Tag Archives: martin ferguson

The voters want solar, Ferguson offers more coal

Over four weekends in March and April, members of Darebin Climate Action Now (DCAN) and Yarra Climate Action Now (YCAN) conducted doorknocking and street stalls in the Batman electorate. Volunteers spoke to over 500 people from Reservoir, Preston, Northcote, Fairfield, Alphington and Clifton Hill about their views on the development and funding of large scale solar power in Australia. The surveys are part of a campaign by 100% Renewables to have 10,000 conversations about Big Solar in 50 electorates around Australia.

The results of polling of 417 people in Batman show overwhelming support for the building of large scale solar power plants in Australia from both the relatively high and low income parts of the electorate.

This polling shows that Martin Ferguson is out of touch with voters in his own electorate. While Mr Ferguson is talking up the development of coal and gas, and talking down renewable energy (to the point of lying about its ability to provide baseload power and lying about its price, twice), his constituents want to see Australia transition to renewable energy.

The results (see below) have been sent to Martin Ferguson, and we await his response.

Big Solar poll – Results

The table below outlines the results from our polling. In summary, 87% of people support the building of large-scale solar in Australia, and 91% support government funding for this sort of project.



Don’t know/ not sure

1. Did you know about the large scale solar power plants being
built in other parts of the world -like this one?
[show picture
of Concentrating Solar Thermal (CST) power plant in Spain]
Clifton Hill (n=112)




Northcote, Alphington, Fairfield (n=100)




Preston, Reservoir (n=206)




Total all locations (n=418)




2. [After explanation of CST] Do you think we should be building
these solar plants in Australia?
Clifton Hill (n=114)




Northcote, Alphington, Fairfield (n=100)




Preston, Reservoir (n=206)




Total all locations (n=420)




3. Last year the government set up a new $10 billion fund to
support investment in projects like this. Do you support this
kind of government funding for big solar?
Clifton Hill (n=111)




Northcote, Alphington, Fairfield (n=100)




Preston, Reservoir (n=206)




Total all locations (n=417)




* An additional 95 people signed up as supporters of the campaign to build Big Solar in Australia but
did not complete the survey.

Below is an unedited list of the hundreds of messages that were sent to Martin Ferguson by the people we surveyed.

Big Solar poll – Batman residents’ messages for Martin Ferguson

Reservoir (door-knocking)

1. Have an open mind to solar. You need to broaden your horizons and look to the future. Coal is going to get phased out. There needs to be a plan already. We should be exploring more solar power.

2. It sounds like a better idea to build solar.

3. Solar power is a great source of energy, and we should utilise this great gift, which can last forever.

4. We need to consider that [solar power] and stay away from nuclear.

5. Think of our kids- cos we’ve seen what nuclear power does in Japan and Russia and the coal only pollutes the air.

6. I think solar is good because it saves money.

7. Solar demands inclusion as an option to supplement existing coal power. I’m all for wind turbines and bio-energy.

8. Need to put efforts into sustainable energy sources.

9. Build big solar!

10. Get with it. Surprised [you are] not already building big solar.

11. Should explore it. Would create jobs.

12. Build big solar.

13. Get with the program. It’s the future, and better than digging up and burning coal.

14. Get rid of carbon tax – harness natural resources.


Preston (door-knocking):

1. We should have more rebates for solar for sure. We should invest in large scale solar instead of coal.

2. We have a huge area in central Australia. You’re not going to run out of sun and wind.

3. You should start with Ministry of Housing houses for solar power – to help the strugglers.

4. I’m an electrician – we should build more like the one in Echuca. It’s free energy. You’ll make your money back.

5. Put solar panels on Ministry houses.

6. More should be being done. Fossil fuels are old technology and harmful to the environment.

7. Energy should be more natural, solar is more natural than using coal or nuclear power.

8. Renewable energy is the way of the future if we want sustainable environment.

9. Renewable energy will be good for the environment, but we want our money to be used wisely.

10. 1If we had more efficient solar panels or solar energy it would be better for the environment, and the economy, but it needs to be affordable to the general population.

