Common Sense Dies Here #45

Welcome to Common Sense Dies Here #45, a silent coup

In a further illustration of the government’s folly, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation recently rejected involvement in a proposed new coal-fired power plant. CEFC head, Oliver Yates, said that the project wouldn’t deliver the level of emissions reductions that funding rules currently require. The government has suggested they may change those rules. But Olly said that there would still be major concerns about the profitability of such a project, and that the CEFC are “not into considering loss-making ventures”. The proposal also included carbon capture and storage capability. While the government has expressed their support for such technology, the CEFC is currently banned from investing in it. Unlike the previously mentioned rules, changing this would require amending legislation. Even if they managed to do that, carbon capture and storage is of questionable efficacy. And would greatly increase the already high price of new coal-fired power stations, and the energy they produce.

It’s not only Mal Trumble and co’s posturing on energy prices that doesn’t stand up to inspection. Their insistence on placing all the blame for energy insecurity on renewables also doesn’t add up. A recently released study from the ANU outlines a workable plan for 100% renewable energy. Intermittency issues with wind and solar would be addressed by pumped hydro storage. Modelling suggests this configuration would lead to a drop in electricity costs. While Mal has mentioned his interest in pumped hydro and other storage methods, it’s been an easily missed whisper among the booming coal worship. A half hearted attempt at selling the transparently dishonest claims of a non-ideological power policy.

Professor John Quiggin, from the University of Queensland, blamed rising prices and unstable supply on “the failure of neoliberal electricity reform”. He said “the only coherent response” is renationalising the power grid. Look, unlike some, I’m perfectly willing to acknowledge my ideological proclivities: I’m generally sceptical of privatisation. But, considering the piss-poor performance of AEMO during the recent heatwave, and suggestions of price gouging by energy companies, it seems hard to argue with John either way. Not that I expect the government to take notice, of course. They’ll brush it off as dogmatic myopia. And continue trying to convince everyone that the pragmatic solution is blowing a load of money on propping up the fossil fuel industry.

Their new appointment to the ABC board reiterated the commitment to dismissing inconvenient advice. Ignoring the recommendations of the Nomination Panel for ABC and SBS Board Appointments, they selected mining lobbyist, Vanessa Guthrie. Vanessa previously claimed “coal is under attack unfairly”. And criticised the offending “social activists” for using mobile phones. “Sixty-one minerals are in a mobile phone. Sixty-one different elements that the world mines to produce mobile phones are in there. Without mining you wouldn’t have an iPhone. And how do you think it gets powered?” she said. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure they don’t use coal in mobile phones. And it’s strange for a self described “very strong advocate of clean energy and renewables” to discount the fact they can be powered without it.

A parliamentary inquiry into 18C left Mal with an awkward lack of solid advice. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights wasn’t able to agree on any recommendations for amending 18C. Instead they settled on a series of measures to streamline the process and weed out frivolous or vexatious complaints. Mal probably hoped that would be the end of the issue, but reactionaries refused to let it go.

George Christensen said “Section 18C is political correctness enshrined into law, and it stifles freedom of speech in Australia”. Due to the exemptions in 18D, 18C only really stifles untruths and gratuitous use of racially inflammatory language. So George’s statement seems like a tacit admission he’s concerned he’ll lose the right to be a racially insensitive liar. He should look no further than court appointed racist, Andrew Bolt. Despite Andy’s brush with 18C, his opinion about light skinned Indigenous people is still a widely reported fact. And he continues to be, as Sam Dastyari so aptly described them, one of the “fuckers” that “have their own TV shows”, on which “all they do is go on about ‘oh, my freedom of speech’ “.

Cory Bernardi depicted the inquiry’s findings as an example of “snowflake-protecting, damaging ideology”. Bloody snowflakes, eh? COWABUNGA DUDE! I bet the roller blading Hitler Youth are so impressed by him using their lingo. Anyway, he went on to add “If the political class won’t support freedom of speech what will they support? What other of your freedoms will they limit to make their already-cosy lives easier?”. Of course, this supposedly deep concern for people’s rights and freedoms tends to conveniently vanish when it comes to his support for increasingly draconian national security legislation, or facilitating the torture of irregular migrants.

So I suppose it’s not a surprise that no one from the “oh, my freedom of speech” crew seems to care about the government’s willingness to breach people’s privacy in retaliation for inconvenient criticism. Andie Fox wrote an article outlining her ordeal with a Centrelink debt she didn’t realise she had until a debt collector started calling her. It was eventually decided she didn’t actually owe the money after all. In response to her article, the human services department released parts of Andie’s private file to a Fairfax journo. The oversight process for doing so seems rather inadequate to me: you have to get written permission from the departmental secretary. But Alan Tudge and co didn’t even bother doing that, and may have broken the law.

