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Tuesday, 3 June 2008
Page: 4341

Dr JENSEN (7:23 PM) —It is interesting that Labor, during the election campaign, had lots of talk about plans for the future, but the reality, as delivered by the budget, shows a lack of vision and a lack of strategic planning or coherent direction. Before the election, the then Leader of the Opposition kept telling us that he had a plan for this and he had a plan for that. In reality, his only plan was to become Prime Minister.

Let us have a look at some of the issues that have a lot of unintended consequences—for instance, the removal of the condensate exemption, which will result in a net gain of revenue of $2.43 billion but will significantly damage the international competitiveness of the resources industry. The government have also decided to reintroduce the CPI increase on the diesel excise levy. Obviously, this will result in increased costs of transport, and this is inflationary. Increased costs to mining also reduce productivity, and hence the tax take. And increased costs to agriculture are inflationary and threaten farmers’ livelihoods.

There is the so-called alcopops tax—increasing the tax on alcopops, theoretically to reduce binge drinking. But binge drinking has actually reduced over the last five or so years with the target audience of young women, and projections by Treasury show a four per cent reduction in the consumption of ready-to-drinks compared with before the increased tax. HBF’s Western Australian data show that ready-to-drinks comprise only three per cent of what 18- to 21-year-olds are drinking, compared with 51 per cent for spirits. Those over 30 consume ready-to-drinks at greater percentages than those in the 18 to 21 group. This shows that Labor are completely illiterate regarding statistics—and perhaps that is why they have cut the ABS budget. Of importance is reducing the overall alcohol consumption in binge-drinking situations, not just ready-to-drinks, where substitution of other forms of alcohol is already happening. In summary, looking at a massive tax increase on ready-to-drinks is supposed to decrease use of a product that only three per cent of the target group use, and that reduction is only by four per cent. This is two-thirds of stuff-all, I would suggest.

Then there is the area of science, a discipline that is critical to Australia’s advancement. Scientific research is vital in the development of solutions to many problems, as well as pure research. So what do the Labor government do? They cut CSIRO’s budget so significantly that CSIRO will shed 100 jobs and four divisions. What a travesty! What hypocrisy! And that is before we even get to cuts to ANSTO—probably purely based on political antinuclear ideology. The government have also slashed the Commercial Ready program, which, in the past, funded clinical trials for cancer treatments and the high-risk biotech sector. So much for R&D! On 1 November 2000 and in February 2007, the current Prime Minister extolled the virtue of research and development, especially in universities, and feigned outrage at the policies of the coalition. This man has now slashed CSIRO funding. Fine words; black deeds.

Then, worst of all, in the areas of energy and the environment the government are shown to be clueless hypocrites. We had Peter Garrett decrying the coalition government’s environment policy when in opposition. On an almost weekly basis he complained about our policy for solar power generation, stating that we had been world leaders in solar technology, particularly photovoltaics, but were no longer so. Now Labor are in government, and it is instructive to compare rhetoric with action. Far from delivering a policy to enhance the photovoltaic industry, the Rudd Labor government have introduced a policy that is likely to kill the entire industry in Australia. The Rudd government have introduced a budget measure that will dissuade essentially the only people who will be able to afford solar panels on the roof—those earning over $100,000—from doing so by cutting the solar rebate. That is grubby Labor politics of envy winning out over good policy, I would suggest.

Look at Labor rhetoric on carbon dioxide emissions and contrast that with their actions. State Labor governments in New South Wales and Western Australia have decided to build new coal-fired power stations. What happened to gas, never mind renewables or—God forbid, in the eyes of some Labor and particularly Greens members—nuclear power? This seems to be a pattern: a lot of whingeing about problems when in opposition but nary a solution when in government. Labor’s spin puts youths with hotted-up cars doing burnouts to shame. We have news, however, of a new baseload gas-fired power station in New South Wales which effectively puts the carbon cost at two cents per kilowatt hour for coal-fired power stations. This will make electricity far more expensive and make nuclear power extremely cost-competitive. Think what this carbon price will do to petrol prices.

