by Alan Thornhill
Labor says the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, must demand that Japan must end its illegal whaling program while he is in that country today for talks on trade and regional defence.
This is Mr Turnbull’s first visit to Japan since he became Australia’s Prime Minister in September.
Labor’s appeal today came in the form of a joint statement by three senior Labor figures.
They are its Deputy Leader, Tanya Plibersek, the Shadow Minister for the Arts, Mark Dreyfus and the Shadow Minster for Climate Change, Mark Butler.
They said:”Labor deplores the decision of the Japanese Government this year to ignore the ruling of the International Court of Justice and to re-commence the slaughter of whales in the Southern Ocean.”
“Malcolm Turnbull must use his meetings in Japan with Prime Minister Abe to bring all pressure to bear on Japan to follow the ruling of the International Court of Justice.”
Less than two years ago Australia won a resounding victory in the International Court of Justice.
The Court agreed with Australia that Japan’s so-called ‘scientific’ whaling program in the Southern Ocean was in truth commercial whaling dressed in the lab coat of science, and was in breach of Japan’s obligations under international law.
“At the time, the Japanese Government said that it would comply with the ruling of the highest court in the world.
“Japan’s decision to resume whaling this summer, and its declaration to withdraw from the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice with respect to whaling, is completely inconsistent with that undertaking.”
“If Japan refuses to comply with its clear international legal obligations, then Labor calls on the Turnbull Government to immediately commence further legal action,” the three shadow ministers said.
by Alan Thornhill
As Malcolm Bligh Turnbull prepares to lead his conservative coalition into the last week of scheduled parliamentary sittings for this year, the honeymoon gloss on his Liberal leadership is starting to crack.
It has been real enough.
Over recent weeks, his Liberal-led coalition has consistently been in a position in the polls which suggests that it would easily win a Federal election, if one was held now.
That has been a sharp turn-around from the previous situation, which saw the Labor opposition persistently ahead, over many months.
But the next scheduled election is not due until late next year and – with quite ordinary delays – it could easily be held over until early the following year.
Between now and then Mr Turnbull’s leadership will be thoroughly tested.
There will be a big test this week, when the still new Turnbull administration takes what are – essentially – Tony Abbott’s climate change policies to Paris.
If he has any new ones, in this area, no word of them has leaked out yet.
That would be unusual, for Canberra.
After all, the other international leaders, who will be attending the Paris talks on climate change are not likely to be impressed by policies based on the principle of subsidising big polluters in the hope that they will mend their ways.
Why should they?
Australian leaders are no longer dismissing concern over climate change as “absolute crap,” as Tony Abbott once did.
But it is still seen internationally as a friend of heavily polluting fossil fuels, like coal and petroleum.
So Mr Turnbull could easily find himself branded, even more deeply, this week as yesterday’s man in this area.
It is arguable, at this point, that even some of world’s biggest energy companies are taking the very real threat of global warming more seriously than the Australian government.
For, as the BBC reports, the leaders of 10 of the world’s biggest oil companies have offered their qualified support for a new global treaty on climate change.
The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, which made this commitment, represents major producers including BP, Shell, Saudi Aramco and Total among others.
Predictably, Green groups are sceptical, saying arsonists don’t make good fire-fighters.
But there would be political risks for Mr Turnbull, too, if he allowed himself to be seen globally as a climate change denier.
It is, also, conventional wisdom in Canberra that “disunity is death” in politics.
Traditionally, that warning has been uttered most frequently, in relation to Labor.
However, there are signs now that it might be applicable to the Liberals, as well.
Tony Abbott, certainly, has not been taking his loss of leadership gracefully.
Nor have his supporters, in the Liberal party’s hard-right, like Cory Bernadi and Eric Abetz.
They, too, could present Mr Turnbull with serious problems next year.
Which, in all likelihood, will be an election year,
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by Alan Thornhill
Some might call it a mini-budget.
All the Prime Minister said, in an interview with Leigh Sales on the ABC last night, though, is that his government would release “an innovation statement” within the next two weeks.
Well, perhaps he did add a little dressing, to make the prospect enticing.
By promising, for example, that he would would “set out a very large number of substantial measures. to drive the innovation that would ensure that Australians, their children and grandchildren, will have great jobs.”
“…better jobs in the future that will drive our economy,” he added.
Then he laid it on the line.