11. Reliance on unsustainable big business is bad news!

12. It’s unsafe not to go something free of emissions. I vote in your electorate and I want big solar, not fossil fuels power.

13. Yes …I’ve written to [Martin] before. I think [big solar] is exactly the kind of thing we should be looking for. Commitment to unsustainable energy sources is disappointing. Australia is one of the last countries in the world to do this. We should be reading the world.

14. Burning fossil fuel is clearly environmentally dangerous to all living things (bad cycle). We should have been looking at clean sources to fuel our energy needs from the beginning. Please fund this for everyone’s sake.

15. Use the people’s money wisely.

16. Solar should be supported as long as the project location is suitable.

17. Should be giving reduction or rebate for local solar rooftops and not as much money into coal fired.

18. Solar is the best renewable!

19. [Put] funds into research for clean energy.

20. Please listen to your constituents, we want clean energy.

21. Please support clean energy for the people of Australia.

22. Renewable energy is the way to go.

23. The government should spend money on lots of things not just solar.

24. Please read the facts. You need better advisers, Martin.

25. Solar is an investment into the future. The old methods of supplying power are out-dated.

26. I’d like to see you support greener energy sources. It has to happen eventually.

27. We want our children to have a future in an industry that is sustainable. BZE have proved both economically and environmentally sound. Job creation wise, there is no ethical reason why we should be using coal at all. Renewable energy is the future for working class Australia.

28. Renewable energy reliance needs to be increased as part of a broader strategy, reducing out overall reliance on coal.

29. I do not support anything that is robbing our country of our resources. Start helping the low income people with affordable energy.

30. I don’t support anyone who is opposing solar and wind projects, which is good for nature and doesn’t emit carbon. We [should] promote wind and solar.

31. Better to support big solar rather than [coal] as solar is better for the environment.

32. [You] should be doing more to support investment in solar.

33. We should fund sustainable power.

34. This [large scale solar] is cheaper than photo-voltaic

35. Create a stable power environment to provide right environment for investment.

36. The clean energy board should have representation across the board.

37. Build big solar, we need it. It’s clean.

38. It will save a lot of money in the future.

39. Everything relies on us getting it right. We have to move away from fossil fuels. We’ve got so much renewable energy, let’s use it!

40. It’s time to give more money to Big Solar!

41. In the long run, it will be more economical to build big solar.

42. Solar is the future.

43. Solar power should be for the future (it’s not relevant in my [elderly] age group).

44. I am a fan of nuclear power, but it has to be run properly.

45. We have to look after the atmosphere, because I have twin boys.

46. [You] should not be blocking solar power. Solar should be widely used.

47. Well planned alternative energy is a must for our future.

48. I support solar energy for the future.

49. We need renewable and sustainable energy sources for our kids, and do it now. Build the infrastructure before mass need.

50. If solar power plants can reduce energy bills…

51. Be open minded about other energy sources.

52. You are wasting money on new coal fired power plants.

53. Think more long term than more short term; that wins votes.

54. About time we went solar.

55. It’s imperative that we invent and support new technologies to take us into the 23rd century, and not look backwards at the things we’ve always done. Now is the time.

56. I don’t understand why Australia doesn’t even do it.

57. Why aren’t they putting the finance into the solar industry?

58. We need to start moving away from coal to renewable energy sources.

59. Explore alternative opportunities.

60. Pull your finger out and do something about it.

61. Let’s now waste time on gas, go Blues!

62. Solar power needs to improve efficiency.

63. Build more solar power plants Martin.

64. We want more investment in renewables.

65. Solar and wind power are cleaner, can run for a longer time and no radiation.

66. I am in support of renewable energy.

67. Who pays your way? Coal and mining industry, or the people of Australia? You’re a traitor to Labor, and the people of Australia.

