Sunday, June 09, 2019

Dirty Rotten Climate Scandals

Tony Thomas writes from Australia:

Shakespeare’s monster, Caliban, dreamed of clouds opening to  show riches ready to drop upon him. Climate scientists don’t have to dream about it – honors, awards and cash prizes rain down in torrents. Other scientists try to help humanity, but while climate scientists may kid themselves and others that they share that goal, their practical intent is to raise energy costs and harm nations’ energy efficiency via renewables. While they posture as planet-savers in white coats, some of them pocket awards of half-million dollars, even a million, and notch up more career-enhancing medals than a North Korean general.

A couple of local prizes are the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science ($A250,000) for ex-President of the Australian Academy of Science Kurt Lambeck last October, and in January UNSW Professor John Church pocketed a $A320,000 half-share of the 400,000 Euro BBVA Prize.

Both have done science work of international repute and their reputations in their specialist fields are deservedly high. However, Lambeck is a long-standing smiter of “deniers” and Church propagates via the ABC such lurid scenarios as  this: “… if the world’s carbon emissions continue unmitigated, a threshold will be crossed which will lead to the complete melting of the Greenland ice sheet. This, with melts from glaciers and ice in Antarctica will lead to a sea level rise in the order of seven metres.”

There are many mickey-mouse awards in Australia for climate science and I’d be amazed if any post-doc climate person hasn’t won a gong. It’s particularly obnoxious that even schoolkids are incited to compete for climate awards by regurgitating climate doomism.

On the global stage, my tally of warmist cash awards to US climate doomsayer Paul R. Ehrlich is about $US2.6 million. For the climate scare’s originator, ex-NASA scaremonger James Hansen, about $US2 million. These rewards are not for getting anything right – their doom deadlines have proven to be utter tripe.

If you’re a climate scientist you can blot your copybook horribly but the prizes keep coming. You might not have heard of California’s Dr Peter H. Gleick, but read on. He’s been creaming it with prizes lately, $US100,000 from Israel’s Boris Mints Institute in April for the “Strategic Global Challenge of Fresh Water” and the Carl Sagan Prize last year for “researchers who have contributed mightily to the public understanding and appreciation of science.”  He’s scored more than 30 honors and awards all-up including a $US500,000 MacArthur “Genius” award for 2003.

Nice work, Gleick, but you’re the same man who in 2012 raided e-documents from the minor sceptic thinktank Heartland Institute.  Its CEO Joe Bast said that Gleick “impersonated a board member of the Heartland Institute, stole his identity by creating a fake email address, and proceeded to use that fake email address to steal documents that were prepared for a board meeting. He read those documents, concluded that there was no smoking gun in them, and then forged a two-page memo.” Gleick denied forging the document. The forgery, among other fabrications, showed Heartland receiving  $US200,000 from the Koch brothers’ Foundation, when the reality was a mere $US25,000, and even that sum was actually for a health-care study.

Gleick confessed he committed the thefts because he believed Heartland was preventing a “rational debate” on global warming, even though he had refused a Heartland invitation to a fee-paid after-dinner debate shortly before he stole the documents.  Gleick said

“in a serious lapse of my own professional judgment and ethics, I solicited and received … materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else’s name…I forwarded, anonymously, the documents I had received to a set of journalists and experts working on climate issues…My judgment was blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts — often anonymous, well-funded, and coordinated — to attack climate science and scientists .., and by the lack of transparency of the organizations involved. Nevertheless I deeply regret my own actions in this case. I offer my personal apologies to all those affected.”

As for Heartland being “well-funded”, its budget that year was $US4.4 million, of which maybe a third went on climate work, funding one conference, a blog and half a dozen climate reports. That compares with, say, WWF’s current budget in the US of $US230 million (Heartland’s, $US6 million), or the Australian Conservation Foundation’s current $A14 million.

The ironies about the much-honored Gleick didn’t stop there.  In 2011 he was founding chairman of a science ethics committee of the 60,000-member American Geophysical Union (AGU) and he immediately resigned membership when outed by Heartland. AGU president Mike McPhaden issued a toe-curling statement. The global community of earth and space scientists, he said, had

witnessed the shocking fall from grace of an accomplished AGU member who betrayed the principles of scientific integrity. In doing so he compromised AGU’s credibility as a scientific society, weakened the public’s trust in scientists, and produced fresh fuel for the unproductive and seemingly endless ideological firestorm surrounding the reality of the Earth’s changing climate.