“I don’t think anybody has any doubt that if we are to remain the high wage, generous social welfare net country, first world country that we want to be then we need to be more innovative, more competitive, more productive and the innovation statement will be a good example of the measures the government is undertaking to achieve that.”
Yet Mr Turnbull, himself, has some catching up to do in this regard.
He saddled Australia with the pursuit of an internet system which, even if achieved, would offer speeds be well below those of many other first world countries, such as France.
Of course, with its vast expanses to connect, Australia does have difficult – and expensive – problems to overcome, in building anything that could – even remotely – be called a fast internet system.
Yet the picture emerging from Mr Turnbull’s attempt to do so – on the cheap – has not been impressive, so far.
Long waits for connection.
There can be no doubt about one thing.
This “innovation statement, when it appears, will be drawn up to underwrite Mr Turnbull’s bid for re-election next year.
Politically, his situation has its difficulties, despite what some are calling his initial “honeymoon” period.
He is still the man who became Prime Minister, without a popular mandate.
And he is not short of opponents who stand ready to remind him of that fact, if he starts making mistakes, as most Prime Ministers do, as they start to settle into office.
Mr Turnbull also declared during his interview last night that he is “comfortable” in his new job.
But make no mistake.
His handling of the Brough affair is already being watched very closely.
by Alan Thornhill
Australian scientists are urging the Turnbull government to take a lead at the world climate change talks which open in Paris this week.
The Australian Academy of Science says this – and global co-operation – will be essential if we are to avoid the worst effects of global climate change.
Delegates from more than 190 countries are heading to Paris this week in an attempt to reach an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming.
In a statement today, the Academy’s President Professor Andrew Holmes urged world governments to take note of the scientific evidence and the implications of inaction.
“The science is clear, we need to move to net zero carbon emissions by the second half of this century to avoid serious impacts on our health, our economies and on our environment.
“Paris will be a critical turning point along the path to a carbon neutral world,” Professor Holmes said.
“Australia has an important responsibility, as one of the world’s biggest per capita emitters, to show leadership at this important moment in history.
“As the world’s twelfth largest economy, we also have the capacity to do our fair share.
“Australia has some of the best climate scientists in the world and a wealth of expertise in clean energy; we have the opportunity to play a leading role,” Professor Holmes added.
“The national commitments so far are promising and Australia’s own post-2030 targets are an important start but now is not the time for complacency.
“We must understand that the only sustainable long-term goal is net zero-emissions and the risks are too great to keep on our current high emissions path.”
In a submission to the Australian government in May, the Academy recommended cuts in greenhouse gas emissions 30 to 40 per cent below 2000 levels by 2030.
An attempt by Australia to take a lead at the Paris talks would be likely to have high impact.
That’s because of the record of previous Australian leaders, including Tony Abbott, of dismissing climate change science.
The Coalition’s approach to tackling climate change, by subsidising big polluters, in an attempt to persuade them to change their ways, hasn’t impressed climate change scientists either.
Nor has the willingness of government MPs to speak up for the coal lobby in parliament.
by Alan Thornhill
Australian wages – measured on the wage price index – grew by just 2.3 per cent in the 12 months to the end of September.
The Bureau of Statistics, which published this trend figure today, said private sector wage growth of just 0.5 per cent in the September quarter and 2.1 per cent in the 12 months to the end of September, on seasonally adjusted estimates had been the lowest on record.
The Bureau first started keeping wage growth statistics in their current form in 1997.
Public sector wages grew by 2.7 per cent over the past year.
However ohn Osborn, Director of Economics and Industry Policy at the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said :the wage growth figures don’t tell the full story,
“There is also low inflation and the fact real wage growth is in line with its five and ten year average.
“What the latest figures actually show is the importance of securing wide ranging economic reform.
“We want Australia to have high real wages, but this can only be achieved sustainably through greater productivity growth and stronger investment.”
To secure that, we need genuine economic reform of tax, workplace relations and our Federation, Mr Osborn added.
by Alan Thornhill
Some of Australia’s best scientists say the nation’s economic prospects are bright.
But they also caution that our prosperity in future will depend on the choices we make now.
This advice is offered in the Australian National Outlook report which the CSIRO published today.
Standing back from their test tubes for a moment, these scientists warned bluntly that Australia’s future will be shaped by innovation and technology uptake and the choices we make as a society will be paramount.