68. There are other alternatives to coal.

69. Cost of living is increasing day by day, so please do something in regards to solar energy. Solar energy is a renewable resource; this will help in reducing the bills of people. Help HH to play his bills.

70. Australia is full of sunshine, so why hasn’t the government capitalised on this? Why drag your feet behind other countries?

71. Please do the best thing for the future of Australia and the children of the planet. Solar energy please!

72. Hey Martin, get real. Start acting for our fossil free future, you fossil!

73. We support renewable energy.

74. We want more attention to be paid to the things that will keep the environment safe for future generations.

75. Look after the people and the country – the best nation in the world!

76. [You] should reconsider [your] stance. Nuclear power is not environmentally viable.

77. Bring on solar power!

78. Renewables are the future. You’re a dinosaur, Martin!

79. Renewables is a good step to take.

80. Invest in renewables instead of expanding coal.

81. I’m all for renewables.

82. Support and expand renewables.

83. Open your eyes!

84. I think wind and solar power are the future. Eventually we don’t have gas – even nuclear is not for ever and you leave a mess.

85. If USA is making them, then we should too. It’s going to be cheaper. Wind and solar – it’s always free.

86. Nuclear is cheap but very dangerous (I come from Europe and I know) Solar is good – never ending – good for the environment.

87. We sell coal to China and India – that’s politics. We like solar power, but we need government support for solar panels. We have lots of wind and solar. It’s good long term but difficult now – we need to sell resources to pay for it.

88. I’m not for nuclear power.

89. I can’t see why [Big Solar] can’t work. It makes sense!

90. Should build more solar power plants.

91. They do this and it just rips us off. They can do it but not out of our pockets.

92. We should be building solar power plants in Australia.

93. Alternative energy sources need to be considered.

94. I’m not into funding or supporting coal.

95. I support a balanced approach.

96. Don’t put it in heritage or Aboriginal land. We should be building these in Australia!

97. I support big solar.

98. Should give serious thought to big solar, it means clean energy for future generations.

99. Get off your asses and get on with it!

100. Put money in research and development for any technology that’s clean and safe.

101. I’m a big supporter of renewable energy. I think the government’s lack of investment in renewables is really short sighted.

102. Why [are you] supporting coal over renewables?


Northcote (door-knocking)

1. We can move to more renewables and we should.

2. Go away with your old ideas and get on to renewable stuff.

3. Big solar is good idea

4. Should get onto what’s happening in other countries and bring it here.

5. Please do include more renewable energy when you discuss renewable energy and planned policy.

6. Solar power is much better – see it Portugal. Portugal has a huge one like this.

7. Listen to your constituents. – It’s your job!

8. It’s so short-sighted – your support of the fossil fuel industries – it’s mad. Other countries are leading.

9. The way – we have so much solar [energy]. We should lead the way, boldly.

10. You should retire! Get with the modern technology. Get out of the pocket of industry!

11. Solar – it’s affordable & it’s clean, and our climate is perfectly suited to it. Let’s do it!

12. Wake up comrade! From your local shop steward.

13. Typical!

14. You need to think about our future. We have so much sun and wind available.

15. Grow up! Remember your constituents. You don’t represent us!

16. Large scale solar is easier than nuclear – you should do your homework – could be OK later but not till waste problem and safety are solved.


Northcote (Street stalls: Northcote Plaza, Uniting Church, High Street)

1. Please do!

2. Please support big solar.

3. You need to listen to what people are saying and not listening to business interests. You need to support sustainable industries, not those that are polluting.

4. Why support nuclear after Fukushima when we could use solar which is sustainable.

5. Look after the people who support you.

6. Solar is good. Uranium is bad. Coal is bad. In Victoria we burn dirt for electricity.

7. I’m 12 and I want climate change stopped.

8. There’s no excuse not to fund big solar. If you don’t you’re threatening the future of all things on this planet. It’s proven. Just do it. Feed-in tariffs now!

