Dutton’s Gone Fission | Between the Lines

Australian Opposition Leader Peter Dutton unveils details of proposed nuclear energy plan during a press conference at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices in Sydney, Wednesday, June 19, 2024.
AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi


This edition: Telstra cans Climate Active, super tax concessions and the ‘odd couple’

The Wrap with Ebony Bennett

This week, Peter Dutton finally released the Coalition’s nuclear power strategy.

Well, sort of…

The Opposition Leader’s uncosted ‘plan’ offers very little detail, while committing Australia to the most expensive form of new energy to build and eschewing cheap and abundant renewables.

When they were last in office, the Coalition had trouble building all the car parks that they promised, so the idea that seven nuclear plants are going to be built from scratch – in a country with next-to-no existing nuclear workforce – is very hard to believe.

The plan has already failed at the first hurdle: two of the proposed nuclear sites are in Queensland, but the current Premier and Opposition Leader both oppose the plan.

To be clear, the Coalition’s nuclear announcement is not about nuclear. It’s not even about energy.

It’s a very deliberate political strategy designed to create chaos and uncertainty ahead of an election.

It’s a very deliberate strategy to ensure that, while the two major parties fight about renewables versus nuclear, no one is talking about their bipartisan support for the gas and coal industry.

You know, the industry that is driving the climate crisis.

In 2023-24, Australian governments subsidised the fossil fuel industry to the tune of $14.5 billion. While the media attention has been on the nuclear ‘debate’, the NT government has given the go ahead to the Tamboran fracking project without a full environmental management plan, while the Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek has just approved a new gas pipeline in Queensland.

Gas prices have tripled since Australia started exporting liquified natural gas (LNG). At the same time, six of our 10 facilities that export LNG paid no royalties on the gas.

This means that gas companies are laughing all the way to the bank while Australians are struggling to pay for rent or medical bills.

All of this ensures that the planet keeps heating, perpetuating what our Writer-in-Residence for 2024, Dr Joëlle Gergis, calls an “intergeneration crime against humanity”.

It’s often said that climate change is a ‘wicked problem’, but some of the solutions are truly right in front of our faces.

No new coal. No new gas. Tax fossil fuels properly. End native forest logging. Spend money on the environment and renewables.

Why do we insist on making it harder for ourselves than it needs to be?

— Ebony Bennett, Deputy Director of the Australia Institute

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The Big Stories

Telstra abandons government carbon neutral certification scheme

In a win for climate integrity, telco and gas retailer Telstra has announced that it will be leaving the Australian Government’s carbon offsetting scheme, Climate Active, to focus on ‘direct emissions reduction’.

The Australia Institute analysed Telstra’s climate claims in 2022 and found that, despite Telstra’s ambitious rhetoric, their claims were over-inflated and relied very heavily on carbon offsets.

This proves, yet again, that pressure works – and that it can lead to greater climate integrity.

You can find out more about state-sponsored greenwashing in Australia and The Australia Institute’s climate integrity research agenda on our website.

Wardrobe malfunction

The Institute’s research showing that Australia has surpassed the US as the world’s biggest consumer of textiles continues to capture attention, with Nina Gbor joining Today to discuss the 200,000 tonnes of clothing that end up in landfill – and the 100,000 tonnes that are sent overseas each year, thanks to our nation’s addiction to fast fashion.

The Federal Government’s Seamless scheme – designed to manage Australia’s clothing waste crisis under circular economy principles – will launch on 1 July. Read more from Nina about the importance of creating a robust circular textiles industry in Australia.

Read now >>

South Australia’s donation ban ambitious, but must safeguard diverse voices

Last week, South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas announced an ambitious reform for the state: a ban on political donations. The Federal Government is expected to announce its own suite of electoral reforms in the coming weeks.

Democracy & Accountability Director Bill Browne explores what South Australia’s donation ban mean for fair and transparent elections.

Find out more >>

Cost of super tax concessions on track to overtake age pensions

New research from Dr Minh Ngoc Le has highlighted the extent to which women and low-income earners are being left behind by Australia’s superannuation tax concession system, with just 20% of the population receiving over half of the annual benefit.

The research, covered extensively by ABC News, finds that removing the tax concession for both super contributions and earnings from the top 10% of earners would deliver more than $12 billion every year, which could instead be used to support older Australians at risk of poverty in retirement.


Strengthening Tasmanian democracy

Last month, the Australia Institute welcomed back Tasmanian Parliament with the release of our Democracy Agenda for the 51st Parliament of Tasmania.

This discussion paper proposes a suite of much-needed reforms necessary to strengthen and safeguard democracy in Tasmania, as the state lags behind other jurisdictions when it comes to key accountability and transparency mechanisms.

To support this work, we are delighted to host The Hon. Robert Redlich AM KC for a public forum in Hobart on 26 June. Robert is a renowned integrity champion and former Commissioner of the Victorian Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC), and will speak about the need to improve transparency and accountability in government decision-making and the importance of investigating ‘grey corruption’.

