Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Climate Change Authority Targets Should Be Supported

The independent Climate Change Authority has recommended that Australia adopt a target to cut greenhouse gases by 30 per cent by 2025, compared with year 2000 levels.

They recommend this as part of a transition away from carbon based energy into renewable energy, in which we would cut our emissions by 19 per cent by 2020, 30 percent by 2025, and 40 to 60 per cent by 2030, compared with year 2000 levels.

This is highly consistent with the two per cent per annum cut I have been advocating since before 2010, which would have given us a 20 per cent reduction by 2020, a 30 per cent reduction by 2025, 40 per cent reduction by 2030, 80 per cent cut by 2050, and complete decarbonisation by 2060. The 80 per cent cut by 2050 is consistent with Labor's National Platform of 2011.

The Climate Change Authority recommendations deserve support on a number of grounds.

First, extreme weather events are already impacting on Australia and if the world does not move to renewable energy we have a lot to lose. We have more skin in the game than most.

Second, the Climate Change Authority, chaired by Bernie Fraser, was created by the Australian Government to provide independent advice on greenhouse gas targets, and brings together a strong understanding of the best science, the international context, and the economic impacts.

Third, we cannot expect to be taken seriously by the rest of the world unless our own actions reflect serious intent. Europe has committed to a 50 per cent reduction on 1990 levels by 2030. The United States has committed to 26-28 per cent reductions on 2005 levels by 2025. China has committed to peaking emissions in 2030.

Fourth, Australia is a major emitter. We are the thirteenth highest emitter in the world in absolute emissions, and the highest in per capita terms. It is not true that our actions don't matter.

Fifth, we can do this without economic damage. Our renewable energy industry is perfectly capable of meeting electricity demand over time provided Governments don't sabotage it. Last week Australia's largest greenhouse gas emitter, AGL Energy, committed to closing all its coal-fired power stations by 2050 and not building any new ones, thereby completely decarbonising its energy generation by 2050.
Australia should adopt the Climate Change Authority targets, and take them to the global climate summit in Paris later this year. The question is how do we want to be remembered by future generations – as greedy, selfish and short-sighted, or as visionary, intelligent and compassionate?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Royal Park Freeway

It was encouraging to see the Liberal Party Review of the 2014 Victorian Election acknowledge that their campaign “relied excessively on infrastructure announcements, with the focus falling on one initiative, the East West Link”. Indeed. $8 billion for a tunnel! The private sector sure saw them coming.

Hopefully this insight will see them abandon this foolish project and examine ways to spend taxpayers and motorists dollars to achieve real public benefit. The Federal Government should take the opportunity provided by the Review to re-direct tunnel money into grade separations, putting Melbourne’s most congested and dangerous rail crossings underground.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Ice Epidemic

I welcome the initiative by Prime Minister Abbott in establishing a Taskforce on the drug ice to be chaired by Ken Lay. Last year I hosted a visit to Federal Parliament by the renowned youth worker Les Twentyman OAM to talk about the Ice Epidemic.

In February I held a very well attended Wills Youth Issues Forum in my electorate focusing on the impact of ice and other drugs. At the forum Victoria Police and other experts re-enforced the comments of Ken Lay and Minister Keenan that while policing is essential we can’t just police our way out of this problem.
Following that Forum I wrote to the Prime Minister and to other relevant Ministers setting out the discussion and proposals which came forward at that Forum. I am pleased that the Government has responded to the massive challenge which ice poses, and I will forward the discussion and proposals from the Wills Youth Issues Forum to that Taskforce. I will also seek to contribute constructively to its work with proposals concerning employment, treatment services and parenting issues which I believe we need to address in order to better deal with this twenty-first century blight on our society.

Tax Avoidance

There are plenty of thought bubbles and kite flying going on about tax, but until the government actually commits to something, it looks for all the world that they’re just playing games and trying to sucker punch the Opposition.

For example we’ve had plenty of discussion about tax avoidance by multinational corporations, and Labor produced a plan a month ago to crack down on the use of hybrid structures and dodgy tax deductions by multinationals that would bring in $1.9 billion over a 1 year period to spend on things like schools and hospitals.

And where was the Government on this? They suddenly went missing in action! So if the government wants some bipartisanship on tax, why not pick that up – that has been costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office.

It is possible to improve the Budget outcome without attacking health, education or pensions. For example we have allowed companies to avoid paying tax on their income. An internal Australian Tax Office memo obtained under Freedom of Information and reported by Heath Aston in The Age ( 4 April 2015, p1) said 10 companies had channelled a combined total of $31.4 billion from Australia to Singapore in the 2011-2012 financial year.

An energy company operating in Australia transferred more than $11 billion to the low-tax jurisdiction of Singapore in that year. In the same year an estimated $60 billion in so-called "related party" transactions went from Australia to tax havens. Energy companies have established "marketing hubs" in Singapore, but their principal purpose appears to be as a destination to shift profits in order to pay less tax.
As Mike Steketee wrote recently, “The rising inequality of income and wealth in developed nations has come into sharp focus in recent years but it does not seem to have made its way on to the Government's radar, even though it is the tax system that potentially can play the largest role in influencing the trend”. Since this government lacks the will to address corporate tax avoidance, Labor is taking the lead.