Ray Goodlass

Rays peace activism

Month: November, 2017

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.

Advertisements

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.