Showing posts with label Morrison Government. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Morrison Government. Show all posts

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Quote of the Week



The numbers unveiled by Josh Frydenberg and Mathias Cormann are butt-clenchingly large: a deficit this financial year of at least $184.5 billion that will probably nudge $200 billion by the time of the October budget and its extra spending measures; gross debt that will go through the Morrison government's recently increased limit of $850 billion some time in 2021-22 with no idea how it will be paid down. Frydenberg likened the effort ahead to climbing a mountain. But this ain't no day-trip to Kosciuszko or even a planned assault on Everest. It's more Olympus Mons, the 25-kilometre high mountain on Mars.” [Senior economics correspondent Shane Wright in The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 July 2020,
p.6]

Cartoons of the Week

Mark David

Cathy Wilcox
Cathy Wilcox


Saturday, 25 July 2020

Australia 2020: and now for some economic bad news


On 23 July 2020 Australian Treasurer and Liberal MP for Kooyong Josh Frydenberg delivered a national economic and fiscal update.

He dutifully posted an upbeat media release and published the official update documents.


Here is a preliminary takeaway from this update*:

  • total federal government payments have increased by $58.0 billion in 2019-20 and increased by $187.5 billion over the two years to 2020-21. The net impact of policy decisions since the 2019-20 MYEFO has increased payments by $58.0 billion in 2019-20 and $113.7 billion in 2020-21.
  • declines in taxation receipts were $31.7 billion in 2019-20 and are expected to be $63.9 billion in 2020-21;
  • the underlying cash balance is expected to decrease to an $85.8 billion deficit in 2019-20 and an $184.5 billion deficit in 2020-21. This is a a deterioration of $281.4 billion over these two years since the 2019-20 MYEFO;
  • as a percentage of GDP the underlying cash balance is expected to be -9.7 per cent in 2020-21;
  • debt levels have increased significantly. Gross debt was $546 billion (28.1 per cent of GDP) at 30 June 2019 and $684.3 billion (34.4 per cent of GDP) at 30 June 2020 and is expected to be $851.9 billion (45.0 per cent of GDP) at 30 June 2021. With net debt at 30 June 2019 standing at 373.5 billion (19.2 per cent of GDP), expected to be $488.2 billion (24.6 per cent of GDP) at 30 June 2020 and increase to $677.1 billion (35.7 per cent of GDP) at 30 June 2021;
  • on a calendar-year basis real GDP fell by 3.75 per cent;
  • real GDP is forecast to have fallen sharply in the June quarter 2020 by 7 per cent;
  • nominal GDP is expected to be -4.75 per cent in 2020-21;
  • nationally 709,000 jobs were lost in the June quarter 2020;
  • the unemployment rate in June 2020 was 7.4 per cent and is expected to peak at around 9.25 per cent in the December quarter 2020 and is forecast to be at 8.75 per cent in 2020-21;
  • Treasury has predicted that immigration will fall to 31,000 individuals in 2020-21 which is likely to affect the national budget bottom line; and
  • the Morrison Government's go-to remedy for the poor economic outlook is to (i) consider reducing the federal government's taxation income even further by est. $143 billion in personal income tax receipts over 10 years commencing in 2021-22, (ii) reduce welfare spending by further limiting eligibility and reducing payment levels for JobSeeker and JobKeeper recipients from 25 September 2020 with the Coronavirus Supplement due to be removed completely by 31 December 2020, (iii) incease the level of casual and insecure work via industrial relations 'reform', and (iv) encourage women to have more babies to compensate for the current moribund population growth rate.
NOTE

* The Economic and Fiscal Update June 2020 is affected by the economic impacts of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic and to a lesser extent by the the impacts of the 2019-20 bushfires. 

Componding the situation is the high level of federal government borrowings which regularly occurred after 18 September 2013.

On 30 September 2013 the gross national debt stood at est. $220.67 billion and net national debt was $174.55 billion. At that time net national debt was in the vicinity of 13% of GDP. 

By 2 April 2019 the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government had raised the gross national debt to $534.42 billion. That's more than double the national debt left by the previous Labor federal government. 

