by Alan Thornhill
A wave powered generator was connected to the national electricity grid today – a first for Australia.
That happened when the Federal Minister for Industry and Science, Ian Macfarlane, switched on
Carnegie’s Perth Wave Energy Project on Garden Island, south of Perth, in Western Australia.
Mr Macfarlane said the project had been supported by an investment of $13.1 million of Federal Government funding through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
The Australian Government is investing a further $13 million in developing the next generation of Carnegie’s wave technology, he added.
“This project will supply power to Australia’s largest naval base, HMAS Stirling, in a tremendous achievement for both Carnegie and wave energy in Australia,” Mr Macfarlane said.
“It’s the first time in Australia’s history that a renewable wave power array has been connected to one of our major electricity grids,” he added.
“The project has the dual benefit of also including a desalination plant, which produces zero-emission fresh water from the waves,” Mr Macfarlane said.
He said CETO wave energy technology is a world-leading home grown product that has been developed over 10 years by Carnegie.
“The submerged buoys operate under water, away from large storms and not visible from land, moving with the motion of the waves to drive offshore seabed pumps.
“High pressure water from CETO 5 buoys drives onshore hydroelectric turbines with 720kW peak capacity and feeds a desalination plant, providing renewable energy and fresh water.
“Australia has great potential for further wave energy applications, with the resources on our south and south-west coast among the best in the world.
“It makes sense to tap into this renewable potential that will help diversify our energy mix,” Mr Macfarlane said.
“The Carnegie project is great evidence of a commercial success in renewable energy,” he added.
“This type of practical application will guide future development of Australia’s renewable energy sector.
“The Australian Government is investing further to support advances in wave technology, through a second tranche of funding of $13 million for Carnegie’s CETO 6 Project – which is in its preliminary design phase,” Mr Macfarlane said.
“Renewable energy is an important part of Australia’s energy profile and the Australian Government is working to ensure it continues to play a role both here in Australia and through international applications,” he added.
by Alan Thornhill
The Federal government’s slide in the polls started with last year’s budget.
And Joe Hockey is already starting work on his next one.
And the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, shaken by his “near death experience last Monday, is hinting that this year’s budget will be more family friendly than last year’s.
His Treasurer isn’t so sure.
Mr Hockey is still insisting that spending cuts are necessary.
He gave a long interview, on ABC radio last week, in which he flatly dismissed any thought of tax rises, saying that going down that path would slow the economy and cost jobs.
So it’s no wonder that people are starting to talk about Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey being on a collision course.
What’s behind all this?
The issues, of course, are much broader than any – real or imagined – conflict between these two men.
The Nobel prize winning economist, Paul Krugman, says the world is still in the grip of the Global Economic Crisis, which started in September 2008, with the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
He says, too, that this is the most serious downturn the world has faced, since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Last week, Krugman wrote another article, in the New York Times, headed Nobody Understands Debt.
More specifically, he that too few understand the difference between household debt and national debt.
On Krugman’s criteria, Joe Mr Hockey, certainly doesn’t.
He constantly compares family and national debt, when he talks about the debt and deficit disaster, he insists Labor left behind.
Yet, according to Krugman, the two are quite different.
“An indebted family owes money to other people,” he says.
“The world economy owes money to itself,” Krugman adds.
Think about it.
Krugman – an unreconstructed Keynsian – is also deeply unimpressed by those who say that austerity is necessary, to restore prosperity.
He dismisses that idea, declaring that the “austerity fairy” doesn’t exist.
It was, of course, John Maynard Keynes, who suggested back in the dark days of the Great Depression, that governments should spend more, when economies were bad, to get growth going.
Sadly, they were slow to take that advice – and ended up spending far more than even Keynes – himself – would have recommended – on World War II.
The broad sweep of history should never be forgotten, when we are assessing our present circumstances, as governments do each year, when they draw up their annual budgets.
Mr Abbott understands, now, that his own political survival depends, ultimately, on his government producing a more family friendly budget this year, than it did last year.
And Mr Hockey would have some room to do just that, if he were to heed Krugman’s advice.
It’s not completely at odds, after all, with what his own advisers in the Federal Treasury are telling him.
