Greens Leader Adam Bandt MP, holds up the Australia Institute's open letter signed by 50+ environmental organisations calling for no new fossil fuel projects at a press conference in Parliament House.

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The Wrap with Richard Denniss

Labor’s victory in the NSW election means Tasmania has the last remaining Liberal Government in the country. While Labor’s victory may not be quite as thumping as it appeared on Saturday night, it still represents quite a turnaround in electoral fortunes in just a few years. Public sector wage caps and the fiscal and public health dangers of privatising water utilities in NSW proved to be key election-turning issues. As we head out of government intervention on COVID, it is clear the community (and the voting public) still see the role of government as big.

You have no doubt seen that, after months of applying pressure to the government over dodgy offsets and plans for 116 new fossil fuel projects, Adam Bandt converted that pressure into a deal with Chris Bowen on the Safeguard Mechanism. There’s now a hard cap on pollution, which is good, but no blanket ban on new gas and coal, which isn’t. It’s not enough according to the science, but it’s better than where we were last week.

Research with impact doesn’t happen overnight, so thank you to all our supporters for ensuring our research program keeps changing minds.

— Richard Denniss, Executive Director of the Australia Institute

The Big Stories

Safeguard Mechanism: Some Bark, Some Bite

Labor and Greens came to an agreement this week on the Safeguard Mechanism Bill. The amended legislation will allow new fossil fuel projects to commence, but, it places a hard cap on emissions by facilities covered under the scheme which will ensure a large portion of coal and gas proposals in Australia cannot proceed.

While it’s an improvement on the original legislation, which allowed fossil fuel companies to expand unfettered with carbon offsets, it’s clear further legislative reform will be required to reduce Australia’s emissions as the impacts of climate change continue to intensify.

In the lead up to the Bill, we produced a report that discussed new coal projects and emissions impacts: New Fossil Fuel Projects in Australia 2023. The findings showed the pollution from 116 new fossil fuel projects in the Federal Government’s Resource & Energy Major Project list would add 4.8 billion tonnes of emissions to the atmosphere by 2030.

Adam Bandt says the Greens’ hard cap amendments to the Safeguard Mechanism will mean half of those 116 projects in the pipeline will be unviable, which is good news, but it remains to be seen which projects will be affected.

Pressure works.

Thanks to your support, we aired a television ad explaining how carbon offsets are fuelling the expansion of fossil fuels. The ad appeared on TV before the amendments to the Safeguard legislation.

And at the time of writing, nearly 7,500 of you have signed our open letter against new fossil fuel projects, along with more than 118 Australian scientists and experts and over 50 Australian environmental and climate organisations. Together, we urged the Government to listen to the science. Thank you for lending your voice!

The open letter ran in the Canberra Times, The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Hobart Mercury.

It is still crucial for Australia to continue to push for a stronger climate policy, if you haven’t signed yet, add your name to the open letter to help send a message to the Government to listen to the science and say no to new fossil fuel and gas projects in Australia.

NSW Missing Out on $6.2 Billion in Coal Royalties

If NSW adopted the same coal royalty system as Queensland, they could have raised an additional $6.2 billion in coal royalties this financial year, our report showed. The Sunshine State changed its system so that higher royalty rates apply when prices are high, whereas most coal mining in NSW pays a royalty rate of 8.2% regardless of what the coal price is doing.

These multi-billion dollar windfalls could be directed to the Royalties for Rejuvenation Fund, which currently receives just $25 million per year. Read more.

AUKUS Submarine Splurge: Allan Behm Analysis on ABC 730

What we’re investing in is a minimalist capability, which would work should anybody directly attack Australia. But to think that two, or at the most three, nuclear powered submarines would change the course of a war, is a huge leap of faith and simply not credible.

Allan Behm, Director of the Australia Institute’s International & Security Affairs Program appeared on ABC 730 with a measured analysis of the AUKUS deal.

The submarine deal, which will cost Australia $368 billion over about 30 years, has drawn criticism not only for the whopping price tag, but for the lack of foresight for how this money could have been otherwise better spent.

For an AUKUS refresher, you can revisit Allan Behm’s opinion piece, AUKUS: Submarines on the Never Never, or Castles in the Sky?

Polly Hemming Attends the UN General Assembly

Climate & Energy Director Polly Hemming with Prime Minister of Vanuatu, the Honourable Alatoi Ishmael Kalsakau Ma’aukora at the UN General Assembly

Our Climate & Energy Director Polly Hemming attended The United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday 29 March, as a guest of the Vanuatu delegation.

