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Monday, 22 February


Taking the step from gross to net feed-in tariffs Renew Economy

With 160,000 electricity customers looking to switch from gross to net energy metering around the end of the year, it is useful to look at the actual changes that need to take place.


Failure to include health risks grossly distorts true costs of climate change Renew Economy

The failure to include health costs as one of the major impacts of global warming distorts the costs to families and communities, as well as the bottom line on already-stretched health budgets.


Warren Buffett’s quieter quest to kill solar in the US west Renew Economy

There’s a decent bit of spotlight on the net metering battles, but Buffett’s holdings are actively engaged in a quieter war on another solar front.


SA network says no issues with renewables as it looks to wind + solar micro-grids Renew Economy

Network operator says high renewables pose no problems – in fact it's looking to renewables and storage to reduce grid costs.


Senate to probe BP Great Australian Bight oil plans – a $2.6bn carbon bomb? Renew Economy

Carbon Tracker says BP's plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight – now the subject of a Senate Inquiry – could create a $2.6bn carbon bomb in a low demand, low carbon future.


Largest floating solar power system in Europe going up in London Renew Economy

What will be the biggest floating solar photovoltaic (PV) array in Europe is under construction.


Gas or solar towers? Will South Australia blink in push to clean energy? Renew Economy

Fossil fuel industry wants the South Australia government to award "low carbon" electricity contracts to existing gas plants. But the market might be better served by solar towers and storage. It will reduce costs, create more jobs, and lead the transition to a low carbon economy.


How much new renewable energy does Tasmania need? Renew Economy

Tasmanian government may soon claim that state's electricity crisis is behind us. The facts, however, are rather less encouraging from all angles.


Adapt or perish: 2016 a game-changer for electricity market Renew Economy

EY report pinpoints Australia as regional hot spot for renewable energy and networks in 2016, whether incumbents are ready or not. "Expect the unexpected."


Peak paper (updated) John Quiggin

I’ve recently published a piece in Aeon, looking at the peak in global paper use, which occurred a couple of years ago, and arguing that this is an indication of a less resource-intensive future. Over the fold, a longer draft, with some links.

Since the dawn of history (literally, of written records), civilisation has depended critically on paper. As living standards have risen, so has the volume of paper produced, printed and read. The more knowledge we have and the wider its distribution, the more paper is needed.

At least, that was true until the end of the 20th century. With the rise of the Internet, the correlation between paper and information broke down. Increasingly, information is created and manipulated in electronic form, with paper serving mainly as an official record of the process.

In 2013, the world reached Peak Paper. World production and consumption of paper reached its maximum, flattened out, and is now falling. In fact, the peak in the traditional use of paper, for writing and printing, took place a few years earlier, but was offset for a while by continued growth in other uses, such as packaging and tissues.

China, by virtue of its size, rapid growth and middle-income status is the bellwether here; as China goes, so goes the world. Unsurprisingly in this light, China’s own peak year for paper use also occurred in 2013. Poorer countries, where universal literacy is only just arriving, are still increasing their use of paper, but even in these countries the peak is not far away.

The arrival of Peak Paper is of interest for a number of reasons.

* First, it is, in large measure, the realisation of a prediction that was over-hyped in 20th century, and then derided in the early 2000s, namely,...


Frydenberg dodging sober facts about state of Australia’s coal industry Renew Economy

There is evidence everywhere of a fossil fuel industry in trouble. But our energy minister has trouble seeing it.


Democrats in glass houses – you know the rest! Bill Mitchell – billy blog

So-called US ‘progressive’ economists arena flap at the moment after Gerald Friedman, an academic economist at UMass released a report on January 28, 2016 – What would Sanders do? Estimating the economic impact of Sanders programs – which suggested that the US economy could perform significantly better and deliver substantially improved outcomes for those disadvantaged citizens with Bernie Sanders in the White House. When I say progressive, I mean those who would consider themselves Democrat Party insiders (former Chairs of the US Council of Economic Advisers under previous Democratic administrations). Last week (February 17, 2016), they created a special Internet site to publish – An Open Letter from Past CEA Chairs to Senator Sanders and Professor Gerald Friedman – which claimed that “no credible economic research supports economic impacts” proposed by Friedman and that “Making such promises runs against our party’s best traditions of evidence-based policy making and undermines our reputation as the party of responsible arithmetic”. As if the policy-making and arithmetic of these attention-seeking (neo-liberal) Democrat insiders is anything to be guided by.

