Thursday, September 17, 2020

Morrison forecasts wind shift

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will today detail his plan to redirect federal renewable energy agency funding away from wind and solar to alternative low-carbon solutions. The announcement covers $1.9 billion in ongoing funding for ARENA, CEFC and the Clean Energy Regulator. The proposal, which will require parliamentary support, would allow ARENA to fund low-carbon projects in addition to renewable energy. In a statement, Morrison said many renewable energy technologies were now mature. “Solar panels and wind farms are now clearly commercially viable and have graduated from the need for government subsidies and the market has stepped up to invest,” he said. Controversial carbon capture and storage projects will access a $50 million fund, while $70.2 million has been earmarked for an export hydrogen hub. There is $74.5 million for hydrogen, electric, and bio-fuelled vehicles, $67 million for microgrid initiatives and $52.2 million for energy efficiency. 

A single fine has been issued by the disability watchdog after fielding more than 8000 complaints in two years. The National Disability Insurance Scheme Quality and Safeguards Commission reports a lone $12,000 fine was handed to Integrity Care, which was also banned, after its mistreated client Ann Marie Smith died in “appalling circumstances” in Adelaide, reports The Age. On more than 200 occasions, care providers failed to notify the watchdog of the fatality of a person with disability within five days of the death taking place. Labor NDIS spokesman Bill Shorten said the figures showed the watchdog was “simply not doing its job”. 

Victoria's chief health officer, Brett Sutton, has told an inquiry into hotel quarantine that he was unaware private security was being used in the state’s system to deal with Covid-19 until “after the outbreaks”, and that he was not involved in organising the program. He said it was unfortunate that insecure work arrangements dissuaded guards from self-isolating when sick. It comes as restrictions ease in regional Victoria, prompting the introduction of a new $4957 fine for Melburnians caught sneaking into regional areas without a lawful reason. Police have set up a “ring of steel” around the city with additional checkpoints.

A survey of international students and temporary visa holders in Australia has found the difficulty of travelling home and lack of federal government support has left them living under severe financial duress. Guardian Australia reports the survey of 6000 international students and other visa holders, undertaken by the the University of New South Wales and the University of Technology Sydney, found 70 per cent of respondents lost their job or saw most of their hours cut once the pandemic began. One in five say flights home were unavailable, 19 per cent say the borders of their country or key transit areas were closed, and a quarter couldn’t afford inflated ticket prices. As a result, 51 per cent say they now have a debt they can’t cover, 28 per cent have been unable to afford food and 14 per cent have experienced homelessness.  

The calm before the recession
Australia’s economy has taken its biggest hit since the Great Depression, but so far government stimulus measures have cushioned most people and businesses from the worst impacts. Those stimulus measures are about to dry up.


“News Corp’s newspapers currently account for two-thirds of the country’s total circulation, and if it were to take AAP’s clients, the company would further increase its market saturation. It would also open the door to supplying news for a hundred or more FM radio stations, without News Corp having to wrangle a licence from the Australian Communications and Media Authority”

“Halfway into this ocean crossing, which lasted about three weeks, we heard from the ship’s owner through satellite connection. A pandemic was sweeping the globe. Countries had gone into lockdown. Including the places we were sailing to in order to load cargoes of rum, coffee and cacao. It was not clear when and where we would be able to go ashore again.”

“I feel a little like I have fallen down a rabbit hole and joined Alice’s tea party in Wonderland. It started when I asked a long-suffering locked-down Melbourne friend if there was anything she particularly wanted me to write about. Her suggestion was a rendition of her Scottish mother’s girdle scones.”

“Australian billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes says he is ready to meet the Prime Minister's energy challenge to supply cheap dispatchable power but he does not want to do it using gas. The tech entrepreneur even put a call in to his friend, Tesla founder Elon Musk, last night for help. The two discussed a challenge laid down yesterday by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who said the energy industry would need to come up with a way to generate 1,000 megawatts of power or else the Government would pursue a gas-fired power station.”

“A Morrison government claim that new electricity generation is urgently needed to replace New South Wales’s Liddell coal plant is not backed by a taskforce report commissioned to assess the impact of its closure … The taskforce does not find that 1,000MW of additional dispatchable electricity would be needed. It listed a range of energy committed and probable projects that it found would be ‘more than sufficient’ to maintain a high level of power grid reliability as Liddell shut.”

“Coppersmith is a celebrated artist, and at 37, after four finals, she has won the Archibald. Now those features are doubled: the artist posing before the refraction of her, one ageless, monumental, the other proud and grinning. ‘Have your feet touched the ground yet?’ her friends ask her. She laughs. ‘I’m thinking, “You have no idea.” As soon as I got back [from the award in Sydney] it was a cloud-killer, because I had another painting deadline.’”

“Federal MP Barnaby Joyce has apologised after setting off community uproar in northern NSW over a joke on Facebook where he unofficially ‘opened’ a long-awaited and state government-funded bridge. Mayor of Kyogle council Danielle Mulholland – in the rural NSW northern rivers region – said she had been inundated with angry calls from constituents who thought they had missed the official opening of the Tabulam bridge.”

Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.