Ultimately, though, it is our democratically elected ministers, not Treasury economists, who decide these matters.
But it is, perhaps, too easy to blame Joe Hockey for everything that goes into a budget, even though he does sign the final papers.
After all, a Cabinet leak, at the weekend, suggests that one of the most unpopular measures in last year’s budget, was “a captain’s call” by the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.
The Shadow Minister for Families and Payments, Jenny Macklin, says the leak shows it was the Prime Minister, himself, who insisted that unemployed people under 30 must wait six months for unemployment benefits.
She says:” This shows just how out of touch this Prime Minister really is.
“That he had no issue with pushing young people into poverty is extraordinary.”
Senator Macklin also said this leak, against the Prime Minister, shows “how dysfunctional” the government has become.
by Alan Thornhill
Despite Mr Abbott’s promise to do better, the gaffes keep rolling on.
There were three today.
And the world is watching
The Prime Minister’s description of the Human Rights Commission report on children in detention as “blatantly political” was excessive.
After all, the number in detention has fallen, as Mr Abbott says.
Why not just say that?
Even if this was achieved through the questionable methods used to stop the boats.
Mr Abbott also upset – and had to apologise to – the Australia’s Jewish community – for saying there had been “a holocaust” of job losses in the defence sector, under Labor.
Holocaust is a very special word in the Jewish lexicon.
Mr Abbott also allowed a government backbencher to ask a pre-arranged question in Parliament, to establish that two Sydney terrorism suspects were allowed to enter Australia, while Labor was in power.
What of the presumption of innocence?
Accused people must be regarded as innocent, until proven guilty.
That has not happened yet.
Using parliamentary privilege – in pursuit of political advantage -like this – to undermine that principle – is nasty.
And now a leading US think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations, is now asking, in a headline, whether Tony Abbott is the most incompetent leader of any industrialised democracy?
It says “….Abbott’s policies have been all over the map…”
It’s not hard to see why.
by Alan Thornhill
There are times in politics when parliament sounds like an echo chamber.
But twice in a week?
The first came when echoes of Tony Abbott’s promises of “adult government” with “no surprises” reverberated under a spill motion, moved by two West Australian Liberal MPs, who believed he had failed those tests.
The second arrived when another pre-election promise – to build 12 new submarines in South Australia – sank into confusion over three words, “competitive evaluation process.”
A former Defence Minister, David Johnston, gave a clue to the government’s post election thinking on that promise, when he told the Senate, last November, that he “wouldn’t trust the Australian Submarine Corporation to build a canoe.”
Mr Johnston, who has now been dumped, was forced to withdraw and apologise for that remark.
Even so, the local contender’s chance of winning contracts – worth at least $20 billion, to build those subs – against more sophisticated foreign competitors – was looking high and dry.
Until last weekend, that is, when a delighted South Australian Liberal Senator, Sean Edwards, suddenly declared that the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, had given him a commitment that the ASC would be able to bid for those lucrative contracts in an “open tender.”
Mr Abbott had been phoning around Liberal backbenchers, at the time, seeking their support in voting down the then imminent spill motion.
And Labor has, unkindly, connected those two events.
It did so, most cruelly, after echoes of Mr Abbott’s latest commitment, to that “open tender” had sunk into what the government is now calling “a competitive evaluation process.”
It was saying that this was what the ASC would be able to participate in.
And, the government insisted, this was all it had promised.
The Shadow Defence Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, delivered perhaps the unkindest cut of all.
Speaking of the Prime Minister, he said: “Just when you think he’s finally come to his senses on something, it looks like he’s lying again.”
Then he added:”That’s right, the Prime Minister used our new submarines as a bargaining chip to win … a couple of votes in a last minute attempt to shore up his leadership.”
That followed the Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten’s, repeated attempts to get to the truth of the matter in Parliament, asking Mr Abbott whether he had “lied,” “attempted to mislead” or was just being “tricky” on the issue.
The Speaker, Bronwyn Bishop, gave short shrift to these attempts to slur the fine reputation of our honest Prime Minister, swiftly ruling those words unparliamentary.