The evaluation of the – Sanders’ Plan for a Broadly-shared prosperity – by Gerald Friedman attempts to enumerate the impacts of the policy announcements in a number of documents and statements that the US Senator has made in recent years. They are documented in footnote 1 in the report.

There are “two dozen distinct proposals” that form the corps of Sanders’ Plan. They include spending initiatives, tax changes and changes to the social...


Perverse incentives from dud taxes dog public infrastructure investment Prosper Australia

Melbourne Domain Sunday went into shock and horror over the impact a proposed elevated rail would have on the selling prices of adjoining Carnegie properties. Area agents say the value of houses backing onto the rail line from Carnegie to Hughesdale could be slashed by up to $200,000, and “the impact on homes with a […]

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Sunday, 21 February


Turnbull opposes affordable housing John Quiggin

Responding to Labor’s proposals on negative gearing and capital gains tax, Malcolm Turnbull has warned that property values will fall as a result. He is surely correct. To put the same point in different words, Turnbull agrees that Labor policy will make housing more affordable and thinks that this is a bad thing.

There are some obvious electoral advantages in Turnbull’s scare campaign. As I observed when this topic came up during Abbott’s Prime Ministership, most voters own houses and therefore benefit from making housing less affordable. For this reason, Australian public policy has long been to make housing as unaffordable as possible.

The difficulty for Turnbull arises from precisely this point. He has more or less promised to do something about the tax treatment of property. But, from our current starting point, almost any change must make existing owners worse off. So, when and if he does anything, he will be hoist on his own petard.

Labor’s response to Turnbull has been interesting and, I suspect, effective. The line has been to accuse him of a dishonest scare campaign, without explicitly denying that property values will decline with the removal of unjustified tax concessions.

While this is an example of a non-denial denial, it is I think, defensible. Turnbull is mounting a scare campaign, and doing so dishonestly, attacking policies he might otherwise embrace. This is a much fairer use of the term than when it was used to apply to Labor’s reiteration of its longstanding opposition to expansion of the GST at a time when the government was clearly floating the idea. Pointing out that it was never formal government policy is a silly evasion – it wasn’t as though Labor was inventing the idea.

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Saturday, 20 February


Something doesn’t add up here John Quiggin

The papers are abuzz with speculation about an early election. This is one of the favorite games of the political punditariat, and it usually comes to nothing, but the story this time seems to make even less sense than usual. Part of the problem is that there are three different ways an early election could be held, and the proponents seem to be assuming a “unicorn” or “Pixie horse” (to use Scott Morrison’s evocative terminology) that combines the best of all three from the government’s position.

First, we could have an immediate dissolution of the House of Representatives. This would have a chance of achieving the biggest selling point of the early election idea, cashing in on Malcolm Turnbull’s popularity while it lasts. But such obviously cynical moves have failed in the past, as Campbell Newman could tell you. Also, it would (as I understand it) necessitate a separate half-Senate election in the second half of the year. The political class, with the exception of minority and micro-parties, really hates this idea.

Second, we could have a double dissolution, based on the Senate’s failure to pass anti-union laws, and held under the existing rules. Apparently, the election would have to be called the day after Budget Day (11 May), and couldn’t be held until July. So, it would only be a few months early, invalidating the whole idea. And, of course, it would guarantee a Senate with lots of micro and minor party members.

The third idea, is the second, plus a deal with the Greens to reform the Senate voting rules to allow preferential above the line voting. This would kill off the “preference whisperer” deals that have allowed the election of candidates with almost no votes. The reform makes sense, but why on earth would the Greens rush it through to make life easy for the government? All they have to do is hold off until the Budget session and they can get the reform with no possi...

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Wednesday, 17 February


TPP to stall climate change action: Saturday Paper AFTINET

16 February 2016

The Saturday Paper has published an excellent article critical of the TPP called Trans-Pacific Partnership to stall climate change action.

Written by law journalist Richard Ackland, it's well worth a read.


People around the world unite against TPP AFTINET

16 February 2016

People around the world are uniting against the TPP. Watch this video bringing together voices from Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Peru, Mexico, Chile, the US, Canada, Japan and beyond!

Whatever your reason for opposing the deal, take action by sending a message to your Senators and MP here.

Thanks to AFTINET members the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association for helping with this international video!


MPs' critical responses on TPP AFTINET

15 February 2015

Many MPs responded critically to the Government’s National Interest Analysis of the TPP tabled in Parliament last week.