On 2 April 2019 Frydenberg was predicting that gross national debt would rise to $627.26 billion by end of June 2019 with net national debt coming in at $373.47 billion and net debt predicted to come in at 19.2% of GDP by end of June. 

By 30 June 2019 the federal government paid est. $18.15 billion in interest on this debt in the 2018-19 financial year. 

The bottom line is that before either the bushfires or the pandemic even began the Morrison Government gross national debt stood at $546 billion or 28.1 per cent of Australia's GDP and net debt stood at 373.5 billion or 19.2 per cent of GDP by 30 June 2019.

Therefore emergency national funding for bushfires and pandemic only accounts for est. 23.5 per cent of the current national debt.

As at 30 May the Morrison Government's total liabilities in 2020 ran to $1,324.95 billion against assets of $700.74 billion according to Australian Government General Government Sector Monthly Financial Statements May 2020.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Murdoch has managed to deprive NSW Northern Rivers region of most of its local print newspapers & now Morrison is attacking our most reliable news source, the ABC


The Age, 25 June 2020: 

ABC chairwoman Ita Buttrose has lashed out at Communications Minister Paul Fletcher over the Morrison government's handling of its multimillion-dollar budget cuts and accused him of lying about the national broadcaster's efforts to collaborate with SBS. 

In a fresh war of words between the taxpayer-funded broadcaster and the Coalition government, Ms Buttrose has accused Mr Fletcher of twice failing to provide the ABC board and management with the critical data that informed an independent report proposing the closure of two broadcast channels and the sharing of back-office and support services with fellow public broadcaster SBS. 

Ms Buttrose has also said the government misrepresented the ABC's efforts to work closer with SBS. In a strongly-worded letter to Mr Fletcher, seen by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, Ms Buttrose said the ABC's board had asked her to "convey its concerns" about Mr Fletcher's lack of response to correspondence between the pair in September last year. 

"We raised a number of issues but were particularly interested in seeing 'the information - data, models and assumptions - which formed the basis for the savings estimates provided in the report'," Ms Buttrose wrote. "I appreciate you have a busy schedule but we would appreciate an answer to our queries." 

Ms Buttrose said several media reports, which ABC management believes were informed by Mr Fletcher, had suggested the ABC "had neglected to 'collaborate more closely with SBS'". 

"This is incorrect," Ms Buttrose wrote. "David Anderson has had several conversations with SBS about sharing costs". 

A Peter Tonagh-led review of the public broadcasters was handed to the Morrison government in March last year, but its details were kept confidential as the ABC developed plans to cut costs. Some recommendations - such as an increased focus on digital growth, improving the ABC's iview platform and reducing investment in products that are not central to the ABC charter - were effectively adopted in the plan announced yesterday, but an ABC spokesman said that if all had been implemented there would have been more cuts. 

In the September correspondence between the pair, Ms Buttrose said the board said several proposals in the review "lack enough detail to allow an evaluation of whether the suggested savings can be realised". 

"In some cases, the savings estimates are presented in aggregate for the two national broadcasters and it is unclear what proportion of them has been attributed to the ABC, rather than SBS," she said. 

In particular, the review estimates that the national broadcasters could together save "a minimum of $45 million" by reducing multichannel services and "between $80 million and $115 million per annum" through focusing expenditure on what it characterises as "core" activities and a greater focus on digital delivery. 

"However, it provides no information as to how these figures were derived or the proportions attributed to the ABC," she said. Sources said Ms Buttrose had also raised the issue with Mr Fletcher at a face-to-face meeting between the pair at ABC's Ultimo headquarters on Tuesday. 

Mr Fletcher and Prime Minister Scott Morrison staunchly defended the level of funding provided to the ABC, insisting the government has not cut its budget, and backed the national broadcaster's efforts to be more focused on regional and suburban Australia. "There are no cuts ... the ABC's funding is increasing every year," Mr Morrison said on Thursday. "The ABC would be the only media company or organisation in Australia today whose revenue, their funding, is increasing. It would be the only one in the country. We are seeing regional mastheads by commercial newspapers abolished." 