 His transgression … is a tragedy that requires us to stop and reflect on what we value as scientists and how we want to be perceived by the public… It is the responsibility of every scientist to safeguard that trust.

This has been one of the most trying times for me as president of AGU… How different it is than celebrating the news of a new discovery … These rare and sad occasions remind us that our actions reverberate through a global scientific community and that we must remain committed as individuals and as a society to the highest standards of scientific integrity in the pursuit of our goals.

Within three weeks of Gleick’s confession, I kid you not, water tech company Xylem awarded him a “Water Hero” award. Thereafter he won a Lifetime Achievement Award from a  Silicon Valley Water Group (2013), was honoured by the Guardian newspaper in 2014 as a world top-ten water guru, and in 2015 he received the Leadership and Achievement Award from the Council of Scientific Society Presidents. The same year he received an Environmental Education Award from the Bay Institute. The major Carl Sagan and BMI Prizes followed in 2018 and 2019. Transgressions by warmist scientists are soon forgotten and readily forgiven.

While the Gleick case is one of horror, other climate-award material goes into the comedy file. The Climategate emails exposed two of the climate world’s top “experts”, Phil Jones and Mike Mann, horse-trading for new honors for themselves, via reciprocal recommendations. Jones, at the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit, ran the HADCRUT4 global temperature data series underpinning the IPCC warming scare. He managed to literally lose raw data (failure to back-up) and hid incriminating emails subject to FOI demands.[1] Michael Mann authored the infamous  “Hockey Stick” paper used as a logo by the 2001 IPCC report as proving current warming is CO2-caused and unprecedented in the past 1000 years. Mann’s paper also managed to ‘disappear’ the Medieval warming[2] and the 300-year Little Ice Age to 1850. Mann’s sceptic foe, Mark Steyn, published an entire 320-page book, A Disgrace to the Profession comprising rejections of Mann’s findings, not by sceptics but by orthodox climate scientists. [3]

Here are two climateers at work. (emails from 4/12/2007). Mann to Jones:

By the way, I am still looking into nominating you for an American Geophysical Union award; I’ve been told that the Ewing medal wouldn’t be the right one. Let me know if you have any particular options you’d like me to investigate…

Jones selects his own award:

As for the American Geophysical Union—just getting one of their Fellowships would be fine.

Mann then lets Jones know that he (Mann) himself happens to lack a Fellowship of the AGU and adds in brackets, “(Wink)” to inspire Jones to do something about it. (pp105, 118).

The matey honors system at the AGU continues to this day. The selection committee last year for the AGU’s annual $US25,000 Climate Communication Prize (won by Mann last year) included prominent warmists Katharine Hayhoe, Stefan Rahmstorf, Richard Somerville and Kevin Trenberth. Recipients included the same Katharine Hayhoe (2014), Stefan Rahmstorf (2017), Richard Somerville (2015)  and  Kevin Trenberth (2013). A network clearly operates.  Winners Gavin Schmidt (2011), Mann (2018) and Rahmstorf (2017) jointly contribute to their blog. The AGU seems aware of incestuousness and has these unusual guidelines for the prize-winner selection:

Nominators and potential nominees…are urged to restrain from contacting members of their respective award selection committee while the AGU nomination and selection process is in progress…Persistent or frequent contact on topics related to the award nomination could potentially be viewed as an attempt to influence…

In the big global league, climate bureaucrat Christiana “Tinkerbell” Figueres, who oversaw the 2015 Paris pseudo-agreement from her UN perch, staggers under the weight of honors. They include the  Shackleton Medal, the Grand Medal of the City of Paris, the Legion of Honor, the German Great Cross of Merit, the Guardian Medal of Honor, the 2015 Hero of El Pais award, the Global Thinker Award, Four Freedoms Award and the Solar Champion Award from the woke folk of California. Quite a haul considering she still can’t distinguish between weather and climate. She achieved perpetual quotability with this ripper from  February 2015, in an official UN press release:

This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution.