Meanwhile, the unfortunate Senator Edwards was confessing, on television, that he wasn’t absolutely clear on the difference between an “open tender” and a “competitive evaluation process.”
But the government’s big warriors, like the Treasurer, Joe Hockey, and Defence Minister, Kevin Andrews, were sticking to their guns.
A “competitive evaluation process” it was – and will be.
Even though defence experts were also telling the ABC at that time, that they had never heard that phrase and it “wasn’t used” in local defence acquisition procedures.
by Alan Thornhill
Liberal ministers – including Julie Bishop – are still backing the embattled Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.
Ms Bishop, the Deputy Liberal leader, made an unexpected appearance alongside Mr Abbott.
And Mr Abbott spoke to reporters in Townsville, where he announced an upgrade of the local airport, permitting it to accept regular international flights from March 1.
He urged his colleagues not to reproduce the “Game of Thrones circus” of the Rudd and Gillard governments.
The Prime Minister said:”This is a strong united team.
“… the last thing that any of us should want to do is reproduce the chaos and instability of the Labor years.
“We are determined to give you, the Australian people, the certainty and stability that you voted for.
“Despite some distractions, I am just getting on with government.”
Mr Abbott is due to face a move for his dismissal – and that of Ms Bishop – at a Liberal party meeting in Canberra on Tuesday.
It has been made by two WA Liberal backbenchers, Luke Simpkins and Don Randall.
Asked about the possibility of a vote occurring earlier than Tuesday, Mr Abbott replied:”As far as is humanly possible, I want next week to be business as usual.”
“We normally have a party room on Tuesday.
“That’s when I would expect this matter to be dealt with.”
Asked whether he was testing the loyalty of his frontbenchers, Mr Abbott said:
“I know my frontbenchers.
“I trust my frontbenchers.
“I’ve worked for a long time with all of them.
” I’m not someone who runs around demanding pledges of loyalty.
“Loyalty is what people in this coalition naturally deliver to each other.”
Meanwhile senior ministers continued to rally around Mr Abbott, ahead of Tuesday’s spill motion vote.
Those backing Mr Abbott include his Attorney General,Eric Abetz, who said emails had been flooding into his office from people urging the party not to change leaders.
“My message to all my colleagues is that the Australian people voted for a leadership team of Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop,” Senator Abetz said.
“They also voted for stability.
“They also voted for us to take the tough decisions to get Australia back on track,” he told Sky News.
“It stands to reason that less than halfway through our term there will be some discontent in the electorate with some of the decisions we have had to take.
“But given the fullness of time, the Australian people I think will understand that our motivation has been right.
“Now is not the time for change,” Senator Abetz added.
Also appearing on Sky News, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann admitted the government was in a “very disappointing position.”
But he said Mr Abbott is capable of turning around the government’s fortunes, and had “earned the right to give effect to the changes he has flagged.”
“The overwhelming feedback that I’ve been receiving from people here in WA from party members and from members of the community as well as my colleagues is that they want stability, they want the government to get on with it, they want us to implement the strong agenda that we took to the last election, to build a stronger, more prosperous economy, to create more jobs and to ensure that Australia is safe and secure, Senator Cormann said.
“That is why people here in Western Australia that I’ve spoken to want us to get behind Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop,” he added.
The Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg predicted the spill motion to be moved at Tuesday’s party room meeting would be defeated.
(It would need 51 votes to be debated).
“That’s because Tony Abbott retains the strong support of the majority of his colleagues,” Mr Frydenberg told Channel Nine.
“There’s no doubt that some of my colleagues would like to see a change.
“But I don’t think that is required.
“And the reason is because Tony Abbott has delivered for Australia in his 17 months in office.
“Significant free trade agreements, keeping major commitments to the Australian people and creating 200,000 jobs just last year alone and he has a good plan for the future.
“So I hope we can put the instability of the last couple of weeks behind us and get on with the job of governing for all Australians.”
by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott says he is determined to see that Australia does not be join “the weak government club of the world.”
Speaking to reporters in Sydney, the Prime Minister declared :”I am determined to ensure that Australia has a government that does what is necessary to build a strong and prosperous economy for a safe and secure Australia.”
