There is real concern at the revolving door of federal politics. The people in Canberra are not up to it – morally or intellectually. But has it occurred to you that there may be nothing there at all?
Do you know that we have a federal Minister for Energy? The federal Constitution says nothing about energy – but that doesn’t stop the Commonwealth having a ministry. How does the Minister see his function? To keep down prices.
There will be no ideology in what I do. My goal, the goal of my department and the goal of the electricity sector, must be simple and unambiguous – get prices down while keeping the lights on.
Well, the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia may not have the power to make laws about energy, but as a minister advising Her Majesty the Queen of Australia, the Minister believes that he can do something to keep prices down. What can he do? And what can he decently do as a member of a government that likes to call itself conservative, and to believe in the invisible hand of the free market?
If electricity is supplied by corporations, won’t their directors be managing their business to return profits to shareholders (including super funds), and might not this obvious fact of life lead them to increase rather than lower the price of their product? In truth, asking a minister of this government to do anything sane about the environment or energy is like asking the Grand Chief Wizard of the Lodge to conduct Mass.
The National Party claims to represent farmers. Desperate drought affected farmers have now joined with a conservation group to put on an ad:
We need to stick to the Paris agreement, we need to stop burning coal and we need to commit to more renewable energy.
Each of those propositions is anathema to those in power federally.
Well, the Commonwealth has power to make laws about corporations. It has legislated about them – at mind-crippling length. It has also appointed a body to enforce those laws. The scandalous ineptitude of that body is just one of the unsettling revelations of the Royal Commission that this government was so keen to avoid.
You get the impression that some members of the government think that the buck stops with the regulator. That is wrong. The government cannot shed its responsibility for enforcing its laws by appointing a regulator any more than a board of directors can do so by appointing a CEO. This government remains responsible for its failure to enforce its own laws.
The Treasurer appears to favour giving the regulator power to order a corporation to pay compensation ‘within a set timeframe, thus avoiding ASIC needing to take legal action.’ On its face, that looks like giving the executive of the government the power to deprive people of their property without intervention by the judiciary – that is to say, without due process. That will be an interesting exercise – especially for a government claiming the character referred to above. But whatever else is involved, we will get masses of regulation – and highly remunerative work for lawyers, accountants, and other advisers.
What then is the major aim of the Treasurer?
The big focus for me is going to be on the productivity agenda and…cutting regulation.
If you put all this with the blooper below, it is hard to imagine any body of people more completely losing their way. Is there anyone home at all?
Brown is a fourth-generation grazier whose family property has been affected by drought.
In the clip, she calls for ‘politicians to stop dancing around the issue and help us to do something about this’.
‘We need to stick to the Paris agreement, we need to stop burning coal and we need to commit to more renewable energy,’ she says.
The campaign comes after the prime minister, Scott Morrison, described the drought as his highest priority but said the conversation about the connection between drought and climate change should be ‘left to another day.’
The Guardian, 16 September, 2018
This might remind you of the standard response of Donald Trump or the NRL to the latest mass murder in the U S. ‘This is not the time to talk about the answer to the problem – our rotten gun laws. In the meantime’ – as David Rowe remarked some time ago in the AFR –‘take a few boxes of thoughts and prayers – on the house.’