Deutsche Bank pulls out of Abbot Pt coal terminal
Abbot Point coal terminal expansion headlines ran hot this week as Deutsche Bank announced it would not accept financing applications for the project. The terminal is set for expansion with dredge spoil to be dumped at sea near The Great Barrier Reef. An alternative plan to dump the spoil on land was rejected by the project developers as being too expensive.
Deutsche Bank was one of three banks that helped refinance the terminal for leaseholders last year.
It is the bank’s policy not to be involved with any project where environmental concerns are not met. At present, the bank doesn’t see consensus between the Australian Government and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) over the Reef.
The position was confirmed in a meeting with environmentalists and tour operators.
“As there is clearly no consensus between the Australian government and UNESCO regarding the impacts of the Abbot Point expansion on the reef we will not consider financial applications of an expansion,” Deutsche Bank’s Juergen Fitschen said.
Green groups claimed it as a victory through a petition to the bank with 180,000 signatures asking them not to be involved.
In a statement, Deutsche Bank made no comment if the petition influenced their decision or not.
Eight cent solar feed in tariff cut
Legislation passed in the Queensland parliament will see fifty-thousand households lose the government guaranteed eight cent solar feed in tariff. Households will need to negotiate a price with their supplier for electricity they feed back into the grid.
Regional households will have their tariff set by the Queensland Competition Authority (QCA).
A further 205,000 households who have the forty-four cent feed in tariff from when the scheme began will be unaffected.
Minister for Energy and Water Supply, Mark McArdle, said the reason was to put downward pressure on electricity prices. At present, all electricity users fund the feed in tariff scheme through charges in their power bills. McArdle said over six years, this would have cost $110 million.
The Newman Government is coal centric and mining backed. Powerful interests in the system are unlikely to tolerate the continued expansion of solar power in preference to coal fired power stations.
Also in the legislation, was the removal of a restriction in the number of retail power supply companies for South-East Queensland. The government believes greater competition will make power cheaper by allowing the market to determine pricing.
In the vast regions of Queensland, government owned Ergon Energy is the supplier and will continue to have its prices set by the QCA.
A 2012 Campbell Newman election promise saw power prices frozen for one year. However, this created a “price bulge” as rates jumped 22.6 per cent when the freeze was lifted as suppliers sought to recoup costs.
More Fitzgerald elders speak out.
Two former CMC commissioners, Doug Drummond QC and David Gow spoke out against the Newman Government’s changes to the Crime and Misconduct Commission, now renamed to Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC).
Drummond was the special prosecutor brought in to clean up the corruption after the Fitzgerald Inquiry had completed its work. He was instrumental in prosecuting 150 people and went on to become CMC commissioner.
Of concern to Drummond on the Newman changes is loss of independence. The Chairman of the CMC will be appointed by the Attorney-General without the need for bipartisan support from the Opposition. The chairman will also be able to decide on investigations and terminate probes.
“It leads to a pretty obvious conclusion that there’s a serious attempt underway to make sure the CCC doesn’t embarrass the government,” he told ABC’s Mark Willacy.
Drummond also pointed to the ease of manipulation example of current chair, Dr Ken Levy, who is being investigated by police after having been caught lying to parliament over being coached by the Newman Government’s media team for a favourable article written in The Courier Mail.
David Gow was also critical and added, “It centres power in the chairman and renders the commission to be really either a debating society, if you like, or simply a group picture for the annual report,” he said.
Into the black – electoral changes
The Newman Government changed the electoral rules on Thursday night and ended up losing another MP. It brings to five the total loss of MPs under Campbell Newman’s leadership.
Last week, Newman sacked his Assistant Health Minister, Dr Chris Davis, from his portfolio. This week, Davis sacked himself from the parliament in a hand written note to the Speaker.
The events unfolded over Davis’s opposition to removal of electoral spending caps and the raising of the political donation threshold from $1,000 to $12,400. It now means many more people can donate larger sums of money to political parties without it ever being declared.
A worrying move, given recent donation scandals within the LNP. Political openness and accountability in Queensland, is now cloaked in a new age of darkness.
For more on how it unfolded, see Newman Government changes electoral rules and loses a MP.
Cash for contracts
It started as another questionable donation to the Liberal National Party (LNP) but ended in tears on the floor of the chamber in Queensland parliament.
Documents obtained by 7 News Brisbane’s Damien Hansen showed that a youth boot camp contract was awarded to the company, Beyond Billabong, at twice the cost and against departmental advice. Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie had ignored the recommendation to award the contract to the preferred, Queensland Youth Services.
Six days after the contract was awarded to Beyond Billabong, a donation of $5,500 was made to the Liberal Party by Chief Executive Officer, Boyd Curran. The money was then paid into the coffers of the Queensland Liberal National Party (LNP).
Under questioning from the media, Bleijie turned into a robot and repeated, “The best group got the job.”
On Wednesday, the Queensland Opposition followed up questioning the private meeting of Boyd Curran with Bleijie during the tender process. Queensland Youth Services was never invited to any such meeting with Bleijie.
Thursday’s question time was set for another round of questioning until The Courier Mail splashed Labor’s Jo-Ann Miller over its front page. The MP for Bundamba had made a silly comment whilst speaking about the state of Fly-In Fly-Out (FIFO) mining camps; “workers are being kept in what only can be described as mining concentration camps.”
Of course, this wasn’t the case. The comment should have been withdrawn and she should have apologised.
Alas, Godwin’s law had been broken. The Courier Mail was all over it, writing articles to show the real conditions of mining camps & fanned the flames of accusations of Nazism at the Labor party.
The Newman Government seized on this to distract from the Beyond Billabong problem. A motion was made for the parliament to apologise on behalf of Miller for the comments, giving the government more time to embarrass the Labor Party. Accusations from past and present were flung back and forth across the chamber as Hansard transcripts revealed LNP members had also used the “concentration camps” line in various debates over past decades.
During office, Henry had renounced his oath to the Queen after Prince Harry was photographed wearing a Nazi uniform.
Newman’s intent was to score a political point using Henry’s example.
Granddaughter of Polish holocaust survivors, Annastacia broke down as she detailed her family history.
She later apologised for Miller’s “concentration camp” comment.
Channel 9 political reporter, Shane Doherty, described the Newman Government’s plan as designed to embarrass the opposition leader but the plan backfired.
Annastacia “had never fought better”, he commented on the nightly news.
Evoking Nazism to score political points is a no win situation for anyone. No one is like the Nazis, only those expressing the direct wish to carry out their policies.
The fight for Qld, (offer expires 2015 election day)
Australia’s states and territories are set to lose a collective $80 billion in funding as the Abbott Government devolves responsibility for the portfolios of health and education to the states.
The best critic of Campbell Newman’s decree that he would stand up for Queensland against these cuts came from within his own party in the form of Warren Entsch MP.
“How much of it is generated by a state election that is going to be held next year and how much of it is genuine concern, I am not sure,” The federal MP for Leichhardt in far north Queensland told The Courier Mail.
Newman fired back by describing Entsch as, “out there at the fringes of things, and that is to be polite about it”.
Adding to the upward pressure on unemployment of 6.3 pc, Queensland is also set to lose 700 federal public servants from Brisbane and Townsville from the downsizing of the public service.
Whilst evoking one of his favourite slogans, “fixing Labor’s mess”, he expressed his sympathy for the Abbott Government and the decisions it was making. He rejected calls for a GST increase and went on to vow to advance the reform of federation of Australia.
Exactly what that entails remains to be seen but he has long been a proponent of competitive federalism; a system by which states are in charge of their own tax raising revenue and compete with each other to attract business.
The system we have in Australia at the moment, is co-operative federalism. It allows for fiscal transfer of funds from the federal government to the states and territories as required.
Future Qld job prospects, work at Coles
A tour of a Coles supermarket had the media enthralled this week. With Queensland unemployment at a high 6.3 pc, Campbell Newman was quick to jump on the announcement that Coles will spend almost half a billion dollars building thirty-one new stores in the state, creating 8000 jobs.
However, it’s the milk price war between Coles and Woolworths that has done the most damage to Qld’s dairy industry. The number of dairies has dropped from approximately one-thousand to five hundred. Farmers are now putting their efforts into exports to Asia.
Queensland has always had a milk deficit; it imports milk from southern states to meet demand.
Any expansion of Coles or Woolworths is terrible news for independent grocers around the state as the giants can price them out of the market.
— Cathy Border (@Tencb) May 20, 2014
Curfew on the vision impaired.
The Brisbane City Council policy to switch off the audible pedestrian crossing signals at some intersections has been labeled “a curfew for people who are blind or vision impaired” by Disability Discrimination Commission, Graeme Innes.
LNP Deputy Mayor Adrian Schrinner said his council receives fewer than ten noise complaints a year about the audible signals operating twenty four hours, seven days a week. Each intersection is determined on a case by case basis as to whether it’s audible signal box is switched off between 9:30pm and 6:30am. The practice has been in place for ten years after local residential complaints.
“Areas where there’s some night life and activity, by all means we’re happy to have them twenty-four hours a day but where they’re not being used and there’s no demand for it, I think we’ve got the balance right,” he said.
A frequent national traveler, Innes said he’d never experienced the situation anywhere else in Australia and will write to the council to voice concerns.
Funding for the Disability Discrimination Commissioner has been cut by the Abbott Government in the latest federal budget. Innes will be the last commissioner when his term ends on July 4, 2014.
Bogans who live in Logan
Long ridiculed as a low socioeconomic areas, the city of Logan took a blow from the Premier this week when he made an interjection during question time stating, “The bogans who live in Logan”.
A question had come from Palmer’s United Party (PUP) state leader, Alex Douglas, on the benefit of the government’s recent “Strong Choices” campaign which sought feedback from Queensland on government debt reduction and state asset sales.
Newman’s comment created a social media storm with many Labor members tweeting what the comment really meant in terms of “governing for all”; a catch-cry of the Newman Government.
However, Newman returned to the chamber late on Thursday night (early Friday morning) to correct the record in a special speech.
“On examining the footage, it is evident that what I said was different to what was recorded in Hansard,” he said.
“Let me be clear, the interjection I made was in reference to Mr Palmer and the member for Gaven’s comments on what he thinks about his constituents.”
“…I do not think the people of Queensland, in any electorate are bogans.”
Below are extracts of the Hansard.
Tweet of the week – smelling the roses
Political reporter for Channel 9 News Brisbane, Shane Doherty takes in the sites at Qld Parliament House as the nonsense debate about World War II rages in the chamber.
— Shane Doherty (@ShaneDoherty9) May 22, 2014