The Labor Party, the party that promised in an election campaign to put maximum downward pressure on petrol prices, will be slugging hard-pressed motorists with far higher petrol prices. We put downward pressure on petrol prices. Indeed, the proportion of tax take from fuel has gone down from 6.6 per cent to 4.8 per cent in the last six years. That is real downward pressure. Perhaps the media and others have misunderstood the Labor catchphrase. Perhaps when Labor were saying ‘working families’ they were actually saying ‘walking families’ to prepare Australia for this very crisis. This will no doubt be explained away as a measure to solve another crisis that Labor will no doubt bring forward when they are next under pressure: the obesity epidemic. Not being able to afford petrol will clearly assist in that regard—irony intended.

An opposition that promised a long-term plan for the future has mutated into a government scrambling desperately for ideas, throwing up short-sighted, ill thought out policy that exacerbates the very problems that Labor promised to solve. Where is the long-term coherent policy and strategy? It is nowhere to be seen in this budget. There are just a whole lot of punitive measures, slush funds and inevitable spin. It just will not wash.

Let us have a look at the future and what we can do. In going around my electorate of Tangney, I have heard people express concern that they see no light at the end of the tunnel regarding petrol. Not only do they worry about increasing fuel prices; they worry that there will not be any fuel at all for their vehicles. What is the government doing? These are issues of sovereign risk and sovereign energy security, which are clearly critical for our long-term future. What the government is doing is nothing more than attempting to wallpaper over gaping cracks in its policies.

I have already spoken at length of the necessity to consider nuclear energy, so I will not dwell on it. I would just urge the government to fully and critically examine and analyse all potential electricity generation methods. We need a comprehensive national energy strategy. This is something that is clearly not on the cards with this government.

But what about petrol and other oil based products? It may shock you to learn that there is an essentially Third World nation that obtains fully one-third of its fuel synthetically and has done so for 50 years. The country is the nation of my birth, South Africa, and the process is Sasol. Rugby Union fans would probably have wondered what ‘Sasol’ across the Springboks jumper meant. You are about to find out.

Sasol is an oil-from-coal process that uses the Fischer-Tropsch process, developed prior to World War II. Germany produced synthetic fuel during the war using this process. It was further developed in South Africa, and Sasol fuels began to be sold 50 years ago. This process was largely ignored in the rest of the world due to the expense of the process, but from South Africa’s perspective in the apartheid days it was essential from an energy security point of view. A benefit of the fuel is that it is extremely clean. Just as synthetic engine oil has virtually no impurities, the same holds for synthetic petrol. The really good news is that the fuel that was ignored due to costs is now remarkably cheap. The Sasol process produces oil for between $27 and $55 a barrel. Somehow I do not think we will have oil prices quite that low again. The United States is showing significant interest in the process, as are many other nations. Where are we?

The green disciples of anthropogenic global warming will oppose this process, as it is relatively carbon dioxide intensive. But let us take the time to examine some of the pseudoscience on which this whole anthropogenic global warming belief is based. Let us also examine how these disciples act and how they are reported. First, I find some of the commentary coming from some of the anthropogenic global warming zealots extremely perplexing. We hear that the rate of increase of global temperature is faster than the science predicted. But what is actually happening?

I have three graphs: one from the third IPCC assessment report and two from the fourth assessment report. All of the projections show an increase from the year 2000, even if the graph for carbon dioxide is held constant at year 2000 levels. I repeat: all the projections show an increase over the last decade. But what do actual measurements show? I have many charts showing the global temperature as measured by four groups, including the Hadley centre, whose data is officially used by the IPCC. This data shows that the temperature has flatlined over the last 10 years. Observation does not fit theory and yet the theory is deemed correct.

