Can State and Federal politicians agree on the National Energy Guarantee?

I’m fed-up with the often extremely partisan debate over energy. Now after more than a decade of endless wrangling, the end could be in sight.

This past week the even-tempered and moderate Minister for Energy Josh Frydenberg met with his State counterparts to consider how to implement the Coalition’s  National Energy Guarantee (NEG) plan, taking into account the differences between the States of existing energy infrastructure, and their philosophical commitment to emissions reduction. 

It is a plan that follows on from the independent 2017 National Electricity Market Review requested by the COAG Energy Ministers in October 2016, and conducted by Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel. 

In essence it suggests guidelines for retailers to chose a rational mix of energy generation sources that would both enable Australia to meet its Paris agreement emissions reduction target whilst also ensuring a reliable and secure supply of both dispatchable and renewable energy, as cheaply as possible for both consumer and taxpayer.

Whilst agreement was not reached at this latest meeting of Energy Ministers, there was consensus on the need to continue discussions, and a further meeting has been set for August.

A quick resolution of differences is not likely with a federal election looming in the next year that could see Labor win office, and pushing for a more ambitious emission reduction target.

Even then it could take a couple of years to implement. In that time further developments, particularly in battery technology, could lead to more changes in the requirements for electricity generation and storage.

Our politicians, charged with the responsibility of ongoing market planning, must avoid doctrinaire positions, embrace the changing science, and create flexible solutions for all-Australians.

Cross-party and cross-factional agreement is essential before private enterprise will risk raising the capital needed to construct appropriate facilities.


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Is Turnbull’s inconspicuous opponent The National Civic Council (NCC)?

The National Civic Council, founded by Catholic layman Mr B.A. Santamaria in the 1940’s, over the years has enunciated a political philosophy based on pro-Catholic values.

His policies were devised to oppose the growing influence of the atheistic Communist Party in Australian politics, and their infiltration of Australian Trade Unions.

The NCC inspired the rise of Industrial groups within the Australian Labor Party dedicated to opposing Communism when the ALP wouldn’t.

Prime Minister Bob Menzies exploited the situation by portraying Labor as being soft on Communism, and provocatively moved to ban the Communist Party, a change that the  Leader of the ALP, Herbert Evatt, strongly opposed for fear of undermining civil liberties.

The issue irrevocably split the ALP when the Democratic Labor Party (DLP), a political affiliate of the NCC was formed. It did not have the political clout to win office itself, but it succeeded in denying Labor office for many years.

Over 60 years later it is the Coalition’s turn to face office-denying dissent within its ranks. The political spokesman for the Coalition revolt has been the former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, going back on his promise not to cause trouble for the new leadership.

My motivation for writing this post is a desire to understand why he has changed his mind and is now hell-bent on opposing Malcolm Turnbull at every turn, despite the electoral damage it is causing. I have always thought well of Tony Abbott and so have found this behaviour galling.

With an impeccable Catholic pedigree, a Jesuit education, and seminary training,  it was not surprising that he espoused NCC philosophy when he switched from the priesthood to politics. As the 28th Prime Minister of Australia, he always sought to implement policies consistent with NCC philosophy.

I suspect that although Catholic, Malcolm Turnbull has not continued on with some of Tony Abbott’s policies, and has failed to always uphold NCC ideology, especially in regard to family values, because he prefers to lead by consensus and negotiation.

If he is to be re-elected, Malcolm Turnbull has the almost impossible task of countering a re-invigorated Labor Party, neutralizing NCC-inspired opposition within the Coalition, refuting strident conservative media criticism, and persuading a large Conservative voting block not to desert the Coalition.

Australian’s have a strong sense of fairness, and there may be many who will perceive the constant attacks on his leadership, as ethically wrong!

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Mental health emergencies and community safety.

It is estimated that 4 million Australians will experience a mental health problem each year.

The bill for this year on mental health is $4.3 billion including $120 million on mental health research.

On the 27th November 2017 the Health Minister Greg Hunt announced a $53 million boost to new research funding of 47 projects through the NHMRC.

It has been calculated that Australia spends about 300 times as much on cancer research as it does on research into mental health issues. Yet mental illnesses cause more disruption to the lives of family members, friends and associates who have to cope with their emotional and behavioural instability, than does cancer.

