Thursday 18th of August 2022

smelling a rat's bottom...


Matt Canavan’s attempt to force the government to release the modelling on its net-zero plan was a transparent attempt to further scorn the emissions cuts he abhors.


The government’s refusal to do so, defying a Senate order, capped off another unedifying week for accountability and openness in government.

The week-long charade of the Nationals’ ham-fisted negotiations over net zero was what dominated headlines, with both Coalition parties extracting what they wanted from the drawn-out drama.


But it was some complicated parliamentary parlour games that eminent barrister and anti-corruption advocate Geoffrey Watson described as having “trashed integrity” and “a new low”.


BY Josh Butler


The government closing ranks around Christian Porter was described by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull as “gaslighting”; while two further incidents where the government refused Senate orders to produce key public interest documents piled on top of a disappointing week.


By the time this column is published, Barnaby Joyce will likely have handed the Nationals’ list of demands to Scott Morrison.

The timing ensures another whole week of will-they-or-won’t-they drama, preceding more Nationals meetings over the weekend, more party room meetings next week, and the final cabinet sign-off next Wednesday, literally hours before the PM flies to Glasgow.

It means there will almost certainly be no time for the public to substantially examine or discuss the plan before the Prime Minister announces it on the world stage.


A cynic could say, despite the bitter public drama inside the Coalition – including Senator Canavan and Bridget McKenzie warning of “ugly” consequences – both parties come out of it looking good to their constituents.

The Nationals got to stand up to their big brother, to extract some  (still to be determined) safeguards or money for the regions, and show they watered down the emissions deal.

The Liberals get to show they fought hard for a net-zero target, to reach what they’ll describe as a sensible middle between the climate deniers and the tree-hugging greenies.


And Mr Morrison gets to zip off to Scotland, basking in the glow of being the first Prime Minister to stitch up a climate deal without blowing up their government (albeit a deal that climate experts say won’t be enough).

Senator Canavan installed himself as an unlikely star player this week, constantly goading his party over net zero. His tweets became news items as he railed against the plan – in particular, echoing John Howard’s famous line on asylum seekers:

Apparently lost on Senator Canavan was the irony in saying Australians should decide on net zero, while he and just 20 of his Nationals colleagues essentially ground politics to a halt as they roadblocked progress.

Instead of respectfully putting the pistols away and negotiating calmly, and acknowledging the Nationals – with 10 per cent of seats in Parliament – had little mandate to stand in the way of a target that 80 per cent of Australians support, the junior Coalition partner hovered their fingers over the self-destruct button all week.

Instead of respecting the wishes of the 80 per cent of Australians, the Nationals made the whole week solely about their 23 members: A diverse group including a Ken, a Kevin and a Keith; a Mark, a Matt and a Michael; an Anne and an Andrew, and two Davids.

The government’s decision to reject a motion referring Mr Porter’s blind trust to Parliament’s privileges committee, in favour of asking for broader clarification on how members should disclose anonymous donations, left a bad taste in the mouths of many.

Following the government’s stalling tactic, there now may be little further opportunity to formally probe Mr Porter’s trust before the next election.

Mr Watson, a former counsel to NSW’s ICAC, called it a “black day” and claimed the government had “trashed integrity” and were “in the process of trashing Parliamentary procedure”.

But it was another Canavan tweet that set off a quietly revealing episode in the Senate on Thursday.

After claiming the Nationals hadn’t seen modelling on the net-zero target – an assertion Mr Joyce denied – Senator Canavan asked why it should be “secret”.

It led to him co-sponsoring a motion from Rex Patrick, which ordered the government’s modelling to be tabled in the Senate by Thursday morning.

Thursday morning came and went. No modelling.

A Labor motion to again compel the tabling of the documents was stymied by government delay tactics. By Thursday afternoon, Labor tried again.

It was up to government minister Zed Seselja to basically say “no”, rejecting the Senate’s request.

Instead, he blamed the “sensitivities” of the modelling being cabinet documents, and the “time frame” given to respond, for the government flat-out refusing to hand over the modelling.

But never fear! As Senator Seselja promised “a more detailed response” would be tabled by next Friday.

Coincidentally (or perhaps not), that’s the day after Mr Morrison leaves for Glasgow, and the day after the Parliament rises for the end of this sitting fortnight; again, giving little chance for public scrutiny of the plan.

Earlier in the day, the government had refused a similar request for documents from Greens senator Janet Rice, who’d asked for the infamous “top 20 marginals” list from the Urban Congestion Fund’s train station car parks program.

The government response?

“Neither I, nor my office, not the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Communications has seen any document matching the description of the order,” wrote minister Paul Fletcher.

That’s despite the Australian National Audit Office, whose audit report kicked off scrutiny of the car parks program, saying it was aware of the marginals list.

In many ways, this week was about the government running down the clock.

It ran down the clock in hopes of locking in net zero at the last moment; it ran down the clock on releasing the modelling; and it might run down the clock on scrutiny of Mr Porter’s trust.

“They’ve crossed the line,” Mr Watson claimed of the shenanigans around Mr Porter’s referral.

“You know, it’s kind of funny, every day on waking and thinking, ‘oh they’ve hit a new low’. I hope we’ve got close to the bottom.”



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The upcoming UN conference on climate change in Glasgow was supposed to show the world the triumph of the United States and the European Union as trendsetters for everything "green". Unfortunately for them, Europe faced an unprecedented energy crisis, which called into question not only the competence of officials from Brussels, but also the feasibility of the strategy to switch to green energy as soon as possible. Russia, which did not want to dive into the whirlpool of decarbonization, found itself in a more advantageous position. Nevertheless, Moscow has something to show in Glasgow on the climate agenda.