The ABC announced a range of cuts on Wednesday, including 250 job losses and the end of the 7.45am radio news bulletin, in a bid to save $40 million until 2022. Managing director David Anderson also announced plans to cut poor-performing content, reduce episodes of Australian Story and Foreign Correspondent and lease space at the ABC's Sydney headquarters in Ultimo. The measures triggered a wave of criticism about the funding squeeze imposed on the broadcaster by the Coalition in recent federal budgets.

ABC News, 27 June 2020: 

The ABC put forward two separate proposals offering to open more regional Australian studios, expand its coverage of remote communities and hire more journalists in rural areas in return for the federal government dumping its decision to freeze annual funding indexation. 

Correspondence between ABC managing director David Anderson and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher and seen by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, show the national broadcaster was prepared to invest tens of millions of dollars more outside capital city centres if the Morrison government was prepared to reverse its budget cuts. 

In a proposal made after the Black Summer bushfires in January, ABC management told Mr Fletcher the national broadcaster would be able to find $10 million a year to employ more regional journalists if indexation was restored

Mr Anderson's letter, sent to Mr Fletcher on January 24, said he was writing to ask the government to consider a reversal of the indexation pause, which is expected to cost the broadcaster up to $84 million over three years, to safeguard the future sustainability of the ABC. 

"If indexation was restored, combined with savings and efficiencies that the ABC has identified in recent months, the Corporation would be in a position to commit an additional investment of up to $10 million per annum to employ more journalists in regional Australia and generate more content from regions for the local and national stories," Mr Anderson wrote. 

Several government sources have confirmed Mr Fletcher did not reply to the letter, nor did he discuss the proposal with the ABC or his National Party colleagues, who have constantly raised concerns over the future of regional media outlets, following a spate of natural disasters including last summer's fires.... [my yellow highting]

The Saturday Paper, 27 June 2020: 

Two days before the ABC confirmed that up to 250 jobs will be cut across the organisation, the federal government finalised a $200,000 offer for consultants to prepare a report on news and media business models looking specifically at the impact of public broadcasters “on commercial operators”. 

An approach to market for the report was closed on Monday, with the federal Communications Department under minister Paul Fletcher requesting the successful bidder evaluate failed, successful and emerging news media operating models from around the world. 

As it happens, a key requirement of the research, due before the end of August, is also a hobby horse of the ABC’s commercial rivals. 

The tender asks consultants to examine “the role of publicly-funded (non-commercial) media organisations in the production and dissemination of news and media content in the comparable jurisdictions, and the impacts and interactions of publicly-funded entities with commercial operators”. 

This is the argument News Corp makes against the ABC: that it is cutting into the audiences of commercial enterprises such as Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers, websites and pay television business. 

“The report will be used as an input to inform policy advice and decision-making in relation to the news and media sectors. The end-users of the report include Commonwealth officials, relevant Ministers, and their staff,” the tender documents say. 

“The report is not intended for public release.”......

BACKGROUND

ABC News, 26 June 2029: 

The ABC has not only helped shape Australia, we are the national voice that unites us. 

It’s about democracy. Without the ABC we would have a balkanised and parochial bunch of broadcasters that are in danger of being compromised by profit and more intent on dividing than unifying. 

Imagine what it would be like during the bushfire season if we had to rely only on state-based or even regionally based media outlets. When we are in the middle of bushfires, don’t we want to know that they are being covered by a knowledgeable and experienced network of journalists with all the supporting infrastructure of a large national network? 

The ABC, funded by all of us, regardless of our creed – race, age, political beliefs – is us. It’s the way we build cross-cultural understanding, the way we help each other in times of need. It’s who we are collectively. Why would anyone want to diminish that and make us less than who we are? 

This has been a devastating week for the ABC. With unemployment at an all-time high to have to inform up to 250 people they no longer had a job has been an incredibly difficult task. 

Cuts to services caused by the ongoing reduction in our budget forced this action upon us and although we knew what had to be done, our hearts were with our employees. 