In a less tolerant era, doctors were able to certify dangerous psychotic patients as insane, institutionalizing them against their will, and protecting society from their irrational behaviour.  Not so today.

Most patients can be successfully managed as outpatients, but the risk is that some will stop taking their medication, and refuse to present for the treatment they need. Should they also consume alcohol, and/or use drugs, it is highly likely that they will end up creating a public disturbance, and come to the attention of the police.

Police methods designed to apprehend criminals and law-breakers may be excessive, and inappropriate for the management of disturbed but non-psychotic mentally-ill patients, particularly if unarmed.

For this reason it may be wise to more often involve ambulance based paramedics acting under the direction of psychiatrists.

I would hope our government would allocate more research funding, and establish a national panel to formulate best policy for the management of psychiatric emergencies.
















and that a national panel could be appointed to formulate best medical policies.


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Why I think a September poll is likely!

Barnaby Joyce today called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to stand down from the leadership if  the Coalition fails to overtake Labor in the polls by Christmas. His gratuitous advice shows how desperately some Conservatives want him gone. Since no one is prepared to challenge him for the leadership, he must be persuaded to voluntarily resign. It is clear evidence that unless he does, his every move will continue to be mercilessly criticised in the media.

Although he did not say so, they expect Malcolm Turnbull to base his decision on further two-party preferred polls by Newspoll, since today’s result (ALP 52%, L-NP 48%) was the 30th in which the Coalition has trailed Labor, and equalled the Tony Abbott sequence of negative polls.

No allowance will be made for the fact that Malcolm Turnbull has consistently out-polled Bill Shorten as preferred Prime Minister, the Coalition is leading Labor in the Primary Vote, and Roy Morgan polls with a better election prediction record show the difference of ALP 51%, L-NP 49% to be too close to call. And of course the only poll that really matters is the election.

It is not Malcolm Turnbull who should resign because Conservatives demand it, but Tony Abbott, if he is to be a man of his word.

When he lost the leadership ballot he gave a firm and repeated undertaking not to destabilize ongoing leadership. It is he who must now give reason why he has not done so. It is the damaging dissension he is creating that will almost certainly result in the Coalition continuing to lag in the two-party preferred Newspoll results, and result in its election defeat.

It is possible that an election will be called in the wake of a favourable May budget for middle income earners.  It is appropriate that Australians have their say sooner rather than later, in the light of the Coalition split.  Hopefully this will end the distasteful wrangling between the Coalition factions.




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The Courageous Charge of the Monash Brigade!

Passionate Coalition duo George Christensen and Craig Kelly are the driving force behind a rebellious pro-coal forum reputed to have more than 20 back-bench signatures.  Their oft-repeated mantra is that coal will deliver “low-cost electricity for consumers and industry”, and create jobs.

They are perfectly correct, if the government foots the bill, or subsidizes the development of the expensive, environmentally risky Adani coal mine and the construction of sufficient coal fired power stations. But what would it cost tax-payers?

Despite Craig Kelly’s protestations that “Malcolm Turnbull has my full support”, it cannot be sheer co-incidence that they have timed their lobbying until the very week that the Coalition’s negative Newspoll results again equal 30, the number Malcolm Turnbull used  to question Tony Abbott’s leadership competency in 2015.

There has also been a swelling chorus of conservative voices calling for Malcolm Turnbull to step-down, or be dumped as leader. His departure was predicted over the Easter week-end, even although there were no leadership contenders.

It is not surprising that both investors and lenders are wary of risking their capital on coal at present. There is a global trend away from using coal for energy generation. The UK government for example aims to phase out coal-fired power stations as early as 2025, in favour of gas-fired electricity generation, and renewable energy sources that are now cheaper to build than the alternative coal using facilities.

I admire the courage of the Monash Forum group in putting their political fortunes on the line over a single issue, which has already been extensively researched.  Of course they do not believe in climate change and are presumably prepared to wear the opprobrium they will receive if they are proved wrong.

They are also out-of-step with their colleagues, who will not thank them if and when the Coalition looses seats at the next election, because of leadership instability.

The disaffected could defect to Corey Bernardi’s Conservative Party with similar policies, but it is fast becoming irrelevant, and they are unlikely to do so.

