Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Solicitor General on Pairs

Its just as well the Solicitor General does not charge independently for his opinions more particularly when all he does is state the bleeding obvious.

It has always been the right of an elected Member to ABSTAIN from a vote deliberately or accidentally it is not allowed however to coerce an MP to not exercise their vote and only Labor Party rules apply sanctions upon any of their members who" cross the floor" In my 30yrs my only recollection of that happening in the Labor Party was when Graeme Campbell did so (coincidentally) to oppose the introduction of a tax on Gold Miners.

I doubt however that there are any Coalition MPs who would volunteer to abstain and on the type of issues involved I would advise members new and old against being the "patsy " who is recorded in Hansard as virtually supporting a view CONTRARY to their conscience or the stated position of the Party Room and above all the views of their Electorate.

Tony Abbott and his leadership team should eschew any ideas of providing Pairs to anyone at any time. The Members of his Party were elected to vote accordingly along Policy lines and none should be denied the right to do so.

Wilson Tuckey

Combet on broken carbon tax promise

Greg Combet interview with Kerry O`Brien on Gillard's broken election promise to not  introduce a Carbon Tax reminded me of Paul Keating's LAW broken election promise. Tony Abbott should now introduce some LAW to the Parliament banning such a tax making it clear he will attend any Divisions involved.

This initiative will test Gillard and the Independents both in the debate and the vote. In particular to match their rhetoric with actual evidence as to the ECONOMIC  and ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS of such a measure.

Abbott might also include in his motion a preliminary prohibition on the use of such words as" National Interest" and the Speaker, by the use of the existing powers might require all speakers to address  the substance of the Bill by providing evidence not opinions from various self appointed experts whose utterances are equally bereft of hard facts.

Whilst a Gillard promise has a 24hr USE BY DATE she might just be prepared to provide a guaranteed  figure as to the reduction in CO2 emissions per 1% of tax imposed excluding of course those emissions that are exported to other countries.

During the election campaign I constantly raised the example of Julia "RELUCTANTLY" breaking the promises she never intended to keep to accommodate the Greens however as is typical in his Labor interviews O'Brien avoided the killer question to Combet which was  Considering the Greens had nowhere else to go on the Carbon tax issue and would NEVER support a Liberal minority Govt why was their any need to break this solemn promise?

Wilson Tuckey

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Kloppers should try his theories in South Africa

Should Marius Kloppers believe so strongly in a carbon tax he might return to his native South Africa to convince that country of the merits of them leading the world.

Considering South Africa formed part of the group who scuttled the Copenhagen conference, I don't like his chances.

He might also enlighten us on the status of his citizenship including any joint status.

It should further not be lost on the community that when Rudd lost the revenue of an ETS he immediately turned to a mining tax and it requires little analysis to establish were Kloppers priority lie when choosing between the two.

As I have previously stated any form of tax response to carbon emissions, is a Pay to Pollute scheme and from his words, Kloppers is quite willing to pass that cost on to consumers even at the lowest social level. 

Whilst he may be highly skilled in managing an international mining conglomerate he seems to have no understanding of the principle of discretionary spending.

 To the extent that the price of electricity to rise, it is in direct relationship to the continuation of the emissions of carbon.

The electricity generation sector knows full well that consumers will continue to buy their product and are quite willing to pay the tax and pass the cost onwards howsoever many times that might be.

Certain energy sensitive industries such as aluminium will of course just move off shore to where for whatever reason they can  continue in business.

In China and Korea however, they will be able to purchase hydro and tidal energy transmitted by highly efficient HVDC transmission systems already installed or nearing completion at competitive prices.  Australia could already be constructing the necessary highly efficient HVDC network to interconnect our large scale tidal and remote area solar and geothermal renewables to our areas of high consumption as similar cost to the Pink Batts fiasco.

During the election campaign, I drew to the attention of our leadership as to how at low cost to Government the 20% renewable target could be achieved. 

The precedent was provided by the late Sir Charles Court as Premier of WA when he negotiated take or pay contract to buy natural gas from the Woodside discovery which was going nowhere for want of a customer.  Charlie purchased much more gas than WA could use at the time and was criticised by the economic intelligentsia for his initiative.

The simple solution to achieve the 20% target is to call an international tender to supply the Australian Government with approximately 60 gwhs with approximately of electricity per annum from genuine renewable resources and for delivery during nominated periods.  In other words unlike the wind generation sector, the successful tenderer would not be paid to produce energy at times when it was not required.

The Australian Government would then wholesale this energy to the network at whatever price it decided.

The successful tenderer would be responsible for both generation and transmission to the established networks.

Obviously the Government would reserve the right to reject all tenders but offer a compensation package to those on a short list.

This process offers one of two results; firstly a supply of renewable energy to meet Australia's future international responsibilities or will provide the clear evidence to the Australian people of the true cost of this initiative.

Having studied the costing of the recently commissioned Xiangjiaba-Shanghia 2,000 km HVDC line, which loses only 7% of the power generated in  the trip, and the South Korean Sihwa tidal generation station, the capital cost of which is approximately half that of an equivalent coal fired station, I am confident that renewable energy prices can be competitive and like Charlie Court's initiative  will provide increased benefits as time goes by.

