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 President of the Human Rights Commission Gillian Triggs, says she “totally rejects” allegations of political bias in the Commission’s Forgotten Children report.
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has described the report, on the conditions facing asylum seeker children held in detention as “blatantly political.”
Ms Triggs said both sides of politics are responsible for breaches of Australia’s international obligations.
“The commission is doing its job, we are doing our job under our statute and according to the law that underpins our work,” she said.
“This is not a politicised exercise.
“It is a fair-minded report.
“The evidence on which we rely is evidence which covers the period of the former government as well as the nearly 18 months of the current Government.”
“The facts frankly speak for themselves,” she added.
However Abbott has already rejected the Commission’s call for a Royal Commission into the plight of children held in Australia’s detention centres.
He described its Commission’s report as both “blatantly political” and a “a stitch up.”
Mr Abbott said there had been almost 2,000 children in detention while Labor was in office.
But he told Parliament that there are less than 200 now.
He said that was “because we stopped the boats.”
In a radio interview earlier, Mr Abbott asked:” “Where was the Human Rights Commission when hundreds of people were drowning at sea?
“Where was the Human Rights Commission when there were almost 2,000 children in detention?
“This is a blatantly partisan politicised exercise and the Human Rights Commission ought to be ashamed of itself,” the Prime Minister said.
He said that, instead, the Commission should have praised the former Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, for stopping the boats.
“I reckon that the HRC ought to be sending a note of congratulations to Scott Morrison saying ‘well done mate… because your actions have been very good for the human rights and the human flourishing of thousands of people’,” Mr Abbott said.
In its report – The Forgotten Children – the Commission also recommended that:-
* all children and families currently in detention in Australia and Nauru to be released into the community within four weeks
* the closure of the immigration detention facilities on Christmas Island
* an end to indefinite detention and an independent person to replace the Immigration Minister as guardian for unaccompanied children.
Its report followed the most comprehensive inquiry in a decade into the policy of detaining asylum seeker children who arrive in Australia by boat.
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
Tony Abbott – effectively – told disgruntled Liberal MPs today that they don’t have the right to sack him.
He did so while replying to a reporter’s question, at the National Press Club in Canberra.
Mr Abbott said:”…. sure, party rooms or caucuses, choose leaders.
“But once they’ve gone to an election, things have changed.
” It’s the people that hire
“And, frankly, it’s the people that should fire.”
However another reporter said John Howard had taken a different view.
Andrew Probyn, of The West Australian, said:” Dare I say it, I think you contradicted your mentor, John Howard….”
“Mr Howard used to say that leadership was a gift of the party room.”
Mr Abbott also confirmed today that he will not quit, despite persistently poor polling both for himself and the Liberal party, over recent months.
The defeat of the State Liberal National Party government in Queensland at the weekend had not changed that.
There have been persistent reports that disgruntled Liberal party backbenchers have been talking of deposing the Prime Minister.
But he said today:”… I am absolutely determined to do what we were elected to do.
“To clean up Labor’s mess, to build a strong and prosperous economy for a safe and secure Australia.
“And that, I believe, is what my colleagues are equally dedicated to achieving.”
by Alan Thornhill
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, says a terrorist attack is still rated as “likely” and he is urging Australians to remain “alert” over the Christmas break.
He said, too, that security agencies had reported “a heightened level of terrorist chatter” in the wake of the Sydney siege.
But he said Australians should celebrate Christmas normally.
Mr Abbott said that despite the new advice, the official terrorist threat level in Australia remains at “high.”
That is where it has been since September.
“As you’ll all understand, at this level, an attack is likely,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Sydney.
“We don’t know when and how an attack may come, but we do know there are people with the intent and capability to carry out further attacks.
“And that’s why it’s important that as well as being reassured that people are aware of the reality of these times,” he said.
However Mr Abbott said police and other services would be working “around the clock” – “as they do at all times” – to keep Australians safe.
by Alan Thornhill
The Prime Minister said: “I am pleased to announce changes to the Ministry that I will recommend to the Governor-General.
“These changes will put jobs and families at the centre of the Government’s agenda for 2015.
“The Hon Scott Morrison MP will be promoted to Minister for Social Services.
“Mr Morrison will devote all of his energy, policy skill and determination to this new portfolio which will have a renewed focus on families. In addition to responsibility for welfare, family support, seniors, aged care and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), childcare will also be added to his portfolio.
“Importantly, Mr Morrison will have carriage of the families package the Government will release next year to help ease the cost of living for Australian families by improving the affordability and accessibility of childcare.
“I can think of no stronger advocate than Scott Morrison. His movement into an economic portfolio will see him join the Expenditure Review Committee of Cabinet, replacing the Hon Peter Dutton MP.
“The Hon Peter Dutton MP will be appointed as Minister for Immigration and Border Protection. A senior experienced minister and former police detective, the Australian people can be confident that Mr Dutton will be resolute in protecting Australia’s borders. He will join the National Security Committee of Cabinet.
“The Hon Sussan Ley MP will be promoted into Cabinet and become the Minister for Health and the Minister for Sport. I have been impressed with Minister Ley’s transition into government and her excellent policy work in the education portfolio. Based in regional NSW with a varied life before entering politics that included stints as an air-traffic controller, farmer and a career with the Australian Tax Office, Sussan is a strong addition to my Cabinet team.
“Following the resignation of Senator the Hon Arthur Sinodinos AO, the Hon Josh Frydenberg MP will be appointed as Assistant Treasurer. As my Parliamentary Secretary, Mr Frydenberg has delivered around
$2 billion in red tape reduction in just one year. He will be an important part of 2015 Budget preparations and will join the Expenditure Review Committee of Cabinet.
“The Education portfolio will take on the added responsibility of skills and training.