Let’s hope that they stay, and contribute more constructively to future debates. It would certainly help if it were Tony Abbott, not Malcolm Turnbull, who left politics!






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How safe from Terrorism are we in Australia?

Just a week before Easter the French experienced another alarming terrorist attack, this time in Southern France, not far from the Mediterranean coast, and the Spanish border. Five lost their lives, including tragically a 44 year old police officer Arnaud Beltrame who in a gesture of great magnanimity,  had exchanged place with a female hostage. Others were seriously injured.

France, with a population nearly three times greater than our own, has long endured many more incidents, and of greater magnitude, than we have in Australia.

From my calculations based on information from Wikipedia, in 15 years since 20 July 2003, and not including this latest one, there have been 33 terrorist attacks in which 259 people have lost their lives, and 899 have been injured.

The most horrific sequence of assaults occurred November 2015 in Paris. It resulted in 130 deaths, and 368 serious injuries.

One might have thought that with such a troubled history of terrorism, the French would have preferred the well-known and popular lawyer leader of the right wing National Front Party, Marine Le Pen, in the ballot at the April-May 2017 French Presidential election for a five year term.

Instead it was the young Centrist, pro-European, moderate leader of the En Marche Party, Emmanuel Macron who easily won the most powerful position in French politics, that of the French President by 66% to 33%.

Australians might well ask themselves, as Immigration policy is canvassed as an election issue in 2018, what is the security risk to us here in Australia? Do we wish to erect aggressive Trumpesque Immigration barriers that drastically cut our humanitarian refugee quota to supposedly protect our privileged standard of living?

Wikipedia derived data on Australian Terrorism in the past decade, documents 10 attacks, with 9 deaths and 15 injuries. It seems like it was only a few months ago but the Martin Place Lindt café siege in which two innocent people lost their lives was in December 2014.

This News article suggests that a further 15 terrorist attacks have been thwarted in a three year period.

The figures show that the threat of death and injury  from terrorism in Australia is very low,  thanks in large part to the vigilance of our security forces, and the information they receive from peace-loving, law-abiding ethnic minorities.

We need to focus equally on the prevention of domestic violence, a much more formidable problem in our societies.




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Turnbull Finished! – Hartcher’s Easter Prediction.

Of course, Gold Walkley winning Journalist Peter Hartcher is not the first political analyst to have asserted that Malcolm Turnbull has betrayed his political principles, become morally bankrupt, and is now a spent force in Federal Politics.

His Easter message accusing Malcolm Turnbull of dispensing hypocritical homilies on political issues however, was replete with mocking ecclesiastical imagery, calculated to damage his standing.

Peter Hartcher is a Prince of Australian Journalism, but I very much doubt that he now has a God-like gift of prophecy. One can only presume that he is privy to, and perhaps complicit with, initiatives to destabilize and unseat Turnbull from the leadership in the coming year, at the risk of the Coalition loosing office at the next election.

Peter Hartcher has a track record of fomenting leadership discord. I understand that he played an important role in undermining Julia Gillard as Prime Minister. and promoted her replacement with former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. More than any other issue, it was division within Labor’s ranks that resulted in the Coalition’s landslide victory in the 2013 election that swept Tony Abbott to power.

Although this Easter Magnum Opus could be interpreted as  a move to assist Tony Abbott regain the Prime Ministership, Peter Hartcher entertains the possibility, perhaps the probability, that Labor will win office as a result of Turnbull’s de-stabilization.  He goes so far as to consider “authentic” Anthony Albanese would make a better Labor leader to win office at the next election than the current incumbent Bill Shorten.

I believe the Australian people should vote for the party of their choice according to the merits of their policies. The Media has a responsibility to inform the electorate of the issues, rather than to just manipulate public opinion in the direction of their own preferred outcome.




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The Tony Abbott Conundrum.

I am disappointed in Tony Abbott. He exasperates me with his continuing carping at, and denigration of, Malcolm Turnbull. He has become a dogmatic, political know-all. I am appalled by his nonsensical climate change denial opinions. I find particularly offensive his recent taunting of Turnbull over continuing negative Newspoll results, when it is the disunity  his attacks have created, that have been largely responsible. Goodness me! How unfair is that!

If that is not enough, 2018 is shaping up for an even more heated internecine fight over immigration quotas.

