Trouble in Oz for Albo and the Ghastly-Green Fourteen

The left-wing Labor Party narrowly won a majority in the May Australian federal election. It holds 77 of the 151 seats in the House of Representatives. It faces Liberal and National Parties, together holding 58 seats, and 16 assorted cross benchers. Of the cross benchers, an assorted ghastly-green fourteen will form, without much doubt, a cacophonous green choir. Nothing that Labor does on climate will be enough. And if that weren’t nearly enough, the Greens (party) will hold the balance of power in the Senate. Interesting times for the new government.

The Labor Party is not the natural party of national government in Australia. In the seventy-seven years since the end of WWII it has formed government only one-third of the time. The (now notionally) centre-right Coalition of the Liberal Party, largely representing urban areas, and the National Party, representing regional and rural areas, has formed government for the balance of the time.

Labor last formed government from 2007 to 2013. It was ugly. Prime minister Kevin Rudd was sacked in mid-first term and replaced with Julia Gillard. The 2010 election was all but lost. Gillard was subsequently sacked and Rudd resuscitated to try to save some seats at the 2013 election. To not much avail. Tony Abbott took the Coalition to a resounding win. Abbot used two principal slogans: “stop the boats” (carrying so-called asylum seekers) and, most notably, “axe the tax” (namely, the proposed carbon tax). Voters want climate-change action. Don't want to pay for it.

And your little dog Toto, too.

New Labor prime minster Anthony Albanese is quite evidently apprehensive. He doesn’t fancy traversing the same rocky road as Rudd or Gillard. Yet, only weeks into office, gas and coal shortages appear, energy prices soar.

What to do in these circumstances; when the election’s been won on climate action, reducing electricity prices and creating lots of green jobs? When, moreover, the cross-bench members of parliament have become greater in number and even more pathologically fixated on combatting climate-change? When they all, without the pesky burden of governing, want emission-reduction targets to go well beyond, and much more speedily beyond, the 43 percent (on 2005 levels) promised by Labor by 2030 and the net-zero promised by 2050?

It’s a rock and hard place. Which way will Labor go? For now, it’s Realpolitik. How could it not be? At the end of May, the wholesale price of natural gas in the states of New South Wales and Victoria spiked 50 and 80 times higher. That’s not a misprint. The Australian Energy Market Operator, responsible for keeping the lights on, responded by putting in place a temporary price cap of $40 per gigajoule. Still four times its not-so-long-ago average price of around $10.

Of course, the Ukrainian conflict, now an excuse for almost any government failure, took part of the blame. The rest was put down to the weather and to a fall in the generation of coal power. Herein hangs a disconcerting tale of inexplicably inclement weather in the era of global warming and, would you believe it, demands by the new fossil-fuel-averse government for more coal and gas power.

Currently it’s 6pm in Sydney and cold. My gas heater is on. It’s that or hypothermia. Is an exorbitant bill on the way? It's an uncommonly cold beginning to winter; lots of snow in the high country for skiers. And weren’t we told that it wasn’t going to snow again? The weather is paying no heed at all to global-warming soothsayers. You can say that again, and I will.

Ho ho ho: winter's on its way.

Inopportunely, as gas prices spiked, Australia’s largest coal power station, Eraring, some 90 miles north of Sydney, reported that it was running out of coal. As an aside, so what? Australia can do without Eraring. That must be so. Climate-change heads wiser than ours have determined that it will close in 2025, seven years earlier than its previously planned premature closing. Never mind, nothing to see there. Move on. But why was Eraring running out of coal?

Flooded coal mines is the answer. Back to that inclement weather. Climate "expert" Tim Flannery assured us in 2007, when made Australian of the year for his environmental credentials, that drought was here to stay. “Even the rain that falls isn't actually going to fill our dams,” he sermonised. And since? Rain aplenty and massive flooding. Don’t think for a moment that this has dented Tim’s chutzpah. Year in and out, decade in and out, dud prediction after dud prediction. The hallmark of the climate cult.

Chris Bowen, the new minister for contradiction in terms—sorry, officially, for climate change and energy—blamed the rise in gas prices on the previous government for not building more renewable energy and transmission infrastructure. Exactly how that would have helped in the circumstances is anybody’s guess. But, in the world of lies in which we live these days, baseless claims are commonplace. However, Madeleine King, the new minister for resources, swallowed her pride and introduced a note of realism. We need more coal and gas power to fill the breach, she said, “climate change be damned.” Well, no, she didn’t exactly say that last bit.

Calls for more coal power? What an irony. Numbers of aging coal power generators suddenly fell out of action. That’s not surprising for an industry destined for complete abolishment, stressed by having to compete with renewables when the wind blows, and to which banks won’t lend.

Hey, big Spender.

Ms Allegra Spender, a member the aforementioned green choir, and in sore need of relevance, blamed reliance on fossil fuels for the situation and called on gas companies to do the right thing, “to come to the party and make sure that Australian consumers and businesses are protected." From pointless to purposeful. Cut to Kevin Gallagher, the CEO of Santos, Australia’s largest gas production company, speaking at a Sky News conference in Sydney in early June.

What’s effectively happened over the last decade as gas resources have been used up and new projects have not been able to come forward and be developed and bring new supply into the market; all the buffer and all the slack in the system has been used up… Successive state and federal governments have put red and green tape in place which has made these projects…impossible to get up.

To wit, a major coal-seam project at Narrabri in northern NSW has been held up for years. All of the gas is destined for domestic consumption. “We thought that would inspire people to help get the project approved,” Gallagher said. Not in today’s world. A cognitively dissonant world; desperately in need of more fossil fuels, while bloody-mindedly preventing their extraction. Albanese’s government is already wrestling with the bitter fruits.

Australians Go Walkabout on 'Climate Change'

Australia’s election is full of oddities and yet it has delivered a clear governing result. Labour will be the next Australian government either with a narrow overall majority or dependent on the parliamentary support of the Greens. Furthermore, it’s been carried into power largely on the back of green votes cast for several parties. And the pledge of the new prime minister, Anthony “Albo” Albanese, to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent in 2030 and by the full net- zero in 2050—will be a politically unbreakable one, at least for a year or two. Indeed, though there are still some 14 seats where the winner is still to be decided, none of these governing certainties will change.

What, then, are the oddities? The main one is that Labour won despite both having its worst electoral performance since 1934 and getting the lowest vote for a government in Australian history. That paradox is explained mainly by the fact that the center-right Coalition of Liberal and National parties lost even more support, getting its worst result since Australia’s federation was formed in 1901.

Votes lost by the two main parties went to independents and smaller parties in large numbers. Three groups in particular did well: the Greens who currently look like rising from one to four parliamentary seats; two populist conservative parties that between them scored about 10 percent of the national vote but have so far won no seats; and as my colleague Peter Smith pointed out in an earlier election report,  some former Liberal votes in urban areas went to “so-called Teal candidates”—i.e., independents allegedly blending Liberal blue and Green in their party colors—who are in reality left-progressives on every issue but oh, so, Socially correct too.

At the latest count, an Australian friend tells me, the Liberals lost six upper-middle class traditionally safe seats to these candidates. They were exceptionally well-organized and well-financed by a sympathetic green billionaire, climate activist NGOs, and investors hoping for greater public funding for renewables. They drew support from upper-middle class women voters in particular. And they helped to unseat Liberals by picking up the despairing second preference votes of Labour voters in upper-middle-class urban areas.

There are similarities between this successful insurgent campaign and recent election results in the U.S. and Europe. Left progressives have become adept at exploiting technical opportunities in election law and organization to favor their own voting constituencies, to create new electoral coalitions on key issues such as climate change, and even to conjure up last-minute new political parties when existing Left parties have discredited themselves, as in some recent European elections. They can call on the deep pockets of high-tech billionaires with progressive views. And their conservative opponents—notably the GOP in 2020—have been left behind, sticking with traditional fund-raising and campaigning directed solely to the next election when the progressives are investing in NGOs and tax-exempt social organizations that stay around long term and change the political weather in local urban and suburban communities between as well as during election campaigns.

In reality, despite the legitimate headlines about a “Greenslide,” this Labour/Green victory was in large part a technical knock-out rather than a change of national sentiment. It even seems likely that the center-right Coalition will end up with a larger share of the national vote than Labour. Liberal and National parties did well outside the big cities where these new political technologies have not yet really penetrated.

Those rural, small town, and outer suburban votes—together with the working-class constituencies that the Liberals might go after seriously for the first time if they were sensible enough to follow Peter Smith's advice—could be the basis of a Liberal-National recovery on an electoral and social platform from any before. It would be a recovery rooted in a robust defense of free markets and a science-based civilization against the neo-medieval puritanism of the Green revolution.

Such a recovery would not lack issues. Labour will never be able to satisfy the demands of its Green allies for ever-larger cuts in people’s standard of living, let alone their aspirations for a better life for themselves and their children. The “Teals” will soon discover that their own social standing depends on an economy that their quasi-religious attitudes undermine. Labour voters will be surprised to discover that saving the world means making everything poorer, meaner, and hotter too as their air conditioning fails in the Australian climate. Altogether, the Labour/Green coalition will be rent with increasingly rancorous disputes as the result of a remarkably unfortunate historic accident.

Australia’s conversion to hard greenery is arriving at the very moment when responsible people everywhere are realizing that the costs of orthodox Green climate policy are economically destructive and that the Russo-Ukraine war makes them strategically dangerous too. To use language that should be familiar by now: Net-Zero is unsustainable. And they’ve just embraced it.

'Greenslide' in Oz Dumps Scott Morrison.

Anthony Albanese of the Labor Party has won the Australian election as polls said he would. While the convoluted compulsory preferential voting system will keep some results hanging for some days, it’s likely (as I write 24 hours since the polls closed) that Labor will gain 76+ seats in the 151-seat House of Representatives. And, therefore, will be able to govern in his own right, without the help of independents or Greens.

I’m queuing to vote. A middle-aged chap in a Kylea Tink tee-shirt approaches me. Do you know anything about Kylea Tink, he asks? Yes, I do, I say, she has insane climate policies. He reminds me of recent floods and bushfires. You mean like the ones we had in the nineteen thirties; I respond. Resignedly, he beats a retreat and moves on to the young couple standing behind me. More receptive ears. I wonder. How does a man of his age become completely delusional? Young things, OK. They know no better, and have been brainwashed on social media.

On reflection, judging by the overall election result, the weight of the voting population across all age groups has become delusional. A cultural degeneration, perhaps already in waiting, has been given impetus by "climate change" and Covid. Irony. Australia is one of the few countries to meet its Kyoto commitment. It has a covid death-rate one tenth that of the U.S. Unemployment has just fallen to 3.9 percent; its lowest level for fifty years. And yet…

Ms Tink, who won the seat by the way, was one of thirteen so-called “Teal” independents, opposing “moderates” (more correctly, wets), among the governing Liberal (conservative) and National (rural centre-right) parties. All in blue-ribbon inner-city seats. Backed by the son of a billionaire with interests in renewable energy, these well-heeled women, in well-heeled electorates, are climate activists. In each case their Liberal or National opponent scores more votes. But preference sharing among the Greens and Labor gets (as it stands) six of them elected. Oh, for first-past-the-post elections...

Incidentally, they and their supporters deceptively wear teal-coloured tee-shirts as a sign that they are a cross between green and Liberal blue; presumable to appeal to conservative-minded voters. In fact, they’re more aptly “watermelons.” Or a cross between green and red, which make an unattractive brown when mixed and wouldn’t do on shirts.

Unfortunately, we now have a Labor government committed to a 43 percent reduction in emissions by 2030, with up to twelve Greens and green-minded independents in the parliament who think much more ambitiously. They variously want something between sixty and seventy-five percent. Meanwhile the Liberals are tortured. Should they try to outbid the Teals next time to get those blue-ribbon seats back?

Hold on, there’s no outbidding the Teals. Should they then try for those working-class outer-suburban seats, which they’ve never won, by going back to traditional conservative values and common sense? A Trumpian strategy. Seems farfetched. There will be no path back for the Liberals, while "climate change" is the cause du jour.