Read responses by Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, and ALP MHRs Kelvin Thompson, Melissa Parke and Alannah McTiernan via the links.


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Monday, 15 February


New Trade Minister - Steve Ciobo AFTINET

15 February 2016

A cabinet reshuffle over the weekend has named Steve Ciobo as the new Australian Trade Minister.

Andrew Robb, who will be retiring at the next election, now has the title of special Trade Envoy. He will continue to be involved in current trade negotiations until then.

At this stage there is no indication that there will be any policy change on trade.

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Saturday, 13 February


Push for RCEP “convergence” with TPP AFTINET

12 February 2016

When Trade Minister Andrew Robb signed the TPP he told the Fairfax press that he was now setting his sights on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). The two deals combined would create “a vast trade agreement architecture” for the world, he said.

As RCEP talks continue in Brunei this week, Robb is not the only one pushing for the RCEP and for it to set similar rules as the TPP does.

RCEP includes the 10 ASEAN countries, including Japan and Korea, who are both also signatories to the TPP. They want to see some convergence between the deals, including stronger monopolies on life-saving medicines and inclusion of foreign investor rights to sue governments over domestic legislation (ISDS).

Read the full story in our latest Bulletin


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Friday, 12 February


TPP: What you need to know & what you can do about it AFTINET

The Trans-Pacific Partnership – or TPP – is a massive trade deal covering 40 per cent of the world’s economy, between the US, Australia and 10 other Pacific Rim countries.

Except it’s not only – or even mainly – about trade. It is about rules for global corporations, which could prevent future governments from protecting the public interest.

The TPP allows foreign corporations to bypass our courts and sue our governments in international tribunals if they can argue that future laws could harm their investment (read: their profits). There are increasing numbers of cases against governments trying to protect the environment, access to medicines, and even over an increase to the minimum wage.

The TPP also gives more monopoly rights to big pharmaceutical companies, so that they can charge higher prices for medicines for longer.

Here in Australia this means our health system could pay hundreds of millions of dollars a year more for lifesaving biologics medicines (the kind that can treat serious diseases like cancer). In developing countries it means millions of people will simply go without the treatment they need.

The TPP gives extra copyright protections for big corporates at the expense of consumers and internet users.

The TPP was negotiated behind closed doors with detailed input from US corporate adv...

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Thursday, 11 February


Scathing criticism of DFAT’s TPP analysis AFTINET

11 February 2016

Crikey has published a scathing criticism of the TPP’s 'National Interest Analysis' from Bernard Keane, titled "Whoo boy, trade agreement to save Australian business a whopping … $150k”

Mr Keane argues that the only “hard evidence” for benefit presented in the analysis is that “businesses will save less than $150,000 on paperwork”.

“Perhaps DFAT was ashamed of its document, because there isn’t a single sentence of actual analysis in the dozens and dozens of pages of the document or its attachments,” he writes.

You need a subscription to read the full article, but if you have one you can read it here 

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Wednesday, 10 February


Record number of ISDS cases in 2015 AFTINET

10 February 2016

As the world prepares for a massive expansion of the investor-state dispute settlement  (ISDS) system through the TPP, startling information has come to light.

As the world prepares for a massive expansion of ISDS thanks to the TPP, startling new information has come to light: it’s been revealed by UNCTAD that foreign investors launched  70 new ISDS cases against governments last year, more than any prior year.

This is twice the number of new cases than were launched just five years earlier. The total number of outstanding cases is now almost 700.

They also report that foreign investors have launched more ISDS cases in each of the last five years than in the first three decades of the ISDS system combined, and that more than half of all concluded cases have resulted in either settlement or loss for the government involved. 


TPP tabled in Parliament AFTINET

10 February 2016

Trade Minister Andrew Robb tabled the National Interest Assessment of the TPP  in the House of Representatives on Tuesday. The National Interest Assessment is done by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which negotiated the agreement and is not independent.

He was again criticised for seeking ratification of the TPP without a proper, independent cost-benefit examination of the deal and its impacts on Australians.

The agreement will now be examined by parliamentary committees. The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties will be receiving submissions until the 11th of March.

Tuesday, 09 February


Cancer patients arrested during peaceful TPP protest AFTINET

8 February 2016

Two cancer patients in the US were arrested on World Cancer Day for linking arms and refusing to leave the lobby of PhRMA, the trade association which pushed for extreme medicine monopolies in the TPP.

Watch the powerful video by by Global Trade Watch:

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