Abandoning emission cuts is bad for business

By abandoning any effort to achieve Australia's carbon emissions reduction target agreed at the Paris climate change convention, the Morrison government has sought short-term political gain at the long-term expense of the planet, the nation and business. While this will be cause for celebration among the Turnbull-slayers and a victory for the Abbott-inspired insurgency that demanded as sharp as possible a contest with Labor on energy policy, it has rapidly escalated sovereign risk for business.

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Forget about legislating emission cuts

If proof of the incapacity of the Coalition to deal with climate change was ever needed, it was provided absolutely in the shambles of toppling Malcolm Turnbull from the prime ministership. For the conservative wing of the Liberal Party this was a glorious victory. For investors seeking a predictable policy framework and for the majority of Australians who expect their parliament to guide Australia to a low-carbon future it is a bitter disappointment. 

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Why I Quit Sky News

Yesterday I quit Sky News after five years as a commentator. Giving airtime to neo-Nazi, Blair Cottrell, might be passed off as defending the right to free speech, but former chief minister of the Northern Territory, Adam Giles, was effusive in his praise, wrapping up the interview with: “Good luck. I hope it all goes well for you.” 

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Targeting Bill Shorten has rebounded on Malcolm Turnbull

In the aftermath of Saturday's byelection results Liberal ministers are taking comfort that they lost the Ryan byelection in 2001, suffering a 10 per cent swing, only to win the federal election resoundingly eight months later. It's true that one byelection result – or even five – won't predetermine the outcome of a general election, but it's not true that there's nothing to learn from Super Saturday.

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Taking the partisanship out of power

Policy, like politics, is the art of the possible. And it’s possible to get bipartisan agreement on a policy to achieve the elusive trilogy of electricity affordability, reliability and sustainability. But it will require an end to the hyper-partisanship that has destroyed previous, worthy efforts, such as the previous government’s emissions trading scheme. The only workable policy surviving a decade of climate wars is the National Energy Guarantee (NEG). 

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End the bipartisan slagging consensus in Canberra

Divisive public discourse and the dumbing down of policy debates into abusive slogans are dragging our nation backwards. They are not unique to Australia. It’s as if we are methodically working our way through the Donald Trump’s playbook. Every week the President of the United States and leader of the free world tweets hatred: “Shady James Comey”, “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer”, and his old favourite, “Crooked Hillary Clinton.” Really, is this truly making America great again? 

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Not every business failure is the banks' fault

Okay, now it’s getting ridiculous. The Banking Royal Commission has exposed some appalling behaviour by the banks, but not every poor decision of a customer is the bank’s fault. If an elderly parent goes guarantor for a loan there can be consequences if the loan is not repaid. That’s what going guarantor entails. If a couple on a modest income borrows a million dollars to buy properties and can’t service the loan, what is the bank supposed to do – say it’s alright, keep the money?

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Why the live sheep trade is at death's door

Most Australians have been appalled by the cruelty shown to sheep on not one but five voyages from Fremantle to the Middle East. Yet these were not isolated incidents. Countless sheep have perished over several decades, but only occasionally has incriminating footage emerged. To his credit, new agriculture minister, David Littleproud, has ordered a review into the standards applying to such shipments. But how independent is the minister’s review?

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Labor stuck in middle of two maddies: the Greens and the Coalition

The world has gone mad. Or at least Australia’s centre-right political parties and the Greens have gone mad. In scrambling to the right and the left in an effort to resolve their leadership tensions, the non-Labor parties are vacating the centre, where elections are won. Bill Shorten can position Labor as the party of the centre by demonstrating fiscal discipline, reassuring the electorate that Labor can manage the nation’s books. On this the election result will swing.

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What would Bob Hawke and Paul Keating do?

In grappling with Australia’s contemporary economic policy challenges, asking ‘what would Hawke and Keating do?’ should do no harm and might do some good. The modern methods of policy development seem so distantly removed from the successes of the 1980s and early 1990s. Fortunately, the recently aired two-part ABC documentary on the Hawke years offers some insights. Hopefully, so do my memoirs, The Boy from Baradine, relating my experience as an economic adviser in the Hawke office during the transformative economic reform period 1986-1990.

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The risks of The Great Unwinding and normalisation of interest rates

By definition, the global financial crisis and the great crash of 2009 were disorderly. Monetary authorities around the world deployed unprecedented measures to stimulate devastated economies, including cutting interest rates so far that they turned negative and injecting staggering amounts of liquidity through quantitative easing. Now, more than a decade after the crisis struck, the same authorities are beginning to unwind the stimulus. But will "The Great Unwinding" be orderly, or will it be disorderly, like the crisis it was designed to resolve?

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The question mark that hangs over TPP

The government’s insistence that Labor immediately endorse the Trans-Pacific Partnership minus the United States (TPP11), without knowing what’s in it, is an early reminder that politics will again dominate policy this year. Opposition leader Bill Shorten and shadow trade minister Jason Clare have suggested the pared-down agreement be subjected to Productivity Commission economic modelling. Treasurer Morrison has dismissed this idea as absurd. Yet he gleefully brandished BIS Shrapnel modelling he claimed was of the opposition’s negative gearing policy when, in fact, it had been conducted months before the policy’s release and on a different set of assumptions. In the treasurer’s world, consistency is the sign of a small mind.

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Does Minister Josh Frydenberg dream of electric cars?

Putting increased take-up of electric vehicles in Australia on the same level of disruption as the introduction of the iPhone, as Energy and Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg did on the weekend, is head-turning and welcome, but it needs to be backed by proactive government policies. High on the list should be support for the installation of fast-charging stations and an exemption of electric vehicles from the luxury car tax. As cost-effective carbon abatement policies, they should go straight to the pool room, to borrow a phrase from The Castle.

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Reformers face election hurdles

Get ready for lots of elections in 2018 – several by-elections, two state elections and, in all likelihood, a federal election. In election years, politicians go crazy, exaggerating even more wildly than usual, accusing their opponents of all manner of crimes and misdemeanours. With a large number of political careers on the line, all government policy thinking will be directed towards one goal – re-election. 

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