Let me clarify the cuts because there seems to be some confusion in Government circles about them. The 2018 Budget papers clearly state that the Government’s savings measures reduce funding to the ABC by $14.623 million in 2019-20, $27.842 million in 2020-21, and $41.284 million in 2021-22. This reduction totals $83.75 million on our operational base. 

It is true that over the three years the ABC budget does still increase but by a reduced amount, due to indexation on the fixed cost of transmission and distribution services. Previously, it was rising by a further $83.75 million over the same three years for indexation on our operational base. This is the funding that has been cut and considered a saving by the government. 

These funding cuts are unsustainable if we are to provide the media services that Australians expect of us. Indexation must be renewed. 

The strength of the ABC and its relationship with the nation comes from the very people who work for us. They are passionate about public broadcasting and are prepared to work for less than they would be paid by commercial media to deliver it. The creativity in the programs they produce, the dogged and independent journalism they pursue and the connection with communities everywhere they provide through conversations is at the very heart of what the ABC delivers to our audiences. 

The ABC has a statutory requirement to operate as efficiently as possible. We have a strong track record in identifying savings and reinvesting them in services. This is how we created ABC News 24, ABC iview and a range of packages to boost services in rural and regional Australia. 

There is no other authority better placed to manage the ABC than the ABC itself. We know our business and we are determined to honour our commitment to independence. All Australians expect this of us just as they expect the Government to provide the appropriate funds to allow us to do so. 

The ABC is essential in generating and preserving Australia’s democratic culture. An independent, well-funded national broadcaster allows Australians, wherever they live, to connect. It is how we share our identity, how we tell our stories, how we listen to each other, how we ask for help and how we give it. 

 Ita Buttrose AC OBE 
 ABC Chair

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Quote of the Week


“We have done our best to convince the Government to reverse the indexation freeze...We've done our best to find efficiencies without affecting content, but we have said all along, since this (freeze) was announced in 2018, that after successive budget reductions to the ABC, there's only so much that can be gained through efficiency and in the end, content will be affected, and we've seen that roll out yesterday.”  [ABC managing director David Anderson, in The West Australian, 25 June 2020]

Friday, 26 June 2020

Australian Prime Minister is urging states to push ahead with reopening despite COVID-19 outbreaks


We always said that we were not going for eradication of the virus. Other economies tried that and their economy was far more damaged than ours. And so we have to ensure that we can run our economy, run our lives, run our communities, alongside this virus.” [Australian Prime Minister & Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison speaking on ABC radio program PM, 22 June 2020]

Financial Review, 22 June 2020:

A fresh outbreak of coronavirus in Victoria should not stop moves to reopen the economy, according to Scott Morrison, as one state delayed plans to reopen its borders and others contemplated new travel restrictions.

With Victoria recording a spike in cases because of what experts said was tardy adherence to safety protocols, thousands living within six local government jurisdictions were told not to leave their area unless essential.  

As the state introduced the toughest COVID-19 measures currently in Australia in an effort to contain the spike, the Prime Minister agreed it was a "wake-up call" but said setbacks were anticipated when he announced more than a month ago that the states were to reopen their economies by July. 

"This is part of living with COVID-19. And we will continue on with the process of opening up our economy and getting people back into work,'' Mr Morrison said.....

This was Scott Morrison at his uncaring, bullying best last Monday.

So what does "living with COVID-19" actually mean?

Well for 104 people it meant death, with 3 elderly victims dying at home and 30 in nursing homes.

It means there are still active COVID-19 cases in 4 Australian states and some people are still becoming sick enough to require an intensive care hospital bed.

Living with COVID-19 also means community transmission of the disease remains an issue in Australia, as well as people entering/exiting the country while infected.

The pandemic growth may have significanly slowed in Australia but it has not stopped, every day the average number of confirmed COVID-19 cases grow by around 12 people.

All this clearly indicates that the SARS-CoV-virus is not passively responding to successive state public health orders. What was happening is that collectively we had gone to great lengths to avoid coming into contact with this deadly virus thereby avoiding spreading COVID-19 disease.