However Mr Abbott also admitted that he has been preparing to “scale back” the benefits he originally offered, in his signature paid parental leave scheme.
These included six months maternity leave, on full pay.
The scheme will now be incorporated in a new “holistic families package.”
Mr Abbott said he would have more to say about that over the next day or so.
He is due to address the National Press Club in Canberra tomorrow.
The Prime Minister, who was speaking in the wake of the defeat of Campbell Newman’s LNP government in Queensland, tried hard to sell a positive message.
“Let’s not forget that just 16 months ago, the people of Australia elected a Government and a Prime Minister to clean up Labor’s mess, to build a strong and prosperous economy for a safe and secure Australia,” he said.
“And that is exactly what we’re doing.
“Every single day, we have been hard at work with the best interests of the Australian people at heart.
“Now, I don’t say for a second that we haven’t made mistakes.
“I don’t say for a second that we can’t do things better.
“But I am not going to be distracted from the essential task of giving this country the good government that it deserves,” Mr Abbott said.
by Alan Thornhill
The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, has thanked Australia’s troops in Iraq for their service.
In a surprise visit to that country, he also assured Australia’s military personnel there of Labor’s support for their mission.
In a statement later, Mr Shorten said:” “It has been my great privilege to visit our troops stationed in the Middle East and to thank them for the outstanding and vital work they do.
“I was humbled by the men and women I met at both the Australian Force base in the Middle East Region and in Baghdad; their dedication, skill and sense of purpose.
“I conveyed Federal Labor’s bipartisan support for the current mission in Iraq to the personnel on the ground, and our thanks for their service and their sacrifice.
“I also assured them that their families were in our thoughts and would always be looked after while they were on deployment.
“All Australians should be proud of the work our Defence Force personnel are doing to defeat Daesh and enhance the capabilities of Iraqi Security Forces.
“It was heartening to see the constructive, positive role our men and women are playing in this complex and multifaceted battle, and the level of cooperation across our agencies and the coalition.
“I thank the Prime Minister for his assistance in arranging this visit,” Mr Shorten said.
by Alan Thornhill
A new knighthood for Prince Philip – in the Order of Australia – has angered and embarrassed senior members of the Abbott government.
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, conceded that the Duke’s knighthood had been “a captain’s call.”
But he dismissed all criticism – and fiercely defended his decision.
He was also facing ridicule from the opposition.
The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, said people at citizenship ceremonies he had attended early today had been asking if reports of Prince Philip’s knighthood were an Australia Day “hoax.”
A North Queensland Liberal National MP Warren Entsch lashed out later at his leader’s surprising decision, telling Fairfax Media that “for the life of me, I can’t understand why” Mr Abbott decided to honour a British royal.
But Mr Entsch, a senior MP who is well respected in the Coalition party room, said he was “not pushing for a change in leader.
” I’m looking for significant change in leadership”.
A second Queensland MP, Ewen Jones, said he “didn’t see the point” of Mr Abbott’s decision.
Mr Shorten had made his views clear earlier in a Melbourne radio interview.
“…we should be talking about the future,” he said.
“Look, Prince Philip is distinguished.
“The Queen, a remarkable person, is the Head of our State.
“But it’s a time warp where we’re giving Knighthoods to English royalty,” he added.
“I’ve just been at citizenship functions – local breakfasts – some people there wondered whether it was an Australia Day hoax,” Mr Shorten said.
However Mr Abbott strongly defended his initiative.
Speaking to reporters in Canberra, Mr Abbott said:”Prince Philip has been a great servant of Australia…”
“Here in this country, he’s the patron of hundreds of organisations.
“He’s the inspiration and wellspring of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards which have provided leadership training for tens if not hundreds of thousands of Australians over the years.
“…. I’m just really pleased that in his 90s, towards the end of a life of service and duty, we in this country are able to properly acknowledge what he’s done for us,” Mr Abbott said.
He said the Queen has accepted his recommendation that Philip be awarded Australia’s highest honour in the Knights of the Order of Australia.
Weathercoast by Alan Thornhill
A novel on the murder of seven young Anglican Christian Brothers in the Solomon Islands.
Available now on the iTunes store.
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
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