The information released doesn’t even adequately “correct the record”. Saying that “Between November 16 and January 17 Centrelink made four phone calls and sent six letters to Ms Fox” doesn’t really mean much when they obviously had out of date details. And it’s all very well chiding her for not updating her details in a timely manner. But it doesn’t really excuse the 12 month long Kafkaesque nightmare involved in correcting the discrepancy after she became aware of it. This suggests that the main goal was intimidating anyone that dares to think about criticising Centrelink or the DHS. That Alan and mates potentially broke privacy laws in the process either implies they knew what they were doing was so morally dubious that it wouldn’t pass the meagre oversight process. Or is an indication of their utter incompetence. Either way, it’s a perfect example of why they should be criticised.

I’m sceptical of the idea departmental heads will always be able to withstand political pressure to unfairly release personal information. But I have far more trust in that oversight process than the one ASIO have to go through to snoop on journalists’ metadata. While the AFP has to obtain permission from a judge, ASIO just have to get George Brandis to sign off. We’re talking about man who has tried to bully, or silence, independent officials that expressed opinions he didn’t like. And who is currently trying to squirm his way out of the latest in a series of accusations that he lied to parliament. These warrants can easily be used to stifle dissent. So how the fuck can anyone trust George to decide whether issuing them is legitimate?

From one dodgy AG to another now. Jeff Sessions’ honesty was called into question after it was revealed that, during his confirmation hearing, he failed to disclose 2 meetings with Russian ambassador, Sergei Kislyak. He was asked what he would do if he found out “anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government, in the course of this campaign”. And he responded “I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians”.

As a result of the revelations, he was forced to recuse himself from the investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russian links. And Democrats called for him to resign and face perjury charges. His assertion that he interpreted the question as asking whether he met with Russian officials about the campaign may just save his job, and help him avoid court. But surely the honest thing to do would have been to mention the meetings with Sergei anyway. His omission suggests he was hiding something. And his claim the meetings were part of his work as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee doesn’t really add up either. No one else on that committee seems to have met up with Sergei. Sure, one of the meetings occurred at a function attended by a number of ambassadors. But the other happened at a later date, in the privacy of Jeff’s office.

Don was furious the scandal overshadowed the triumph of him delivering a mediocre speech to Congress without causing massive controversy. So, unsurprisingly, he went on the attack. First, he pointed to Obama and other Democrat pollies’ past meetings with Russian officials as proof of unfair treatment. This, of course, didn’t really stick as, unlike Jeff’s, the meetings were well publicised. And none of the people in question have been involved with campaigns accused of shadowy Russian links.

Don then moved on to accusing Obama of illegally having his “wires tapped”. Like most of his drivel, these accusations seemed to be based on the paranoid, distorted reporting of the right wing media, rather than actual evidence. There were claims Obama is engaged in a “silent coup”, and Don denounced his alleged meddling in “the very sacred election process”. Didn’t seem so sacred when Don was suggesting he wouldn’t accept the result if he lost, did it? And criticism of Obama’s “police state tactics” is also ludicrous coming from Don’s supporters when that’s exactly the kind of thing he repeatedly promised to expand.

As Don was ineptly dealing with the fallout from his troubled love affair with Putin, another reactionary incompetent, Pauline Hanson, expressed her affection for Vlad. “I respect the man. He is very patriotic towards his country, the people love him, he is doing so well for the country. So many Australians here want that leadership here in Australia” she said. So, many Australians want a leader that’s hostile to the West, that disrespects the rights of women and LGBTI people, and crushes opposition? Isn’t that the kind of dangerous agenda Pauline regularly accuses of Muslims of advancing?

The confusion continued with her advice to George Christensen. She told him he should “stabilise the government” by remaining in the LNP. Such a strong anti-establishment figure, isn’t she? Her stubborn refusal to be bound by the orthodoxy of the major parties is illustrated by the 12% of times she didn’t vote with the Coalition on legislation. Speaking about the WA state election, she said she had picked up on voters’ “sheer hatred of Colin Barnett”. Her brave, principled response to that dissatisfaction with the WA Libs was to make a preference deal with them. Addressing criticism of that deal, she said “People are angry with me because I’ve done this deal with the Liberal party, and it’s not a deal”. Right…

You know, for all that Pauline and co whinge about it, when you hear or read a language you don’t understand, there is still the possibility something worthwhile is being said. What’s really demoralising is hearing a native speaker of your mother tongue churn out garbled nonsense. Pauline isn’t a straight shooter. She isn’t one of those people that say what they mean, and mean what they. She’s a scattershot narcissist. And that things she says are either mean-spirited, or don’t mean anything. That’s all for now, see you next time