A champagne socialist from the top end of town in Costa Rica, she views a halt to growth in the West with equanimity: “Industrialised countries must stop growing — that’s fine. But developing countries must continue to grow their economy in order to bring their people out of poverty…”

Paul R. Ehrlich, now 87, has been showered with lucrative prizes. He has spent the past 50 years making horrific predictions about planetary and human doom. None of these have remotely been fulfilled, such as his 1969 prediction of disastrous global famine by 1975, requiring compulsory birth control via sterilising agents in food and water. 

As a close-to-my-home example, he gave an address at Perth’s Murdoch University on October 2, 1985, concluding that unless Western countries went into wealth-sharing with the Third World, there would be lethal consequences for civilisation such that “the handful of human beings that survive the resultant collapse may, if they are lucky, be able to eke out a livelihood hunting and gathering.” He warned that by 2000, we could have a billion people perishing from hunger, with those famines leading in turn to a thermonuclear war that “could extinguish civilisation”. He continues to this day to be sought out by the media for yet more doomsday mayhem.

Ehrlich big-money prizes for ecological brilliance have included

# 1990: MacArthur Fellows “Genius Grant”, currently $US625,000. At the time the award range was $US155,000 to $US600,000. Ehrlich would have been at the high end.

# 1990: Sweden’s Crafoord (OK) Prize, currently $US745,000. He shared the award with biologist E.O.Wilson. As a guesstimate, $US200,000-plus at the time.

# 1993: Heinz Foundation Award, $US250,000

# 1993; The Volvo Environmental Prize. Currently $US170,000.

# 1998: Tyler Prize, $US200,000.

# 1998: Heineken Prize, $US200,000

# 1999: Asahi Glass’s Blue Planet Prize, 50 million yen (about $US420,000 at the time).

# 2009: Ramon Margalef Prize, 80,000 Euros (about $US110,000 at the time).

# 2013: BBVA Frontiers Award, 400,000 Euros (about $US530,000 at the time).

Total, about $US2.6m ($A3.75m).

James Hansen is known as the father of the CO2/global warming  campaign. He produced, concurrently with Syukuro Manabe,  the first crude computer models of C02 warming. The successor models despite decades of ‘refinements’ continue to significantly exaggerate actual warming.[4]  Hansen’s cash awards total about $US1.5m, including $US800,000 from Taiwan’s Tang Foundation last year. The Tang  citation read

Undaunted by the gravity of high government and the powerful doubts of business, this former NASA climate scientist attended a government hearing in 1988 … His brave, farsighted testimony before congress has since been known as the Hansen Hearing.

The reality was that the 1988 hearing was stage-managed by his pal and Democrat senator Tim Wirth. Wirth timed it for the predicted hottest summer day in Washington, and he also sabotaged the building’s air conditioning to ensure everyone would be sweating for the TV cameras.

Hansen while at NASA in 2001 accepted a $US250,000 award from Theresa Heinz Kerry, wife of Democrat luminary John Kerry. In 2004 Hansen endorsed John Kerry as presidential candidate, a doubly contentious act as he was still a government NASA director. Hansen at NASA  also admitted in a 2003  issue of Natural Science that the use of “extreme scenarios” to dramatize climate change “may have been appropriate at one time” to drive the public’s attention to the issue. He’s referred to coal trains as “death trains” (annoying Holocaust survivors) and was arrested twice at climate demonstrations.
Among his windfalls:

# 2001: Heinz Award: $US250,000

#2007: Dan David Prize: $US330,000

# 2008: PNC Bank Common Wealth Award: $US50,000

# 2010: Sophie Prize: $US100,000

# 2012: Stephen Schneider Award: $US10,000

# 2016: BBVA Award:  $US450,000

# 2018: Taiwan’s Tang Prize. $US800,000.

Total $US1.99m.

Climate and environment prizes, honors and awards have flowed to those who are not merely catastrophists but million-dollar fraudsters. Canada’s Maurice Strong, for instance, built some of his huge wealth from stockmarket insider deals and oil developments. He was the godfather of the global environment from when he organised the 1972 Stockholm Environment Conference. He was founder and executive director of the UN Environmental Program which joined forces with the World Meteorological Organisation to create the IPCC. He chaired the 1992 Rio summit and openly advocated for world governance under the UN, financed by a 0.5 per cent tax on global finance to raise $US1.5 trillion a year.