In 2GB radio interviews this year, Tony Abbott claims that Australia’s current  immigration rate of 180,000 to 210,000 persons per annum is unsustainable. On a per capita basis, it is one of the highest in the world, and he claims that contrary to conventional opinion, it is creating economic and social hardship for our society. His target is a radical cull of migration to about 120,000 a year, a policy his political instincts tell him,  would be a vote winner.

Having been Australia’s 28th Prime Minister from 2013-2015 he, more than any other current politician, has earned the right to express an opinion on Australia’s immigration policy. Criticized, even by his own church, and by human rights activists, as being too harsh, the firm policies he introduced cracked down on the criminal activities of people smugglers and ended the perilous arrival of desperate refugees on un-seaworthy boats.

But I fear that his immigration opinions are more influenced by divisive considerations of racial integration, than on purely economic, environmental and humanitarian factors.

How do I explain Tony Abbott’s unhelpful and erratic attacks on his own party? I have considered three possible motivations:

1. The obvious one is a bid to regain power, but I think it is the least likely. He has received no encouragement from the polls that the public would wish this.

2. The second view, is that he is intent on revenge for his demotion to a position subservient to his most powerful rival.

Certainly his role as Coalition leader in the overwhelming 2013 win (90 seats to 55 for Labor) merited greater reward than the two years he served. Whilst he deserved credit for the win, it should not be forgotten that Labor’s leadership fight prior to the election significantly undermined public trust in them.

It is a matter of historical record that there was no plot by Malcolm Turnbull to over-throw him, yet it would seem that Abbott has never forgiven Turnbull for his role in criticizing him, and then for winning the ensuing leadership ballot.

The fact is that it was Abbott’s failure to correct the relationship that he had formed with his department’s chief of staff that damaged his standing within the party. Disaffected colleagues, frustrated by the public servant’s deliberate obstruction of access to their leader, in spite of liking him, turned on him, after he had persistently rejected their advice.

I would like to think better of Tony Abbott than to believe he would wantonly  mastermind the defeat of his own party at the next election, unless Malcolm Turnbull stands down as the leader. But what other plausible explanation is there for his deliberate and antagonistic mis-representation of the facts.

3. The only other possibility I think, is that he sees himself as the most effective spokesman, and the only remaining effective leader of the right, in their battle with the “wets” for control of the Coalition.  It would seem that he has become captive to the right.

Just as he became dependent on, and powerless to act against, his Chief-of Staff, so he has now come to be dependent on the right for direction, and a sense of mission and purpose in politics, even when it results in him taking extreme positions.

In contradistinction to the much maligned Julia Gillard who when she lost the Labor leadership, accepted the result without rancour, and exited federal politics before the 2013 election, Tony Abbott chose in 2015 to stay on and to champion the often rebellious views of the right, despite all the disagreements it engenders.

The Coalition will be strengthened if right wing contributions to policy formulation are constructive, rather than divisive as they have tended to be in the recent past. I hope unity will prevail.




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Let’s not give-up on the concept of an indigenous political voice!

In suggesting the creation of small representative indigenous advisory body in Canberra, amounting, tongue in cheek, to a third house of parliament, I fear I crystallized opposition to the bipartisan proposal initiated in December 2015, for a referendum on formal recognition of Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders in the Constitution.

The impetus for advancing this idea was the moving Uluru Convocation Statement “From the Heart”, in which the Uluru delegates called for a First Nation Voice to be established enabling them to have a say in how to address the problems they face.

The posts in this blog rarely attract more than a handful of readers, but enable me to contribute to national debates.

This one, ” A voice and a veto for indigenous Australians? A third house of parliament?” was no exception:

To my surprise however, it drew immediate public attention the next day, the concept of a “Third House” being labelled a step too far. Furthermore, it has been cited as the reason for the Coalition government abandoning their plan to hold a referendum which risks exacerbating the division within the Liberal Party from the conservative right.

I regret this outcome as a missed opportunity to meet the legitimate aspirations of Indigenous Australians. Clearly however, the present parliamentary system will not be changed. But might it not be possible for a representative Indigenous Assembly to be established, perhaps in Alice Springs, in which matters of concern can be debated, and referred as necessary, to the Federal Parliament.

I would hope there will be a continuing national debate on this issue.