When this collective action begins to fragment as more and more businesses, entertainment and sporting venues open, state borders are no longer closed and more international flights are allowed into the country, the virus which lives only to mindlessly replicate in as many human bodies as possible will quickly begin to infect larger numbers of people again.

It is highly likely that the resultant disease growth rate will not be able to be described as a "spike" or "setback". For Scott Morrison is stubborn. He will force the states and territories, along with communities and families, to keep exposure to the virus at a dangerously high level simply because he intends to open up the economy and go full bore ahead by July.

So why does the economy have to 'open' in July? 

Not because Morrison really cares about one of his favourite slogans, "jobs and growth". No, 'Emperor' Scott is afraid his own party and its financial backers will finally realise that he has no clothes and the economy is that scrap of cloth he is clutching to cover his nakedness.

It's all about hanging on to personal political power and his lucrative salary as prime minister - and he doesn't care how many people have to die or become chronically ill in order to achieve this.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Morrison Government's class warfare sees this hard right group closing the door to students from low income families and cutting funding to universities


MORRISON GOVERNMENT SPIN

SBS News, 20 June 2020:

Mr Tehan outlined the coalition's latest plan for rejigging university funding in a speech to the National Press Club on Friday afternoon. He is offering to increase the number of university places by 39,000 over the next three years, rising to 100,000 more by 2030. 


The coalition had effectively capped places over the past couple of years by freezing its funding at 2018 levels. 

The trade-off in the new deal is changing what students and taxpayers pay. 

A three-year humanities degree would more than double in cost for students, from about $20,000 now to $43,500. The government's contribution would drop to $3300. 

 Fees for law degrees, typically four years, would jump from $44,620 now to $58,000. 

Conversely, the government would contribute more and charge students less for courses it says are more likely to lead to jobs. 

Agriculture and maths fees would drop from nearly $28,600 over three years to $11,100. 

Fees would also be cut for teaching, nursing, clinical psychology, science, health, architecture, IT, engineering and English courses.....

THE REALITY

From January 2021 students entering Humanities courses such as Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Arts & Business, Bachelor of International Studies, Bachelor of Politics Philosophy & Economics, Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Advanced Studies (Media and Communications), Bachelor of Education, Bachelor of Arts/
Bachelor of Advanced Studies (Languages), fees will more than double, putting them alongside law and commerce in the highest price band of $14,500 a year or est. $43,500 for a completed degree. Making these courses more expensive than studying medicine.

The Australian, 22 June 2020:

Universities will be paid less to teach courses such as maths and engineering under the Morrison government’s overhaul of higher education funding — despite those programs being promoted by Education Minister Dan Tehan as post-pandemic job creators. 


Education Department data shows the commonwealth will cut university funding for each enrolment in those courses while also cutting how much those students pay to study. 

The reforms are intended to push students towards high-­priority courses such as maths, teaching, science and engineering by lowering how much students, through the HECS-HELP loan scheme, pay. 

Universities currently receive $28,958 a year for each science course enrolment, made up of $19,260 paid by the student through the HECS-HELP loan scheme and $9698 from the commonwealth. 

Under the new system, however, students will contribute $7700 and the commonwealth will pay $16,500, leaving universities with $4758 less revenue for each science student enrolled. 

Universities will lose a similar amount for each student enrolled in an engineering course under the reforms announced by Mr Tehan on Friday, and lose $3444 per student in an agriculture subject, one of the key areas where the government is hoping to drive enrolment growth. 

That’s because while the commonwealth is increasing its payment per student from $24,446 to $27,000, that does not compensate for the fall in student contributions from $9698 to $3700. 

Frank Larkins, a researcher at Melbourne University’s Centre for Higher Education, said the fall in overall revenues per student in high-priority areas was likely to make it more difficult for universities to teach more students in those job-creating subjects. 

“It appears there are two mess­ages here. The government wants students to go into nursing, teaching and STEM subjects, but they also think those courses are overfunded,” Professor Larkins told The Australian on Sunday. 

“Agriculture — one of the areas they want more students — would retain its funding in the present scheme, but it’s cut by 17 per cent in this new one. It’s a curious situation. 