Together with the Prime Minister of Vanuatu Ishmael Kalsakau and the Minister for Climate Change Ralph Regenvanu, Polly witnessed the historic passing of a resolution by the UN, seeking an opinion from the International Court of Justice on the obligation of states in relation to climate change.

This resolution represents a legal opinion, which is designed to push countries to adopt stronger climate change policies and allows the International Court of Justice to hold them legally accountable for failing to do so.

It was passed with a consensus vote after a four year campaign by Vanuatu, inspired by Pacific Island law students.

The Quote

Five years of delay on FOI reviews turns information that would otherwise be useful to engage in policy debates or conduct government oversight into information useful only to historians.

Rex Patrick, former South Australian Senator

Rex Patrick is currently involved in a legal challenge in the Federal Court over the lengthy delays involved in the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s handling of FOI requests, claiming the slow wait times are shielding the activities of government from scrutiny.

Our report Nothing to See Here: Australia’s Broken Freedom of Information System highlights how urgently a review of Australia’s FOI system and culture is needed. It found that FOI decisions cost twice as much as they used to, three in 10 FOI decisions are late and, when reviewed, one in two turns out to be wrong.

The Win

The Voice in South Australia

Congratulations to the Labor Government in South Australia, becoming the first state to pass the Voice to Parliament, officially legislating the Bill on 26 March in a special Sunday sitting of Parliament. The change comes well ahead of the national referendum.

Nordic Policy Centre Update

Emeritus Professor Andrew Scott remains Convenor of the Nordic Policy Centre at the Australia Insitute, but this week he retired from Deakin University.

“In my 23 years as a full-time academic my focus has been on writing books, chapters, articles and research reports for a wide public audience, aiming to achieve policy change. I have also thoroughly enjoyed teaching thousands of students. I look forward to this new phase during which I intend to still be intellectually active and creative, but with better work/life balance.”

Professor Andrew Scott

We congratulate Andrew on his illustrious academic career and we’re excited to keep working with him to bring Nordic policy inspiration to intractable problems in Australian public policy. You can follow the work of the Nordic Policy Centre by tuning in to the upcoming webinar Breaking the Ice Ceiling: Gender Equality in Iceland and Australia 

The Bin

The coal and gas industry are attempting to stoke fear in the wake of the Safeguard Mechanism, alleging a cap on new fossil fuels would drive up power prices. However, the CSIRO and AEMO’s latest report confirms renewable energy sources are, and will continue to be, the cheapest form of electricity generation in Australia.

Furthermore, fossil fuel power stations are notoriously unreliable. The regular breakdowns they experience push up prices. While we remain dependent on coal and gas we will always be at the mercy of high coal & gas prices and outdated and unreliable coal power stations.

Get Involved

We launched Coal Mine Tracker, a project that monitors the emission impacts of 28 proposed coal mines. The Tracker outlines expected lifetime emissions of each coal project, including domestic and exported emissions, where they are at in the approval process, and the wildlife they put at risk.

The Federal Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek, could say no to these projects.

You can help by adding your name to our petition, asking Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek to stop approving new coal mines.

Join Our Team!

We are hiring a Climate & Energy Postdoctoral Research Fellow. As a Postdoctoral Research Fellow, you will use the skills and knowledge gained in your PhD to work on Australia Institute climate and energy research projects. Using the foundational skills attained through your PhD, you will learn how to extend your research past academia and create impact by enhancing your skills to communicate and disseminate your research to policymakers, key stakeholders, and the general public.

Learn more and apply. Deadline for applications is 23 April 2023.

What’s On

Webinar | The Safeguard Mechanism: What You Need to Know

Join Greens Leader Adam Bandt to answer all your questions about the Safeguard Mechanism, in conversation with Richard Denniss.

10:30am AEST, Tuesday 4 April. Free, registration essential.

Nordic Talks: Breaking the Ice Ceiling: Gender Equality in Iceland and Australia

This webinar will take a look at how Iceland became a global leader in gender equality, through policies such as extensive paid parental leave, with an emphasis on paid paternal leave.

Join Dr Marian Baird, Ásdís Arnalds and Emeritus Professor Andrew Scott with host Ebony Bennett as they discuss what lessons Australia can learn from Iceland to improve gender equality.

6:00pm AEST, Wednesday 12 April. Free, registration essential. 

Thank you for supporting the Australia Institute. There are massive issues to tackle this year and we couldn’t do it without supporters like you.

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