Find out more >>

The Odd Couple: a new book by Allan Behm

Feeling festive? As our contribution to American Independence Day celebrations, International & Security Affairs Director Allan Behm is releasing his new book this 4th of July.

“America is floundering and appears to have lost its way. It needs friends that advise and encourage. As rich and powerful first-world nations, America and Australia share a problem: how to recalibrate their relationship to deliver peace and prosperity rather than conflict and disharmony.”

Available in all good bookshops, The Odd Couple examines the Australia-United States relationship, arguing that America and Australia can transcend military glitz to strengthen wellbeing and human security worldwide.

More information >>

Menstruation and menopause leave will advance workplace gender equality

There are growing calls for the establishment of new work rights, including additional leave, for those who experience menstruation and menopause.

Their sometimes-debilitating effects have been ignored in the framework of workplace rights, historically built around men’s experiences of life and work, argues Dr Lisa Heap from the Centre for Future Work.

Bargaining for these rights and lobbying for legislative change is likely to be required to achieve these changes, but building awareness and acceptance in the workplace will also be critical.

“Leave for menstruation and menopause will advance women’s rights and gender equality at work however, even when these rights exist, that won’t be the end of action required to make them a reality,” said Dr Heap.



Is America heading towards disaster? | Follow the Money

With just five months until the presidential election, American democracy is under serious threat.

Is Biden going to be able to mobilise enough support in key states to win a second term? And what might another Trump presidency mean for Australia? On this episode of Follow the Money, the Australia Institute’s Emma Shortis joins Ebony Bennett to discuss US politics after her recent trip to Washington DC.

Listen now:

The narrow path | Dollars & Sense

Why did the Reserve Bank of Australia decide to keep interest rates on hold? And what does the latest data reveal about workplace gender inequality?

On this episode of Dollars & Sense, Greg Jericho reflects on the latest interest rate announcement and the barriers to closing the gender pay gap.

Listen now:

The Quote

“It’s government choices that cause inequality.”

— In his national speaking tour, Executive Director Richard Denniss spoke about the nonsensical economic arguments used to justify Australia’s ongoing failure to reduce inequality.

The Win

Same-sex marriage legalised in Thailand

Thailand became the first Southeast Asian nation to allow same-sex couples to marry, after the country’s Senate assented to a marriage equality bill this week. The change will take effect in the coming months, 120 days after it’s announced in a Royal Gazette.

The decision comes after several positive developments in Asia in recent years. In 2022, Nepal became the first country in South Asia to order legal registration of same-sex marriages, Vietnam banned conversion therapy, and Singapore repealed a law that banned gay sex.

In 2019, Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalise same-sex marriage.

The Bin

Australian companies raking in ‘crisis profits’

Oxfam Australia released a new report estimating that Australia’s biggest companies have raked in $98 billion in additional windfall profits, or ‘crisis profits’, off the back of the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The findings highlight the need to better tax the enormous profits earned by big businesses during the current economic crunch. Previous Australia Institute research showed that inflation was made worse by big businesses increasing prices above and beyond their costs when inflation spiked.

Better taxation of these super profits could have made economic space for the government to better support those struggling to pay for housing, groceries, and other bills.

What’s On

Unparliamentary with Mark Kenny | 1pm AEST, Tuesday 25 June 

Unparliamentary with Mark Kenny

Unpack the big political and policy issues with Mark Kenny, Director of Australian Studies Institute at The Australian National University and former Fairfax Chief Political Correspondent.

Unparliamentary is the Australia Institute’s fortnightly show that gives you the scoop on what’s happening in federal politics.


Politics in the Pub: Mum, Mayor, Member, Minister | 6.30pm AEST, Thursday 27 June

Join the Australia Institute for Politics in the Pub with Kristy McBain MP, Member for Eden-Monaro and Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories.

Kristy is Mum to three children. She served as Councillor at Bega Valley Shire Council from 2012 and as Mayor from 2016 to 2020 during which time the community was hit by drought, bushfires, floods and COVID-19. She was elected Member for Eden-Monaro in 2020 and appointed Minister in 2022.

Kristy will be in discussion with Ebony Bennett, deputy director of the Australia Institute, to talk about her journey from local government to federal parliament and serving as Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories.


Highway to Hell: Climate Change and Australia’s Future | 11am AEST, Friday 28 June

Australia is in peril. Do we truly grasp the impact of a warming planet – in particular, what it will mean for the sunburnt country?

In ‘Highway to Hell: Climate Change and Australia’s Future’, leading climate scientist Joëlle Gergis takes aim at the folly of “adaptation” rather than cutting emissions, and at government policy inertia. She shows what rising temperatures will most likely mean for the Australian continent and coastline, and outlines clearly how far Australia is from its most recent promises, let alone what is required.

Join Dr Joëlle Gergis, the Australia Institute Writer in Residence for 2024, for an in-depth conversation on her searing essay with Polly Hemming, Director of the Australia Institute’s Climate and Energy program.


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