“The areas of study we are touting as the national interest are actually diminishing under these changes. 

Every university will have a different reaction, but these changes are almost disguising a cut in funding for some of these courses the government is promoting.”....

@RichAFerguson

ABC News, 21 June 2020: 


If you were thinking about starting a university degree in the future, you've got a new fee structure to take into account. The Government has announced an overhaul of the university fee system, slashing the price of courses it says are more likely to get you a job and hiking up fees for courses in the humanities. 

The changes will mainly apply to future students, with no current student to pay increased fees for the duration of their degree. 


However, if you're a current student enrolled in a course that is getting cheaper, you'll pay less from next year. 


Many of you told us the changes will affect your choice of study, and for some it will deter you from going to university altogether.... 


Robert H: "My son is in grade 11 and he picked his subjects for grades 10 to 12 at the end of grade 9. So even if he wanted to pivot towards the cheaper STEM degrees, he would need to go back in time to the end of year 9 to reselect his subjects. So much for a fair go." 


Monika O: "This is terrible. We need to encourage a variety of careers as we all have different gifts and abilities. It's not justified to discriminate and "punish" people who choose to study arts and humanities. These topics encourage critical thinking skills and communications skills — all much needed abilities. 

David D: "This an appalling idea. Prejudicing young people because their ability and passion are in the humanities, and rewarding those whose ability and passion just happens to be what business thinks they require now for jobs … Many businesses are actually crying out for workers with critical thinking and creative skills.".... 


Emma J: "Doubling humanities degree costs is appalling. These are the only degrees where you are taught to think for yourselves and where ideas and innovation are encouraged. Without social and political sciences and history and Indigenous studies, we're going to have a workforce which can only follow rules and can't think for themselves." Shane H: "Two of the most valued skills employers want is the ability to think critically and emotional intelligence. How many STEM subjects teach that?" 


Carolyn J: "Humanities subjects are foundational and help to produce people who understand the history and nuances of our society. They teach people how to communicate ideas, how to analyse language, image and thought. The arts themselves provide beauty, expression, reflection, critique, examination. They are vocations — sometimes compulsions — not job choices." 


Johny M: "More than doubling the cost of humanities degrees is not only sad, but grossly unfair. They teach critical thinking, research skills, and broaden our worldview. It is easy to rip into them for not being 'job specific', but that ignores they are the scaffold to everything we know about our society." Stefan P: This is absolutely tragic. The choice of which course to pursue within higher education should be entirely dependent on a student's desires, not their financial situation and the whims of the economy. Besides which, if the Federal Government acknowledges the difficulty of finding work as an arts student, then saddling them with even more debt is simply counterintuitive." 


Matt B: "I'm a Medsci student progressing into medicine, arguably an 'in demand' degree. However … the arts/humanities allows scientists to put the research in perspective of humanity and thus allows us to better communicate to the public and (science-ignorant) governments why we do what we do. Arts isn't a second thought; it's a priority, more so than learning chemistry and biology is for a doctor, because without the arts, we cannot communicate and appreciate the meaning of cancer beyond it being a mutation of cells.".... 


Lili K: "I'm just about to finish my honours degree in politics, and it has been the most rewarding and interesting years of my life. I know if this price hike happened when I was at my poor public country high school, I would have had to take a different path."....

 Anna G: "I have an arts degree. I work for the Government in a relatively senior role. My degree gave me essential critical-thinking, analytical and writing skills that equip me to do my job daily. It's frustrating to know that the Government thinks that my degree isn't 'job focused' when I use it to support and deliver its policies and programs.".... 


 Lana G: I am a business/politics (humanities) student. I am the first in my family to attend university, and all this does is make university (for the most part) unattainable. My degree is now going to be on par with the cost of a medical degree … Poorer kids are going to move away from economics, humanities and law."..... 

The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 June 2020: 

 The government will fund an extra 39,000 places by 2023 – an increase of about 6 per cent – as the recession prompts more school leavers to stay on in education (and avoid taking a gap year), but will compensate for this by cutting the amount of its funding per student. 

 According to calculations by Professor David Peetz, of Griffith University (whose former job as a senior federal bureaucrat helps him find where the bodies are buried), the government will cut its funding by an annual $1883 per student, with the average increase in tuition fees of $675 per student reducing the net loss to universities to $1208 per student. (The fee changes won't apply to existing students, however.).... 

Professor Ian Jacobs, boss of UNSW, who points to the perverse incentives the changes will create (assuming the Senate is mad enough to pass them). Unis will be tempted to offer most places in those courses with the widest gap between the high government-set tuition fee and the cost of running the course. They'll be pushing BAs harder than ever. 

This, of course, is exactly the way you'd expect the vice-chancellors to behave when you've taken government-owned and regulated agencies, spent 30 years pursuing a bipartisan policy of cutting their federal funding (from 86 per cent to 28 per cent of total receipts, in the case of Sydney University) and pretending they've been privatised.


Friday, 29 May 2020

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Will Scotty From Marketing's pet National COVID-19 Coordination Commission recommend lifting the Coal Seam Gas Moratorium in place across the NSW Northern Rivers region?


"Nev Power: The Prime Minister 'rang me ... and said your country needs you.' "  [Financial Review, 3 April 2020]


On 20 March 2020 Australian Prime Minister & Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison created the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) to “ coordinate advice to the Australian Government on actions to anticipate and mitigate the economic and social impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic” and “advise the Prime Minister on all non-health aspects of the pandemic response”.

This is a list of NCCC commission members and key staff for the period 23 March to 22 September 2020 with remuneration for their services where known:

Chairman
Neville Power, Deputy Chairman of Strike Energy Ltd an oil and gas exploration company – remuneration by PM&C contract $294,079.50. Power has announced he is temporarily stepping aside from his position at Strike Energy to avoid perceptions of conflict of interest. However, he appears to be retaining 12,612,885 fully paid Strike Energy shares (worth in the vicinity of $2.4 milllion) & options on 6 million more held by his own Myube discretionary investment trust.

Deputy Chairman
David Thodey, Chairman CSIRO – paid expenses only

Commissioners
Greg Combet, consultant, Chairman of IFM Investors and Industry Super Australia - remuneration by PM&C contract $118,800
Jane Halton, board member ANZ, Clayton Utz, Crown Resorts, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, US Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation and
chairman of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, COTA, Crown Sydney and Vault Systems - remuneration by PM&C contract $118,800
Paul Little, property developer, Chairman and Founder of the Little Group, Chairman of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation and Skalata Ventures - remuneration by PM&C contract $108,000 for 2 days per week
Catherine Tanna, Managing Director of EnergyAustralia, board member Reserve Bank of Australia and Business Council of Australia – remuneration by PM&C contract $54,000 for 1 day per week

Key Staff
Peter Harris, public policy adviser, CEO of NCCC – remuneration N/K
Executive Assistant to Chairman NCCC – remuneration by PM&C contract $73,000 paid into the same Myube discretionary investment trust as the remuneration received by NCCC Chairman.

Advisors
Andrew N. Liveris, special advisor to NCCC, board member IBM, Worley Parsons, Saudi Aramco, on advisory board of Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and NEOM, controversial former Chairman & CEO of Dow Chemical and Trump supporter– remuneration N/K

For the more than $885,479 in taxpayer dollars spent on this commission over a six month period, Australia gets a website of sorts pmc.gov.au/nccc along with a Twitter account NCCCgovau and, what is shaping up to be a lack of transparency and accountability concerning advice this commission gives behind closed doors to government.

According to The Guardian on 21 May 2020:

A leaked draft report by a manufacturing taskforce advising the National Covid-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) recommends the Morrison government make sweeping changes to “create the market” for gas and build fossil fuel infrastructure that would operate for decades.

Its vision includes Canberra underwriting an increased national gas supply, government agencies partnering with companies to accelerate development of new fields such as the Northern Territory’s vast Beetaloo Basin, and states introducing subsidy schemes for gas-fired power plants.