In his 1999 autobiography, Strong predicted that in 2031 nation states will implode, with a breakdown of international order, food and energy scarcity, more climate deaths than from WW1 and WW2, and Americans dying like flies from heat because there is no electricity for air conditioners. Global  population falls to the level of 2001, “a consequence, yes, of death and destruction – but in the end a glimmer of hope for the future of our species and its potential for regeneration,” he wrote.[5]

In 2005 the FBI, investigating the Iraq “Oil for Food” program’s prolific corruption, turned up a 1997 cheque to Strong for $US998,000 from a corrupt  South Korean businessman who later proved to be a bagman for Saddam Hussein. Strong in 1997 was working for UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, and had organised the UN’s Kyoto climate treaty that same year. When the cheque came to light, Strong lit out for Beijing (China has no extradition treaty with the US) and lived out his days there, still honoured as an honorary professor at three Chinese universities. He said later, “I didn’t just run away to China, I already had an apartment here.” 

In 2003, just two years before the cheque scandal went public, the US National Academy of Sciences gave Strong its highest honor, its Public Welfare Medal, for “extraordinary use of science for the public good”. This was its first-ever Medal award to a non-US citizen. “Very few individuals have contributed so much to the path toward a sane and sensible future for world society,” the Academy said. “He is an idealist who is truly a citizen of the world.”

He was “very special guest of honor” at the 2012 Rio second climate summit. When he died in 2015, the esteem continued with Canada’s governor-general attending his funeral. No attempt was ever made to prosecute Strong over the cheque.

Strong’s 50 or more honors (apart from his 52 honorary doctorates) included Commander of the Golden Ark (Netherlands), Order of the Southern Cross (Brazil), Order of the Polar Star (Sweden) and Companion of the Order of Canada. In his Beijing era he got a Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Cataloguing all the climate prize stuff going on would involve an essay the size of the Encyclopaedia Britannia. I need to wash my dog so I’ll stop here. To all past and future climate prize winners, my sincere congratulations.


Atmospheric CO2 soars to record highs

It does not synchronize with temperature so there is no problem

An alarming rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels has been revealed, showing the world is edging closer to triggering “catastrophic and irreversible” global warming.

American scientific agency National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released new results on Tuesday that show CO2 levels have continued to rapidly rise this year.

The average for May peaked at 414.7 parts per million (ppm) at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory.

The 2019 peak value was 3.5ppm higher than the 411.2ppm peak in May 2018 and marks the second-highest annual jump on record, according to NOAA.

Scientists have warned for years that concentrations of more than 450ppm risk triggering extreme weather events and temperature rises of 2C.

Environmentalist Bill McKiben reacted to the report by calling it “legit scary”.

“(The) single most important stat on the planet: CO2 rose 3.5 parts per million last year,” he said. (The) second highest annual rise on record.”

Climate scientist Peter Gleick also expressed alarm at the rising CO2 levels in a recent tweet.

“Atmospheric CO2 levels have now reached 415ppm. The last time humans experienced levels this high was … never. Human didn’t exist.”

He posted a graph showing the dramatic rise in CO2 levels since the emergence of humans on the planet.

The impact we’ve made is unmissable.

Monthly CO2 values at Mauna Loa first breached the 400ppm threshold in 2014.

“It’s critically important to have these accurate, long-term measurements of CO2 in order to understand how quickly fossil fuel pollution is changing our climate,” Pieter Tans, senior scientist with NOAA’s Global Monitoring Division, said.

“These are measurements of the real atmosphere.

“They do not depend on any models, but they help us verify climate model projections which, if anything, have underestimated the rapid pace of climate change being observed.”

The rise of CO2 in the atmosphere was accelerating, NOAA said.

The report came as India experienced a devastating heatwave, which has been partly blamed on climate change.

Temperatures passed 50 degrees Celsius in northern India this week as an unrelenting heatwave triggered warnings of water shortages and heat stroke.

The thermometer hit 50.6 degrees Celsius in the Rajasthan desert city of Churu, the weather department said.

All of Rajasthan suffered in severe heat, with several cities hitting maximum temperatures above 47 Celsius.

The heatwave is part of a trend of rising temperatures in India, the Independent reported.

Last year was the sixth warmest since national record-keeping started in 1901.

Environmental researcher Hem Dholakia said it was evidence of a clear change.