As history has proven Governments have only one solution to a problem which is to put a tax on it but I know of no area where such a response has corrected the problem.

The irony being that when a tax is applied to reduce consumption the subsequent budget shows the full value of the tax as revenue, proving that there will be no reduction in consumption.  The situation reaches high farce when one considers the Rudd ETS which was targeted to reduce consumption through higher cost but included compensation payments to offset the charge.

The NBN and Parliamentary Practice

The National Broadband issue highlights the role for the Abbott Coalition and the self imposed responsibility of the Independents.  The Independents must now take responsibility for every decision made in the Parliament and the Coalition must ensure they are all in the Parliament and vote on every issue.

I was surprised to read in the agreement related to the functioning of the Parliament, a recurring reference to Pairs, particularly for Independents.  Pairing is a system by which the Opposition agrees to exempt one of its Members from voting in Divisions so as to allow a Member of the Government to be absent from the Parliament, presumably on Government business.  The argument put forward by Oakshott that some MPs of a differing view to himself should be denied the right to vote, for which he or she was elected, reaches high farce.  The Speaker, by accepting the position automatically exempts themselves from voting and to maintain an aura of independence, should eschew the casting vote.

The Coalition is quite correct to abandon this agreement as it was obtained under duress and the evidence is now clear as to what Oakshott had in mind, which has little to do with fair play.

In the circumstances of a hung Parliament, there should be no Pairs  and more particularly none for Independent MPs who have ample non sitting weeks to attend to their electorate responsibilities.  This responsibility will engender a significant change to their past practice, where they treated voting as a matter of choice and were frequently absent from the Parliament for all or part of Sitting Days.

There is also no need to give the Government Pairs, even though this might restrict Kevin Rudd's overseas travel.  He and other Ministers must simply adjust their travel arrangements to coincide with non sitting weeks or send a Public Servant, who would do most of the work even were they present.

Tony Abbott should attend all Divisions thus requiring the PM to do likewise.

In the environment of a hung Parliament, the Coalition, as the Party with the most elected Members, has an obligation and a right to use the Parliament in the public interest.  Practically there is now no such thing as a Private Members Bill.  Such legislation is the right of the MP who can attract a majority of the votes (i.e. 76) to approve that the Bill proceed through debate and divisions.  If the Standing Orders prevent this process, the Parliament has the power to change them and/or suspend them.  The test for the Independents is will they vote for such a process or the past process of Executive Rule?  Furthermore will they support a Government motion to gag or limit debate on any issue? 

I intend to further analyse the so called agreement  on Parliamentary Practice in a later blog as it is full of rhetoric but deficient on the issues that matter to achieve change.

All the above leads me however to the NBN as utilising the available powers of the Parliament, the Coalition can, as the primary measure guarantee the operation and intent of this proposed Government monopoly be fully transparent.

For starters by requiring this business entity be subject to the full reporting requirements of corporate law and/or the Auditor General, both in terms of prudential and efficiency audit and that its costs, revenue and borrowings be shown in the Budget.

The CEO could be ordered to the Bar of the House or a special reference be given to the Public Accounts Committee to analyse the yet to be produced business plan.

This latter proposal raised the issue of the membership of Standing Committees and the references they receive.

The present process mandates a membership of 10, being 6 members from the Government and 4 from the Opposition with the Chairman being a Government MP and the Deputy Chair from the Opposition.

Clearly in the present circumstances such a structure does not represent the will of the people and should be changed.

Questions that might arise and issues to be pursued might include - the beyond the front gate costs for installation.  The Institute of Electrical Contractors suggest adequate wiring within a home as high as $3,000.  In the case of rural property, this figure can pale into insignificance by comparison.  My own experience under a Government owned monopoly Telecom was that to run a pair of copper wires up to a typical farming residence inside the property was of the order of $6,000 to $10,000 in 1980s dollars, yet Conroy boasts that as the copper network is to be closed presumably all rural properties will have to be rewired irrespective of the choice of the property owner.  The rural Independents have been silent on this matter.

Constant reference has been made by Labor of the beneficial effect on pricing of the service arising from the competition between service providers but does this suggest some of them will be able to purchase this monopoly carriage component at lower prices than others.

My recollection of the Government monopoly was also the frequent industrial action and the consequent failure of even a simple telephone service.  Will the individual service providers be able to do separate deals with the Unions to get their clients service reinstated?  I doubt it.

I could go on but here in is the penultimate question to Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and the Independents; Why, considering that all Australian telecos operate under a government license and by even a casual study of their balance sheets they make considerable profits from that privilege, is there a need for a tax payer funded investment in communications infrastructure when the power resides within the Parliament to set the standard of service at any level it desires?  To the best of my knowledge the common old telephone service  is subject to a universal service obligation (USO) conditions.   Were one to apply for a liquor licence the licence so issued will be subject to a  series of conditions related to customer service. 

If therefore it is the view of the Parliament that the Australian people are entitled to a high speed broadband service at whatever level, then why not make that a condition of licence to all providers and let them get on with it and charge up front for that level of service and under a true competitive environment from start to finish?

If Telstra has an infrastructure advantage and it is cheaper to construct your own ,well do it.   If that is not  the case, just what are you winging about?