Defeat of QLD Labor, death of Green projects

The official tally of Queensland State Election 2012 (Photo: The Australian)

With the political massacre of the left-wing Labor Party in the recent Queensland state election, new leader from the Liberal National Party Campbell Newman ordered the demolition of environmental projects.

Newman has already directed to scrap the $1.2bn Solar Dawn solar thermal project near Chinchilla, west of Brisbane. This will stop the $75 million in state funding pledged for the scheme which the Anna Bligh government signed last February, the SMH reported.

Resources Minister Martin Ferguson noted he Solar Dawn project was initially thought it would bring $60m in research funding to the University of Queensland, and provide an average of 300 jobs during the three-year construction phase, due to start in 2015. He also suggested the federal government to withdraw its own $464m contribution pledge last month.

Solar Dawn solar research and power plant at Chinchilla (Photo: SMH)

Newman is now working  to axe seven other green schemes saying the carbon tax would make them redundant. The Australian reported. These include the following:

  • $430m Queensland Climate Change Fund which provides $30m a year for climate change initiatives
  • $50m Renewable Energy Fund which supports the Geothermal Centre of Excellence
  • $50m Smart Energy Savings Program which helps businesses improve energy efficiency
  • Waste Avoidance and Resource Efficiency Fund
  • Local Government Sustainable Future Fund
  • Solar Initiatives Package
  • The Future Growth Fund set up in 2006 with the net proceeds from the sale of state-owned energy corporations

Newman assigned the demolition job to bureaucrat Greg Withers, the husband of the now defunct Queensland leader, Anna Bligh. Withers led in setting up the green energy schemes.

Coal-fired power stations in Victoria are one of Australia’s dirtiest. (Photo: Paul Jones/SMH)

Meanwhile, in Victoria, gas emitters are welcome to do business. The Ted Baillieu Government removed the cap on greenhouse gas emissions from new coal-fired power plants, the SMH reported.

Energy Minister Michael O’Brien announced this development contradicting earlier government’s decision to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by the end of the decade. It also came as the state government released a report on future impacts of climate change in Victoria, finding average temperatures could increase by 1 to 4.2 degrees by 2070 relative to 1990.

The Coalition –Labor and Greens–  had proposed a new coal power standards that would cap emissions from new coal-fired power plants at 0.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide for every megawatt hour of electricity generated. They also suggested the installation of new power plants that would use clean coal technology.

Environment Victoria’s Mark Wakeham said ”polluters are welcome in Ted Baillieu’s Victoria while the government is going out of its way to make it harder to build clean energy projects”.

Baillieu is reported to have released an independent review of Victoria’s Climate Change Act that “recommends repealing the state’s 20 per cent emissions target – which the state government has agreed to – because it would have no extra environmental benefit and would only lighten the load for other states in meeting a national 5 per cent emissions target.”

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

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Australia’s mining tax and CIA conspiracy

The mining tax has dominated Australia’s political landscape this week.

The Senate passed the mining tax on Monday imposing a 30 percent tax on super profits generated by mining companies from coal and iron ore. The tax revenue will be used to elevate income and pension funds of the less well-off Australians and to cut tax on small businesses.

This sent shockwaves to the mining industry which could have been rejoicing over mining boom worldwide.

Mining magnate Clive Palmer hits CIA of mining conspiracy

Queensland mining magnate Clive Palmer lashed out at the federal government and claimed the CIA is behind the mining tax as part of America’s conspiracy to kill Australia’s coal industry.

Palmer also accused the Greens as “tools” of the US government and the environmental activists group, Greenpeace, is funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.

He said he will lodge a double High Court challenge on both carbon and mining taxes.

But his accusation hits back like a boomerang.

The CIA via ABC email denied his claim prompting him to back away from inflammatory comments, Fairfax reports via SBS.

Crikey, an alternative online media said,

Now Clive Palmer again has demonstrated the eccentricity that comes from having so much money you don’t have to care what anyone thinks of you…

Palmer is doing no more than continuing Queensland’s rich tradition of conspiracy theorists, which has produced the Citizen’s Electoral Council and Pauline Hanson, to name only the most prominent of recent years. Nor is it the first time he’s accused people of being a CIA front — back in November, it was American Express who were doing the bidding of the spooks.

Palmer could probably find consolation in knowing another mining group, Fortescue Metals, confirms it has sought legal advice ahead of plans to mount a High Court challenge against the Federal Government’s mining tax, News Corp said.

Chairman Andrew Forrest of Fortescue Metals leads a protest against mining tax during Kevin Rudd’s time

Fortescue claimed the MRRT is a poorly designed tax, drafted by the big miners behind closed doors to minimise their tax exposure at the expense of the rest of the industry,” the company said in a statement.

The Government is also facing a revolt from Liberal-led mining states.

Western Australia’s Premier Colin Barnett, for one, says he will support any legal action against the tax.

Not Amused

Newly appointed Foreign Minister Bob Carr blasts Palmer’s “reckless” CIA conspiracy claims

He said the “recklessly irresponsible” claim that the CIA is sponsoring a campaign against the coal industry will trigger concern from the United States government and business community.

Carr said the comments should also make many Australians question  Palmer’s links to the Opposition. He said Palmer is very close to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and Palmer is considered the largest donor to the Liberal Party.

Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr

Treasurer Wayne Swan has also denounced Palmer’s claims. He supported Carr’s claim the mining businessman “is in cahoots with Mr Abbott.”

Federal Greens leader Bob Brown has echoed the remarks of Carr and Swan saying Palmer is a life member and a major donor to the Queensland Liberal National Party.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace senior campaigner John Hepburn rejected Mr Palmer’s comments as “ludicrous”. He said Greenpeace would not accept money from any government, corporation or secret service.

The mining tax was initiated almost two years ago, floated by former Treasury boss Ken Henry. It originally proposed a 40 percent tax on super profits—a proposal that stirred an industry-wide opposition rocking the Labor Party’s leadership. It was the same tax proposal that ousted Kevin Rudd from prime ministership in 2010.

Rising to power, Prime Minister Julia Gillard negotiated a modified tax rate with BHP, Rio and Xstrata although smaller miners remain unhappy with the deal.

The Mineral Resources Rent Tax (MRRT) Bill 2011 and related bills are now ready for the governor-general’s royal assent. The mining tax will start from July 1 this year, Australian media report.

The federal government estimated the new tax will generate $11 billion in three years which will be used to elevate income of the less well-off Australians. It will boost compulsory superannuation contributions, infrastructure payment and a one per cent tax cut for business.

The Australian, however, is pessimistic over the tax. Its editorial page said:

While this newspaper recognises the benefit in ensuring that some of the revenue generated by the once-in-a-generation mining boom is secured for future generations, this tax will do little to drive reform in the slower sectors of the economy while the fastest-growing sector is slugged with a tax that could damage our competitiveness.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott supports Palmer

I defence of Palmer, Abbott said he was a “larger than life” character.

“I think when he says that the Greens want to stop the coal industry he’s absolutely right – of course the Greens want to stop the coal industry,” Abbott told Channel 10.

Abbott is vowing to repeal the tax if he wins the next election.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent