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Energy Policy is Getting Nowhere at All

Today’s Australian runs a front page story saying that “Australian households are paying 60 per cent more for their power than those in the US and double their Canadian counterparts”. But while Minister Frydenberg acknowledges that our power cost is “still too high”, he claims that most of the price hike occurred under Labor and that the Turnbull government is “taking unprecedented action to reduce pressure on …household bills “(see “Electricity Bills”). Short of subsidising electricity it is difficult however to envisage significant falls. Frydenberg has dug himself so deeply in the Turnbull camp that is difficult to see how he can get out. Readers of my Commentaries will be aware of the widespread scepticism about the various policy changes first being considered by Turnbull and then dropped or put on one side. As to falls in electricity bills, Frydenberg’s attempt to shift the blame on to Labor seemingly overlooks the recent large increases imposed by my retail supplier AGL and doubtless other similarly large retailers too.

Abbott Challenges Turnbull on Climate & Energy Policy

The lead front page item in today’s Australian reports Abbott as indicating publicly that he will not support a clean energy target and that he advocates subsidies cease to be paid on wind and solar projects. The Australian also publishes an article by Abbott explaining his position. Both articles are attached. Abbott’s own article seems well written and, for the increasing number of sceptics on climate policy, it contains a sensible approach to energy policy which, inter alia, would ensure a reduction in electricity prices.

Will Coalition’s TPP Hold?

Federal Parliament does not sit again until 16 Oct (and then only for one week) and I assume there will be a Newspoll tomorrow. With Turnbull’s inability to decide an energy policy and the National Party Conference rejecting a clean energy target and voting to eliminate subsidies for renewable, the Coalition’s TPP is unlikely to increase. Indeed, with the No votes increasing on same sex marriage (but still above 50%), and No voter former PM Howard highlighting Turnbull’s failure before the vote to (at least) publish proposed protection for those opposing official legislation endorsing SS on an on-going basis , these last two weeks are more likely to have produced a fall in the TPP. That would be “exciting”.

Our Power Bills

Today’s Australian says that the Renewable Energy Target (RET) of 23.5% by 2020 will not be changed as part of what is described as Turnbull’s overhaul of energy policy (see Renewable Energy Target). That target was reduced by Abbott when he was PM and the recent National Party Conference voted to “repudiate the central finding of the Finkel review for a clean energy target and eliminate subsidies for renewable to maximise the difference with Labor over surging power bills”, and hence to reject the Finkel proposed clean energy target of 42% of renewable energy by 2030. However, it appears that the halt to increasing the RET mainly reflects the mounting cost of the subsidies, which ran to a remarkable $2 billion just last year and which may already have reached the point where a continuation of the scheme would exceed the RET target without any new investment. There is a reference in today’s report to the likelihood of allowing more subsidies to those whose projects have not been completed. In other words the taxpayer is handing out money to a badly constructed scheme, not to mention the bad decision to have one at all before properly reviewing the basic need for it.

Coalition’s Polling Continues Bad & Quadrant Publishes My Recommended Replacement of Turnbull

Today’s Fairfax Poll confirms that, despite a big fall in Shorten’s performance measure (from 42 to 36) and a big rise in his disapproval rate (from 47 to 52), Labor maintains a TPP lead of 53/47. This is the same as the Newspoll published on 4 September. More importantly, the Fairfax poll shows that “Mr Turnbull's approval rating has fallen 3 percentage points since May to 42 per cent, and his disapproval has risen 3 percentage points to 47 per cent – placing the Prime Minister into net negative territory, according to voters' assessments” (see Fairfax Poll 11 Sept). In other words, Turnbull is not the man to persuade voters to “save” the Coalition.

Federal State Relationships Conference, Aboriginal Policies, NK & Iran, Newspoll Confirms Coalition’s Dire Straits

Since my last Commentary I have attended the Samuel Griffith Conference held in Perth from 25-27 August, where a record attendance of about 250 heardpapers on policies pursued by Federal and State governments and the respective responsibilities assumed by them (and the interpretations of the legal system) on various issues. I also took the opportunity to have a subsequent too-brief holiday with my wife, Felicity, at the highly commended Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort at Shark Bay on the west coast of WA (it operates in a protected area).

How Long Can Turnbull Last?

I headed my Commentary on Sunday “Are Our Politicians in the Real World? and suggested that some of the behaviour and events in Canberra and one or two other states in the last couple of weeks indicated that our political body is, like Alice in Wonderland, acting outside the real world. I added that “It would be surprising if tomorrow’s Newspoll does not show a further decline in the Coalition’s rating, which would again emphasise the need to replace Turnbull if the Coalition wants an election chance”.

Which Way Which Way

Some will remember Alice’s experience in Wonderland when, after falling through a rabbit hole, she found herself in a world full of strange creatures making decisions and expressing views about life which, while amusing, were more of a take-off of the real world. Failing to make friends with the Cheshire-Cat, for example, the King demanded that the Queen remove him but she simply decreed “off with his head”. This was a command the cat simply ignored. But that the rulers of Wonderland were unable to exercise control over their subjects now strikes a bell here.