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Negative gearing – an issue for Labor to win the next Australian federal election?

A carefully crafted proposal by Labor to curb negative gearing concessions to investment property owners gained wide acceptance in the lead-up to the last election 2 July 2016 won narrowly by the Coalition.

I made a contribution to the debate then in the following article:

18 months later, it is likely that there will be another election for the 46th parliament of Australia called sometime between August 2018 and May 2019. Not surprisingly Labor is calling the government to account for ignoring Treasury advice that contradicted Coalition Party election spin that the measure would risk a collapse in housing prices.

Adding weight to Labor’s arguments has been an economic research paper on Negative Gearing presented by academics from the University of Melbourne Economics Department, Yunho Cho, Shuyun Li and Lawrence Uren, at a Reserve Bank of Australia Symposium on the November 17, 2017. It is too highly technical to be understandable by most. Furthermore, the authors state that the 55 page document is preliminary and incomplete, and ask that it not be cited.  It suggests a welfare gain of 1.5% for the Australian Economy by eliminating negative gearing, and benefits to renters and owner-occupiers, at the expense of landlords, especially those who are young and on high incomes.

Federal Financial Services Minister Kelly O’Dwyer has pointed out the inconsistency of arguing that houses would become significantly more affordable, but house prices would be little impacted by abolishing negative gearing.

Despite this, Labor’s policy-makers are mindful of how rises in house prices especially in Sydney and Melbourne, have far outstripped the consumer price index increase over the past 30 years, creating in some locations, what can be fairly described as a dangerous property “bubble”.

They consider curtailing investors’ tax concession advantages in property ownership (about one third of the property market) compared with owner occupiers (two-thirds of the market) to be a responsible revenue raising measure with the fringe benefit of diverting wealth to the less affluent. But will the issue be a vote winner for Labor at the next election? Voters must judge how effective the changes are likely to be, and whether or not they will be advantaged or disadvantaged by them.

In the recent debate, property investors have often been unfairly portrayed as having exploited their tax-breaks. Some undoubtedly have, through interest-only borrowings that maximize their tax deductions but I understand that the ATO has restricted such loans, and I would applaud measures that place reasonable limitations on negative gearing.

Important points which should be made in defence of property investors:

  • property investment for rental income, provides housing for those unable to afford home ownership, reducing the burden on the government.
  • investors have substantial overhead costs, and it may be several years before their investment becomes profitable from the rental income they receive.
  • although owner-occupiers receive no tax break from their loan, they receive an immediate financial benefit from not having to pay rent.
  • non investors may be envious of the present 50% reduction in tax on property investment capital gains, but owner-occupiers have no capital gain obligation at all, even on properties in excess of $1 million.
  • it is probable that the absence of any capital gains tax on owner-occupier homes is an incentive to speculative property trading in prestige areas of Sydney and Melbourne. In this market it is likely that fewer homes would be purchased for long-term rental, since they could be damaged by careless tenants.

Whether abolition of negative gearing on existing houses in combination with an increase of 25% from 50 to 75% in capital gain liability for property investors proves a vote winner will depend on how voters, nervous when governments adjust economic levers, perceive the changes as helping or damaging their financial position.


  1. The government is likely to be a clear winner to the tune of about A$2 billion in taxation revenue.
  2. Property investors will have the ability to mitigate their cost pressures by selling before the increase in capital gains tax comes into effect, and prior to significant adverse effect on house prices; increasing nominal rents; passing on some costs as additional rental obligations; and defaulting or delaying repair and maintenance work.
  3. First home buyers may be able to buy more cheaply, but risk buying into a falling  market.
  4. Existing housing markets are likely to soften, if there are fewer property investor buyers willing to accept diminished returns from higher capital gains taxation and the loss of tax concessions.
  5. Once again it is likely to be those who are less well-off and dependent on rental accommodation who will be most impacted if rentals rise. This is likely from past experience since in the two years 1985-7 of no negative gearing, nominal rents nationally rose by over 25%. They increased in every capital city, and even after deducting the consumer price index to take into account the high inflation rate, they increased in both Sydney and Perth.


I am not an economist and make no claim to be an authority on the subject of negative gearing. I write as a consumer wishing to express an opinion based on my own reading, for the benefit of those who might wish to better understand the implications.




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