China, the United States and India altogether account for more CO2 emissions than all other countries combined. Russia accounts for less than five percent, but the anger of Western politicians and journalists, who propagate environmental slogans, is directed primarily at Russia. Such a biased attitude towards Russia is based on the laws of hybrid war: dirty propaganda should keep citizens in good shape, while raising the degree of hatred.

EU demonises Russia and wants more Russian gas

When European politicians accuse Russia of the gas crisis, their accusations fit into the anti-Russian agenda just as perfectly. Gazprom strictly fulfills all of its contracts, but this argumentation falls on deaf ears in the EU. For example, EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell saw "deep geopolitical roots" in the rise in energy prices. The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, reproached the Russian gas monopoly for "not responding to higher demand" in Europe. Her compatriot from the Green party, claiming the portfolio of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany, Annalena Baerbock, stated that Russia was "playing poker" in matters of gas supplies. She has an ironclad argument: after all, European gas storage facilities are comparatively empty.


If European bureaucrats do want to make a real mess of things in energy policy, they can go ahead and do it, albeit not at Russia's expense. After so many years of pressure of sanctions and demonisation of Russia, they still think that they are entitled to demand additional gas supplies from Gazprom. Konstantin Kosachev, the vice-speaker of the Federation Council, rightly noted that Russia would not come to the rescue of Europe just to compensate for the mistakes that Russia did not make, taking into consideration the fact that the EU threatens Russia with carbon taxes at border.

Like the United States, the European Union follows the confrontational line of behaviour in relations with Russia. This impedes not only the mutually beneficial trade, but also the joint solution of a plethora of global problems. According to Vladimir Chizhov, Russia's Ambassador to the EU, the decision of the European Union to treat Russia as a geopolitical adversary does not facilitate dialogue with Moscow. The essence of the problem lies in the wording: if one replaces the word "enemy" with "partner", one would be able to cooperate a lot better, he said.

The desire of the European Union to follow the green path faster is understandable. Europe's fossil fuels are primarily sourced from the outside, and this applies to as much as 90 percent of natural gas. The movement towards the carbon-free future is fueled by ideological reasons and ill-concealed irritation over EU's dependence on the Russian natural gas. Brussels would be happy to bid farewell to it even tomorrow, if it could be possible.

The 2021 Leaders' Climate Summit was held in April. President Vladimir Putin said during his speech at the summit that:

  • compared to 1990, greenhouse gas emissions in Russia decreased from 3.1 billion tons of CO2 equivalent to 1.6 billion;
  • that 45% of Russia's energy balance accounts for low-emission energy sources, including nuclear power;
  • a pilot project has been launched in the Sakhalin region of Russia to create a carbon trading market in order to achieve carbon neutrality in the region by 2025.

The Russian President suggested looking for ways to comprehensively address emerging climatic problems. It would be more appropriate to deal with the absorption of carbon dioxide accumulated in the atmosphere. It is worthy of note that Russia makes a huge contribution to the absorption of global emissions (both domestically and internationally), due to the absorption capacity of its ecosystems, which is estimated at 2.5 billion tons of CO2 equivalent. It was also proposed to halve the emission of methane in the next 30 years, given that the greenhouse effect of methane is ten times greater than that of CO2.

Climate issues require global approach, such as, for example, joint scientific research, investments in significant climate projects, the development of low-carbon technologies, etc.

At the end of June, Alok Sharma, chairman of the climate summit of the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-26), paid a work visit to Moscow. He called on Russia, as a member of the G20, to join "the movement to achieve zero emissions by mid-century, which is crucial for limiting temperature rise to 1.5 °C." Alok Sharma called the upcoming summit "the last hope and an excellent chance" to achieve the set goal. He recommended Russia could derive profit from switching to a cleaner and greener economy.

It is difficult to say whether the arguments expressed by the COP-26 chairman produced an impression on Moscow, but one could indeed notice considerable changes in Russia's climate policy lately. During the Russian Energy Week International Forum, President Putin said that Russia set a benchmark for the economy to reach carbon neutrality by 2060.

Russia is fully aware of climate challenges. Average annual temperatures in the Russian Federation rise 2.5 times faster than global temperatures, whereas the temperature rate in the Arctic is even higher. Russia already has to deal with negative consequences of climate change in the form of forest fires in Siberia and the melting of permafrost in areas with oil and gas infrastructure.

The Russian authorities currently develop a new strategy of the country's socio-economic development before 2050 with a low level of greenhouse gas emissions. The strategy stipulates for a slight increase in greenhouse gas emissions until 2030 (by 0.6%) and their reduction by 79% from the current level by 2050. Due to measures in forestry and agriculture, the absorbing capacity of ecosystems should increase 2.2 times.

China shows no green interest

Interestingly, Chinese President Xi Jinping refused to participate in the upcoming conference in Glasgow in November. British organisers of the forum fear that China's move may herald Beijing's refusal to set new targets on climate change amid the energy crisis.

Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman advised the governments calling for carbon neutrality should first make sure that the plans that they announced could be realistic and achievable. Wealthy countries of the Persian Gulf do not need money, but they do talk about the need for collective efforts to create technologies to reduce impact on the climate. There is no need to look for trade-offs to the benefit of energy security or climate change — they must go hand in hand. Otherwise, we all might be gone with the wind

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