It says the federal government should help develop gas pipelines between eastern states and the north, and potentially a $6bn trans-Australian pipeline between the east and west, by either taking an equity position, minority share or underwriting investments.

The taskforce, headed by….Saudi Aramco board member Andrew Liveris, positions lower-cost gas as the answer to building a transformed manufacturing sector that it says could support at least 85,000 direct jobs, and hundreds of thousands more indirectly.

But it does not consider alternatives to gas, or what happens if greenhouse gas emissions are cut as promised under the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Gas is usually described as having half the emissions of coal when burned, though recent studies have suggested it could be more.

The Liveris report does not mention climate change, Australia’s emissions reduction targets or the financial risk, flagged by institutions in Australia and overseas, of investing in fossil fuel as emissions are cut.

While several assessments have found renewable energy backed by storage is now the cheapest option for new electricity generation, the report says gas is “key to driving down electricity cost and improving investment in globally competitive advanced industry”.

Its focus is consistent with the NCCC chairman, Nev Power, a former Fortescue Metals chief and current board member at gas company Strike Energy, who has said in interviews that cheap gas would be critical to Australia’s future. Gas has been strongly backed by the prime minister, Scott Morrison, and the energy and emissions reduction minister, Angus Taylor, who has argued for a gas-fired recovery from the pandemic.

According to Friends of the Earth Australia the leaked document also suggests lifting the coal seam gas moratorium in New South Wales, which is an issue I’m sure the Northern Rivers region will be keeping a close eye on. 

UPDATE 

The Guardian, 5 June 2020: 

Officials from Scott Morrison’s department are refusing to release conflict of interest disclosures from members of the National Covid-19 Coordination Commission so they can be scrutinised by the public because the declarations are provided “in confidence”. 

The departmental pushback has come in responses to questions on-notice from the Senate committee examining the government’s response to the pandemic. 

Controversy has been escalating about the potential for conflicts of interest among the commissioners handpicked by the prime minister to provide advice at the height of the coronavirus crisis. 

The high-powered coordination commission, headed by the former Fortescue Metals chief Nev Power, has a broad remit, advising the government on all non-health aspects of its pandemic response. 

But concerns have been raised about the lack of transparency of the group’s deliberations, and the absence of a conventional governance framework for a taxpayer-funded enterprise. 

The NCCC has a budget of more than $5m.... 

The Guardian, 3 May 2020:

When the Daily Telegraph reported last week that a fertiliser plant in Narrabri being advanced by a West Australian businessman had topped the list of the projects being promoted by the National Covid Coordination Commission, there was some surprise. 

Vikas Rambal and Perdaman Chemicals and Fertilisers are not exactly household names, and the controversial Narrabri coal seam gas project – which would provide the cheap gas that the fertiliser project depends on – is yet to be approved by the New South Wales government.... 

Rambal has not yet sought planning approval of the $1.9bn project and the only tangible signs are press releases promising 700 jobs and a non-binding agreement with the coal seam gas project’s owner, Santos..... 

The Daily Telegraph, 24 April 2020:

Mr Rambal’s plant would create up to 800 jobs during construction and 70 to 80 permanent­ roles in Narrabri, supplying farmers in a 300km radius. “It’s a huge project,”  Mr Rambal, who is also advancing a $4.5 billion fertiliser plant in WA, told The Daily Telegraph. 

He said Mr Power’s Commission could help by picking up the phone to politicians to remove roadblocks and speed up approvals. 

Mr Taylor said making more fertiliser was a “cracking opportunity” for Australia and would help achieve the government’s goal of growing agriculture to a $100 billion-a-year industry by 2030. 

He said he was focused on making more gas available. 

“I like to think of the other side of COVID-19 as being a gas-fired recovery,” Mr Taylor said. 

“We want to see the NSW government get on with (the approvals process for the Santos project).”  In January, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she wanted a final decision on the proposal by June 30. 

That now looks unlikely. The Independent Planning Commission is yet to receive a referral from the NSW Department of Planning. The IPC will take 12 weeks to make its ruling. 

It is unclear if the COVID-19 Commission is now attempting to hurry up the Department­ of Planning.....