“The Hon Christopher Pyne MP will become Minister for Education and Training and Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham will be promoted into the position of Assistant Minister for Education and Training. Senator Birmingham will ensure that young Australians have the support they need to take on a trade career because we must have skilled workers if we want our economy to keep growing.
“The Hon Ian Macfarlane MP will assume the title of Minister for Industry and Science.
“I record my gratitude to Senator the Hon David Johnston who will stand down as Minister for Defence. Senator Johnston has done a fine job in restoring investment in the Australian Defence Force after six years of neglect and has effectively managed the deployment of Australian Defence Force personnel to Europe and Iraq.
“The Hon Kevin Andrews MP will become the Minister for Defence. He is one of the most experienced ministers in the Government and his appointment will ensure we continue to build a safe and secure Australia in a challenging world.
“I thank Senator the Hon Brett Mason for his work as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, particularly his work to establish the New Colombo Plan.
“I look forward to Senator Johnston and Senator Mason’s continued service to the Government in the months and years ahead.
“The Hon Steven Ciobo MP will be promoted to the position of Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In recognition of his work on Australia’s recent G20 in Brisbane, he will also take on the dual appointment as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade and Investment to build on the Government’s achievement of three free trade agreements.
“The Hon Bob Baldwin MP will become Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and provide a strong focus on the Green Army programme.
“I welcome three new appointments to my frontbench.
“The Hon Christian Porter MP will be appointed as Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister. With a distinguished career as a former Treasurer and Attorney-General in the State Government of Western Australia, his intellect and drive will continue the work already undertaken in deregulation.
“Ms Kelly O’Dwyer MP will be appointed as Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer in recognition of her work as Chair of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics.
“Mrs Karen Andrews MP, a former engineer, will take on the role of Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry and Science. She has brought real life experience to her recent role as Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Public Works and I look forward to her contribution to science policy.
The swearing in of the new ministry will take place on Tuesday 23 December 2014.
by Alan Thornhill
The Senate is trying to force the Federal government to put its plans to acquire a new submarine fleet out to open tender.
It passed proposed legislation, to impose that outcome, when it sat today.
The Coalition promised, before last year’s Federal elections, that the new submarines would be built at the government owned Australian Submarine Corporation plant in South Australia.
More recently, though, it has been talking of placing its order in Japan, instead.
The Treasurer, Joe Hockey, also said in a radio interview early today that the government had run out of time for an open tender process.
That angered the Opposition, which said Mr Hockey is simply wrong about that.
And it voted, in the Senate, for the proposed legislation, designed to force the government to call seek bids for the project.
The Shadow Defence Minister, Stephen Conroy, said that bill would be sent to the House of Representatives tomorrow.
It faces certain defeat there, as the government has the numbers in the lower house, to sink it.
What would happen, then, is unclear.
However the government might well be tempted to try executive action, by-passing parliament, if the two houses are deadlocked.
Mr Hockey, said today that the government had run out of time and cannot call tenders, before it places an order for Australia’s new submarine fleet.
He told ABC radio that Australia needs the best submarines it can get, to replace its present fleet of Collins class submarines.
“…and there are very limited suppliers and there are a very limited number of suppliers that can actually deliver a submarine to Australia at a time when the Collins-class are being decommissioned,” he added.
“Now, it usually takes 10 to 15 years to build a submarine from development stage to outcome in the water.”
“ So, we have run out of time, in a sense, and we need to make decisions now,” Mr Hockey said.
However Senator Conroy, said a competitive tender is now essential, in view of both Mr Hockey’s remarks today and the Defence Minister’s recent attack on the government ship building operation in South Australia.
In what he later described as “a rhetorical flourish, David Johnston told parliament then that he would not trust the ASC to “build a canoe.”
Senator Conroy said: “Expert after expert has said …. that there is enough time to conduct a proper tender process for our new submarines while avoiding a capability gap.”
by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott has urged Vladimir Putin to pursue peace, not “the lost glories” of either the Tsarist times, or the old Soviet Union.
Mr Abbott revealed today that this had occurred on the sidelines of the APEC meeting in Beijing earlier this week.
The Russian President is due to arrive in Brisbane later today, for the upcoming G20 Summit.
Mr Abbott had promised to “shirtfront” Mr Putin, at the earliest opportunity, over what he believed was Russia’s part in the “murder” of Australians aboard a Malaysian airliner, that pro-Russian separatists shot down over Ukraine, earlier this year.
The Australian Prime Minister made his disclosure, at a joint press conference today with his British counterpart, David Cameron today.
He said: “..one of the points that I tried to make to President Putin is that Russia would be so much more attractive if it was aspiring to be a superpower for peace and freedom and prosperity, if it was trying to be a superpower for ideas and for values, instead of trying to recreate the lost glories of tsarism or the old Soviet Union.”
Mr Abbott said he had not expected, 12 months ago, to be talking in Brisbane about Russia’s “assertiveness.”
“So, I think there is a heavy responsibility on Russia to come clean and atone.” he added.
“It is part of a regrettable pattern.
“Whether it’s the bullying of Ukraine, whether it’s the increasing Russian military aircraft flying into the airspace of Japan or European countries.
Or “whether it’s the naval task group which is now in the South Pacific.
“Russia is being much more assertive now than it has been for a very long time,” Mr Abbott said.
Mr Cameron supported him.
“ I would still hope that the Russians will see sense and recognise that they should allow Ukraine to develop as an independent and free country, free to make its choices, “ the British Prime Minister said.
If Russia took a positive approach towards Ukraine’s freedom and responsibility, present sanctions could be lifted.
“If Russia continues to make matters worse, we could see those sanctions increase.
“It’s as simple as that,” Mr Cameron 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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