They are proud of their report, describing it as “, is the most comprehensive quantitative analysis yet of the interactions between economic growth, water-energy-food use, environmental outcomes and living standards in Australia.”
CSIRO Executive Director Dr Alex Wonhas said the report focuses on the ‘physical economy’ that contributes to about 75 per cent of natural resource use and produces about 25 per cent of Australia’s GDP.
“The National Outlook is a first attempt to understand and analyse the connections in Australia’s physical environment many decades into the future,” Dr Wonhas said.
“It has a particular focus on understanding two aspects: The ‘water- energy-food nexus’ and the prospects for Australia’s materials- and energy-intensive industries.”
National Outlook finds a number of key insights and potential opportunities across the Australian economy.? ?“For example, we find strong growth prospects for Australia’s agri-food production, which are forecast to increase at least 50 per cent by 2050, provided long term productivity improvements can be maintained in line with historical rates,” Dr Wonhas said.
So are we to do?
Dr Wonhas says:”“There’s a ….possibility of a win-win for farmers with potential growth in agri-food exports and new income sources for rural landholders through carbon farming on less productive land.”
What about water?
The report acknowledges that demand for water will grow with population.
But it adds:“Despite projections of a doubling of our water use, Australia could meet this growth as well as enhance urban water security and avoid increased environmental pressures through increased water recycling, desalination and integrated catchment management.”
It says too, that energy and other resources could remain a pillar of the Australian economy well into the future.
And it says our energy intensive industries could be well positioned to continue to grow, even in scenarios where the world is taking global action to significantly limit greenhouse gas emissions.
“The key to this success will be innovation and application of smart technologies,” Dr Wonhas said.
“We hope the National Outlook will help Australia chart its future in an increasingly complex and interconnected world,” he added
The National Outlook explores over 20 possible futures for Australia out to 2050 against the backdrop of the past 40 years.??The work was undertaken by a team of 40 CSIRO experts and university collaborators, and draws extensively on observed data and analysis.
It utilises a world-class suite of nine linked models, includes input from more than 80 experts and stakeholders from over ten organisations and has undergone rigorous international peer review.
National Outlook is underpinned by more than 10 journal papers including a Nature paper published today. The report is available at www.CSIRO.au/national outlook
by Alan Thornhill
Labor says it will accept the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, after it won concessions on jobs, skills and pay rates.
The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten and Senate Opposition Leader Penny Wong announced the breakthrough, in joint statement they issued today.
They said they had secured a comprehensive package of safeguards for Australian jobs.
“These safeguards are complementary to the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA),” the two leaders said.
They said Labor had argued for safeguards in three specific areas.
- labour market testing
- protecting Australian wages and conditions and
- upholding workplace skills and safety standards.
“Today Labor has delivered new legal safeguards in each of these areas,” they said.
“Labor has stood up for local jobs and a safety net of decent wages and conditions for all workers.”
So what happens now?
Mr Shorten and Senator Wong said:Having secured these outcomes, Labor will support the ChAFTA enabling legislation in Parliament.”
They said this would will allow Australian exporters to gain improved access to the Chinese market at the earliest opportunity.
“The new obligations will be written into the Migration Regulations, ensuring they are legally binding,” they added.
by Alan Thornhill
A senior Labor MP, Anthony Albanese, says he expected the “honeymoon” that the new Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, is enjoying in the polls.
The latest – a Morgan poll – published today confirmed that the Coalition is well ahead of Labor, with 56-44 per cent lead on a two party preferred split.
This trend has also been evident in other recent public opinion polls.
It would give the government an easy victory in an early election, if one were held now.
That is a major reversal.
Labor had been consistently ahead in the polls, until Mr Turnbull successfully challenged Mr Abbott for Liberal leadership last month, defeating him 54-44 in the subsequent party room ballot.
But Mr Albanese said Australians are just pleased that the previous unpopular Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has gone.
With a Federal election due next year – or early in 2017 – the Coalition’s resurgence in the polls has left some Labor people wondering if the Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, really is the right person for the job.
However Mr Albanese, who stood against Mr Shorten in the most recent ballot for Labor leadership, said he is certain that there will not be a fresh challenge to Mr Shorten.
Speaking on ABC radio, Mr Albanese said people would soon realise that although there had been a change of leadership, the government is still working on its old inadequate policies.
“I think what people are interested in is policy solutions for Australia,” Mr Albanese said.
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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