“Science as well as our subjective experiences has made it unequivocally clear that longer, hotter and deadlier summers are poised to become the norm due to climate change,” he wrote last month.

Students have staged strikes around the world in recent weeks to demand action on climate change.

The strikes were inspired by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg who has become a global figurehead since protesting outside Sweden’s parliament in 2018.

The climate change activist, who has 668,000 followers on Twitter, recently wrote of her concern the emissions rate was still rising.

“People always tell me and the other millions of school strikers that we should be proud of ourselves for what we have accomplished,” Greta wrote.

“But the only thing that we need to look at is the emission curve. And I’m sorry, but it’s still rising. That curve is the only thing we should look at.

“Every time we make a decision we should ask ourselves; how will this decision affect that curve?” Greta added. “We should no longer measure our wealth and success in the graph that shows economic growth but in the curve that shows the emissions of greenhouse gases.

“We should no longer only ask: ‘Have we got enough money to go through with this?’ but also: ‘Have we got enough of the carbon budget to spare to go through with this?’ That should and must become the centre of our new currency.”

Climate change was also discussed during US President Donald Trump’s meeting with Prince Charles.

The Prince of Wales spent 75 minutes longer than scheduled trying to convince Mr Trump of the dangers of climate change.

Mr Trump told ITV’s Good Morning Britain he had been due to meet Prince Charles for 15 minutes during his visit but the talk went on for 90 minutes. The Prince did “most of the talking” during that discussion, the Guardian reported.

Mr Trump insisted the US was “clean” and blamed other nations for the crisis.

“I did say, ‘Well, the United States right now has among the cleanest climates there are based on all statistics’. And it’s even getting better because I agree with that we want the best water, the cleanest water. It’s crystal clean, has to be crystal clean clear,” Mr Trump explained.

Asked if he accepted the science on climate change, the President responded by saying: “I believe there’s a change in weather, and I think it changes both ways.

“Don’t forget, it used to be called global warming, that wasn’t working, then it was called climate change. Now it’s actually called extreme weather because with extreme weather you can’t miss.”


Romney 'looking at' carbon tax legislation

Still a RINO

Sen. Mitt Romney said Wednesday he was considering co-sponsoring a carbon tax bill with Delaware Democrat Cris Coons.

Romney told E&E News he's considering the proposal which would put a $15-per-metric-ton fee on carbon emissions.

"Taxes have never been my intent, but we'll see what he has to say," Romney said. "I would very much like to see us reduce our carbon emissions globally, and we'll see if this might help."

There are still a handful of GOP carbon tax supporters left in the House after the Democratic wave of the 2018 midterms, but Romney — if he does co-sponsor the bill — would be the only Republican senator openly supporting the idea.

For Romney, who has taken some heat for his relative moderation in some wings of the GOP, it would be another step away from President Trump, who denies climate science.

Romney, who has previously said he wants to work on climate change issues, but has not committed to backing the measure.


The eco phonies: Mobile phones are doing untold harm to the planet but green campaigners can't live without them

They were brandished in their tens of thousands during Extinction Rebellion’s recent protests. At anti-fracking rallies they were waved defiantly in the faces of the police and security guards.

No self-respecting eco-warrior can go without their shiny, up-to-date smartphone.

How else could they film their marches and share them on social media, or stay abreast of the latest howls of outrage on Twitter about the destruction of the planet?

Unfortunately, there is a terrible irony about Apple’s iPhone and its Android rival becoming the tools of environmental protest. For they are a big part of the problem, too. More than 50 million tonnes of ‘e-waste’, the term for discarded electronics products, is now generated every year.

And that is rising at an alarming rate: by 2020, five billion people will have a mobile phone — with many slaves to an immensely wasteful industry that cynically pressures them to buy a new version when the old one is perfectly good.

The phones aren’t just aluminium, plastic and glass, they contain precious materials which are in limited global supply: gold and copper in the wiring, silver and platinum for the main printed circuit board, lithium in the batteries, cobalt and aluminium.

Some of these materials come with a devastating price — one that reveals the hypocrisy at the heart of today’s eco-brigade.

Take tantalum, a hard metal named after the mythological character Tantalus. Because the metal is almost impossible to corrode, it plays a major part in making electronic devices smaller.