A classic example of rejecting facts which do not fit the theory is the temperature graph over the last 1,000 years and the use of tree ring and tree density data as a proxy for temperature. There is a well-known problem when comparing tree ring and density data with temperature data over the last 140 years. Between 1860 and 1960, the data agreed reasonably well. After 1960, there is a divergence. The tree ring and density data indicate that temperatures have decreased, where measurements have actually indicated an increase. If you look at the IPCC graphs, the tree proxy data ends abruptly at—you guessed it—1960.

Keith Briffa, a lead author of the IPCC, in the chapter relating to tree proxy data had this to say of the divergence problem:

In the absence of a substantiated explanation for the decline, we make the assumption that it is likely to be a response to some kind of recent anthropogenic forcing. On the basis of this assumption, the pre-twentieth century part of the reconstructions can be considered to be free from similar events and thus accurately represent past temperature variability.

In other words, we do not know how the hell to explain the post-1960 data, so we will just blame humans and accept that all the earlier data is correct because that fits neatly with our paradigm. This is what a friend of mine refers to as ‘situating the appreciation rather than appreciating the situation’. You make the facts fit the theory when you should make the theory fit the facts.

If global temperature is not heating as predicted, maybe this elusive heat is going into the oceans. Not so. Three thousand oceanic robots that dive up to 1,000 metres have been measuring ocean temperatures since 2003 and show, if anything, a slight decrease and certainly not an increase. So where has the heat gone? IPCC coordinating lead author Kevin Trenberth has stated:

... none of the climate states in the models correspond even remotely to the current observed climate. In particular, the state of the oceans, sea ice, and soil moisture has no relationship to the observed state at any recent time in any of the IPCC models.

According to Kevin Trenberth, the lost heat is probably going back out to space. He says the earth has a number of natural thermostats, including clouds, which can trap heat, turn up the temperature or reflect sunlight and help cool the planet. So why is none of this reflected in the modelling? It is situating the appreciation again.

This whole issue of anthropogenic global warming has all the classic hallmarks of religion. There are the high priests—the Gores, the Flannerys et cetera of the world, who talk the talk but are utterly hypocritical when it comes to walking their talk. There is the concept of original sin, being industry and carbon dioxide, and the whole issue of penance or paying the price for your actions. This is the way we have to pay for the use of industry which is emitting carbon dioxide. The high priests, however, can get away with their profligate lifestyle by buying indulgences, also known as carbon credits, and so continue to sin. Hence, we have Flannery jetting here, there and everywhere and Gore, similarly, with just one of his residences—one of three, I might add—consuming 20 times as much energy as the average American household. That is how concerned he is about global warming in reality.

The media indulge the high priests, castigating the many heretics who dare to differ. Yet they let the high priests off, not scrutinising their statements as the media should. Take Flannery’s suggestion, for example, of putting sulphur into the atmosphere, using terribly polluting aircraft to disperse it. What a delicious irony! For those who know a bit of chemistry, what happens when you mix sulphur, water and oxygen? You get sulphuric acid, also known as acid rain. I guess that is the price that we need to pay for our sin. But why has the media not lampooned Flannery, who is supposed to be a global warming expert scientist of the highest order, for such a ridiculous proposal? It is political correctness of the highest and most unconscionable order.

So what we have is a more and more desperate anthropogenic global warming theory supporters club who, when the data indicates that the planet has not been heating for the last 10 years and the oceans have not heated for at least the last five, tell us that global warming is happening even more quickly than the theory predicts. After all, the models must be right, just like the bookies must always be right with predictions on match or racing results. The problem is that this religion based around the false god of a controllable and naturally benign climate is going to hurt every man, woman and child in Australia as a result of significantly higher fuel and energy prices and consequent increases in the cost of living, particularly food. Groceries and fuel and so on are going to go up significantly—estimates say by approximately 10c to 30c per litre for petrol alone. This government is clearly quite happy with that, and that is a tragedy for many Australians.