It was utter bunkum; but typical self-delusion by those ideological crusaders determined to do whatever it takes ‘to save the planet’ – at whatever the cost. ‘Climate change is now a more pressing matter for NSW voters than hospitals, schools and public transport’ asserted the green-left Sydney Morning Herald in the run-up to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s outstanding victory. And to reinforce the message against carbon emissions, it added that among the top environment concerns was coal. Other media within this inner-city bubble of group-think unreality included SBS which warned pre-election that ‘Climate change will be a vote changer’, while the ABC inevitably listed environment on top, claiming that ‘Voters in dozens of seats appear to be signalling to parties that without a clear plan to address climate change they will be punished at the polling booth’.
But climate change played no role in determining the outcome. The Greens, the Coalition and Labor all of which had climate policies that, to differing degrees, imposed heavy cost burdens on the economy and energy consumers involving job losses in industry, all lost some ground. The Coalition, especially the Nationals, should heed the lesson that the only big election winners were the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party that won three lower house seats despite the New Zealand gun massacre news. And, contrary to the warnings from the left media, the SFF election policy took strong objection to the major parties’ anti-emissions rhetoric. ‘Environment laws should not be aimed at appeasing minority city-based extreme green viewpoints… Affordable and reliable energy is the key to success… Government should not divert large sums of public money into intermittent energy sources; with the increasing saturation of renewable energy comes greater risks to energy reliability that is best provided by large coal-fired generators. We believe that it is logical to construct two new baseload High Efficiency Low Emission (HELE) coal-fired power stations in the Hunter Valley’. If the Nationals were unhappy before the election with the Liberals’ ‘Labor-lite’ emissions limitation policies (the NSW Liberal target is zero net emissions by 2050 as against Labor’s 100 per cent by then and 50 per cent by 2030) it is unlikely they will wear them after losing seats to the SFF. And the federal Nationals have every reason to be worried about the threat to their regional seats of the SFF energy policy. The outcome of the coming federal election may depend on whether the Nats’ concerns and pressure for reliable affordable energy (including coal) will have a greater impact on Morrison than the fears of Josh Frydenberg that Kooyong could turn into another climate-dominated Wentworth unless due obeisance is made to the emissions gods. And, unlike the USA, that the government will stick with the Paris Agreement targets, despite their having inconsequential effects on the world’s greenhouse gasses.
But despite the clear evidence that the only impact of emissions policy in last weekend’s NSW election was a positive one for the SFF, Morrison is reluctant to embrace HELE coal-fired generation that, contrary to anti-coal propaganda, is booming overseas. According to the authoritative S&P Platts report, China is adding 1,171 coal-fired power stations to its existing 2,363, Japan is adding 45 to its 90, South Korea another 26 to its 58, the Philippines 60 to its 19, India 446 more to its 589, South Africa 24 to its 79, Turkey 93 to its 56 and even the EU (with some prominent anti-emissions members), is adding 27 to its 468. Most will be potential customers for Australian coal, which is already our major export. But the sovereign risk of potentially antagonistic political decisions means that despite their economic viability overseas, there has been no investment in even one HELE generator here. So Australian energy gets increasingly expensive and unreliable to the benefit of our overseas competitors.
Berejiklian promised after last weekend’s impressive victory to help Morrison in May’s federal election. Her greatest contribution would be for her government to shut-up about climate change – and ensure that cabinet members like her factional friend Energy Minister Don Harwin, cease publicly undermining federal Liberal colleagues on emissions policy. Energy in NSW might be a more appropriate portfolio for a Nat.