The biggest supplier of tantalum is Rwanda and its resources helped to fund parts of the Second Congo War, one of the bloodiest conflicts since World War II. Both sides used children and slaves to mine it.

Even into the 21st century, children aged seven were paid just £1.50 a week to go down narrow tunnels in the Democratic Republic of Congo — the world’s second largest source of tantalum — and chip away at river beds that are at constant risk of collapse.

In 2014, Apple announced it would no longer use tantalum from war zones. But human rights campaigners would like to see the same pledge made for gold, tin, cobalt and tungsten.

As for rare earth metals — a collection of elements found in the Earth’s crust — most come from Inner Mongolia, a semi-autonomous region of China, where by-products from mining (much for mobile phones) have produced a toxic lake described as one of the most polluted places on the planet.

In the nearby industrial city of Baotou, the air is filled with a relentless odour of sulphur.

The frightening body of water is surrounded by pipes and is three times as radioactive as normal background radiation.

It has rendered nearby fields toxic, forcing many locals to abandon their homes.

Uncomfortable with the technology industry’s reputation as an environmental menace, Apple is stepping up its efforts to recycle phones — enlisting a giant robot named Daisy to separate out its various metals to be recycled. So far, there are two Daisies, wrenching apart iPhones at plants in Texas and the Netherlands.

Its large grey robotic arm moves at speed, twisting and turning a mobile phone in its grip, then systematically pulls it apart.

Of 1.5 billion iPhones sold since they were first unveiled by Apple’s founder Steve Jobs in 2007, it is estimated that 700 million are currently in use.

So when they are junked for a new model, there is an awful lot of jettisoned plastic and metal.

Many of the valuable metals such as gold are only in tiny quantities — but they all add up. Depending on the model, a ton of iPhones would deliver 100 to 300 times more gold than a ton of gold ore — and six times more silver than a ton of silver ore.

Mining expert David Michaud has estimated that 37 million tons of rock had to be mined to produce the first billion iPhones. Shockingly, to produce a single device requires mining 34kg of ore, and using 100 litres of water and 20 grammes of cyanide (used to extract gold from the ore).

Recycling a TV made in the 1970s would have yielded little more than half a dozen basic materials.

A typical mobile phone contains 62 different metals of varying degrees of rarity and preciousness.

This is where Daisy comes in.

For every 100,000 iPhones, Daisy and Apple’s other recycling robot can potentially recover 3,300lb of aluminium, 2.4lb of gold, 13.9lb of silver, 70lb of rare earth elements, 183lb of tungsten, 2,200lb of copper, 64lb of tin, 1,740lb of cobalt and 3,086lb of steel.

These are among 14 materials (plus glass, lithium, tantalum and plastics) that Apple is concentrating on in its recycling drive.

Daisy has a 21st century Heath Robinson feel to it. It’s actually four robots joined together and is about 30ft by 10ft and surrounded by plexiglass. It has three or four human staff who feed iPhones into a funnel at one end and remove the separate bits from various chutes at the other end.

Daisy uses visual recognition technology to identify any of 15 (out of a total of 21) versions of the iPhone, inserting them into various slots. It then punches out the screws holding each phone together and pulls it apart.

The robot can dismantle all but the most seriously smashed up iPhones. Each phone takes three to four minutes to dismantle.

The separated materials are crushed to dust and smelted, then used in new products.

Critics have dismissed Daisy as a publicity stunt. If Apple is serious about saving the planet, they say, it should make phones that don’t need to be replaced so often.

(Apple says its phones last longer than their rivals and they are trying to refurbish more phones — nearly 8 million last year — so fewer need to be recycled).

It says its ultimate goal is to make all its products from renewable or recycled materials.

Environmental campaigners have applauded Apple for going in the right direction.

But one only needs to look in the cramped, dangerous holes in Africa — where children as young as six slave away, mining for precious metals that often end up in our phones — to see that.


A proposed  Australian coalmine and its Leftist enemy

For a politician on the make, there is no better place to be than Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on State of Origin night.

Jackie Trad was there on Wednesday, lapping up the hospitality in the National Rugby League’s well-appointed viewing box. So was her boss, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, and Trad’s friend and mentor Anthony Albanese, a lonesome Blue among all those one-eyed Queenslanders.

But as willing as the football was in the famed “cauldron”, it had nothing on what has been playing out inside the state Labor government since that other boil­over, the May 18 federal election.

