is frightening is the incrementalism of the government’s approach to its anti-terror legislation. Firstly, because by tightening the screws small bit by small bit the ‘Boiling Frog’ syndrome will apply, that is, they hope we won’t notice each small change, only waking up to the fact when it is too late to realise how many of our civil liberties have been taken away.

In terms of parliamentary politics, the government’s strategy is to probe and push until it finds a point of difference with the Opposition. To date Shorten’s Labor has matched the government each step of the way, conscious that to create a contest on national security opens the attack of being “weak on terror”.

Indeed, as Kim Beazley discovered to his ultimate demise in 2001 when the Howard government confected the Tampa stand-off, there will be a point where Labor will not be prepared to follow and that will become the point on which a winnable Coalition election campaign can be fought, perish the thought.

So war and terror will ironically be the last remaining hopes for a Coalition revival.