Queensland swung harder against the ALP than any other mainland state, with voters in its regions and on the suburban ­fringes of Brisbane rejecting Bill Shorten’s big-spending and high-taxing agenda with a vehemence that delivered two additional seats to the Coalition, taking it to a high-water 23 of the 30 up for grabs north of the Tweed.

This is where Trad comes in. She holds far more than the purse strings as Deputy Premier and Treasurer to Palaszczuk. As leader of the parliamentary Left, Trad also controls the numbers in the caucus and state cabinet; she revels in her reputation as being the power behind the throne, the driving force in a government that was cruising until federal Labor came a cropper, and which now threatens to be consumed by recriminations over its drift to the left and the electorate’s brutal verdict last month on that positioning.

Sharp-tongued, vigorous and whip-smart, 47-year-old Trad is the face of progressive politics in Queensland. She is as inner city as you can get, holding the state seat of South Brisbane in the area in which she grew up, the daughter of Lebanese migrants who spoke Arabic at home. Where Palasz­czuk, a product of the ALP’s right wing, is reserved and cautious, seemingly lofty in wielding power, Trad has worked in the weeds, championing formerly lost causes for state Labor such as abortion law reform and tree clearance controls on farmers. Admirers and detractors alike acknowledge her zeal. But if there is one issue that has bedevilled Labor at both the state and federal levels in Queensland it is the Adani coalmine, the pressure point where demands for ­action on climate change intersect with real-world concerns about jobs and investment.

Shorten dithered, sending a message to green-minded voters in latte land in central Sydney and Melbourne that Labor was leery of the planned project, while assuring struggling regional communities in Queens­land that it wouldn’t stand in the way of the new open-cut mine if it won state approval.

That’s the trouble with trying to walk both sides of the street: you get hit by a bus.

Adani became emblematic of federal Labor’s disconnect from its traditional blue-collar base and those “quiet Australians” who broke for Scott Morrison, an epic misjudgment of the mood of the nation. Albanese’s test as Shorten’s successor as Opposition Leader will be to craft a new narrative to reconcile — or at least neutralise — this lethal paradigm for the ALP.

That means there is no avoiding Queensland for Albo.

When Kevin Rudd won handsomely in 2007, it was on the back of picking up 15 seats in his home state. Labor went into that election with only six MPs from Queensland, the same precarious position in which it now finds itself. It was also in power at the state level under another female premier, Anna Bligh.

A woman of the Left, she headed a government in which the Right factions notionally had the numbers but where Bligh unambiguously called the shots. The situation couldn’t be more different today as Palaszczuk, aligned with the Australian Workers Union-backed Labor Forum group, moves to reposi­tion her party with an eye to the state election locked in for October next year, to usher in an expansion of the parliamentary term from three years to four.

If Labor’s base vote is anything like last month’s dismal 26.68 per cent federal showing in Queensland, Palaszczuk’s two-term outfit will be toast. In that event, the ALP would hold office in only two states, Victoria and Western Australia, making the road back for Albanese all the more arduous.

No pressure, then, as Trad prepares to hand down her second state budget on Tuesday. The infrastructure cash that she had counted on from a Shorten government is in the wind, GST revenue is down, and stamp duty will take a hit from the softening Brisbane property market. Queensland, she claims, is being dudded by the Prime Minister of $840 million in funding for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and, oh yes, the time bomb of the Adani approval is ticking louder than ever, with the state environment agency due to sign off on the critical groundwater management plan for the mine two days after the budget is released.

For the first time in her fast and seemingly assured rise, Trad is feeling the blowtorch. The complex challenges she faces embody some of those confronting Labor at the federal level. In addition to massaging a set of books that is drowning in red ink — Queensland’s gross debt was forecast in last year’s budget to hit an eye-watering $83 billion over the forward estimates — she must hold the line in her marginal seat against the Greens now that the Liberal National Party has announced it will preference them over her.

The list goes on. She needs to contain the factional tensions that have erupted in the state caucus since the federal election to preserve her leadership ambitions; accommodate heavy spending on health, education and other ser­vices plus the ballooning wage bill mandated by the government’s cosiness with the public sector unions; and address the nagging suspicion in Labor ranks that so much she has worked for and represents is out of step with what voters actually want.

Then there is Adani. It all comes back to Adani.

Rightly or wrongly, Trad is seen as the architect of the state Labor government’s woefully inept handling of the project and its Indian proponent, the Adani ports, shipping and energy conglomerate. Her critics say it has been a case of “Jackie first”, with Trad putting her survival in South Brisbane ahead of the interests of the state and, yes, the Labor government to get the mine up and running in economically battered central-west Queensland.

The spiel is that she went rogue, not for the first time, to deploy the Left’s numbers in cabinet and her command of the machinery of government to drag the chain, if not block the mine. Trad rejects this, telling Inquirer: “I would say that criticism is from people who have an unrealistic view of what happened in cabinet and don’t actually understand what happened in the government … I would probably suggest or back my hunch these are people who are unprepared to put their names to such comments, these are people who are so out of the loop but think that their relevance is far more than it actually is.”

Still, the government’s approach to Adani is mystifying. The mine has been in the works for eight years as the linchpin to develop a vast new coalfield in the Galilee Basin, 1000km northwest of Brisbane. The investment was initially welcomed by Bligh, who predicted ore would be rolling out by 2014, backed by the LNP when it came to power under Campbell Newman, and embraced so enthusiastically by Palaszczuk that on a trade mission to India in March 2017 she met the company’s billionaire owner, Gautam Adani, and urged him to buy into food production and renewable energy projects in Queensland.

Adani believed it had a commitment from the Premier to waive state royalties worth $320m in the start-up phase, and to support its bid for a $1bn loan from the federal government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to build a rail link to port.

But then something extraordinary happened. In the last week of May 2017, Trad came out publicly against the “royalties holiday”, citing an election commitment that no public money would go into the mine, which had to stack up financially and meet environmental standards. This was in line with the position of the federal party.

Trad’s intervention had been preceded by a devastating media leak. Emerging from a meeting with then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in Brisbane on May 17, Palaszczuk was blindsided by a question from an ABC reporter on the supposedly secret royalties deal. Her office was incensed, blaming Trad for the breach.

After an emergency cabinet meeting on May 26, Palaszczuk, Trad and Curtis Pitt, the state treasurer at the time, announced a revamp of the tax regime to cover all future greenfield mine developments, capturing Adani. “There will be no royalty holiday for the Adani Carmichael mine,” the Premier insisted. Any deferred royalties would be paid with interest after a security deposit was stumped up by the company concerned. But there was a kicker.

“Consistent with our election commitments, cabinet has determined that any NAIF funding needs to be between the federal government and Adani,” Trad said in the joint media statement. This seemed unremarkable: under NAIF rules the federal money is dispensed to a loan recipient by the state, which has no financial exposure to the transaction. On May 29, Pitt declared that Queensland “would not stand in the way” of those arrangements for Adani.

Only later would the penny drop. Beset by anti-Adani protests during the opening phase of the 2017 state election campaign, Palaszczuk performed a backflip and said the government would veto the NAIF loan, citing a purported conflict of interest involving her then partner, who had consulted on the project. By then, Adani was a word Trad could barely bring herself to utter in public. Witness this exchange with The Australian’s Sarah Elks from May 2017:

Q: “Can I just ask you personally, can you state your support for the Adani Carmichael coalmine?

Trad: “Like every other member of this government, I support resource sector jobs. I know how important they are for our regions, for our regional economies and I know how important they are for the economy of Queensland.”

Q: Is there a reason why you can’t say you support that project in particular?

Trad took a question from another reporter.

Fast forward to the hushed aftermath for Labor of its election drubbing three Saturdays ago. Having initially played down the impact of Adani on the result in Queensland, Palaszczuk did another about-face, declaring she was “fed up” with the delays in the environmental approvals process and it would be fast-tracked by the state co-ordinator-general. If, as expected, the ground­water plan is ticked off next Thursday, the company is geared up to begin full-scale site works within weeks.

Trad took to social media last Sunday to clear the air on Adani, complaining the issue had been “weaponised” by the political Right and the Left. “For those opposed to the mine it has taken on the status of the only test of commitment to action on climate change,” she wrote on Facebook.

“For those supportive of the mine, this project is the only proof of a commitment to resource sector jobs in regional Queensland communities. Both arguments are exaggerated and wrong. And we now find ourselves divided.”



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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