9. I’m 17 and I care about the environment.

10. Nuclear Free please (x 2). Big Solar sounds great.

11. It’s good to be at the forefront of a new technology – good opportunities – not lagging – and it’s good for the world (x 2)

12. Why aren’t you moving towards 100% renewable energy?

13. Bloody Martin – Sexist – Met him at Preston Primary School. He shouldn’t feel safe there. It’s quite progressive.

14. Mother and daughter – Labor says Roxburgh Park is turning green!

15. Interested in BZE plan

16. Very short sighted. Should be in the forefront.

17. Knows about 100% renewable from AYCC.

18. Why are you blocking big solar?


Fairfield (Station Street stalls)

19. Politicians should listen to those who have the knowledge about the environment rather than people who have the money.

20. We’ve been subsidising brown coal for decades. It’s time we put our money into clean energy like big solar!

21. Having worked all over the world, I believe that it would behove you and be in your best interest to use renewable energy instead of the coal burning and gas energy. Think about it! We need real action on climate change, not more subsidies for the coal and gas industries.

22. Get on with it now!

23. Govt. needs to do more to protect the environment and provide clean energy for the future and [our] grandchildren.

24. Get rid of support for nuclear and coal and association with big business. Get on with clean energy which makes jobs.

25. Get on with Big Solar.

26. We need to change to clean energy now!

27. Solar energy should be given resources and research funding equivalent to other electricity production.

28. Think of the future and the environment and get on with it!

29. Should be looking at ALL renewables – Coal is [a] finite and filthy resource.


Clifton Hill (door-knocking)

30. Use solar as well. Government needs to build something impressive like the Snowy Mountain scheme.

31. Emphasis on fossil fuels all about business. All short-termism. Need to think more long term.

32. We don’t want nuclear. We don’t want coal. Time to catch up!

33. He’s an idiot. Not very smart. Not in touch with his electorate.

34. Pull your head out of your arse. Do your research.

35. Not coal, gas or nuclear. Support renewables!

36. Stop supporting dirty industries.

37. I can’t stand you!

38. Build big solar now.

39. 100% in support of solar power.

40. Take the opportunity while you have this portfolio to get solar energy off the ground.

41. Use it for clean energy – solar power is free and clean and we have so much land for this!

42. We need to invest in renewable industries. The $10b should be used in that fashion rather than supporting the old industries.

43. Look at it! Consider it!

44. Consider molybidenum [thorium?] nuclear reactors.

45. Contribute to true renewable energy sources. People think this money is going to real renewable energy.

46. Important to support solar and understand the views of new constituents.

47. It is clean, green and after set up solar is free. Nuclear is not an option.

48. Should go to another country and live there.

49. Need to look at more than one form of power. Must consider all options.

50. Please move us to clean energy future.

51. Ditto.

52. Would like to see progress on geothermal.

53. You’re wasting your time in Victoria with that cretin in Spring St.

54. Firm believer in renewables.

55. Also would like to see progress on geothermal.

56. Support carbon tax totally.

57. We need to get beyond globes and shower heads. Power companies very hard to deal with on roof top PV installations.

58. Stop digging up the country and shipping it overseas!

59. Keep an open mind and invest in the future!

60. Nowadays we need a green environment. We need to change and invest in this technology.

61. Oil and gas will deplete someday. We should harness solar energy and use what God’s given us.

62. Seems crazy that we’re putting money into coal and gas.

63. Need to invest more in renewable energy. Coal is going to run out one day.

64. It’s crazy that we’re not investing more in solar. We’ve gt so much of it.

65. A bit ridiculous to keep funding the same old energy sources.

66. Don’t invest any CEFC money in gas. It is not clean and is not renewable.

67. The future is renewables, the past is fossil fuels.

68. If you don’t support renewables, maybe you shouldn’t be Minister for Energy! Get your head out of the sand.

69. Yes: we should be supporting renewables!

70. Invest more in renewables, including big solar.

71. I support renewables, I’d like you to represent that.

72. Don’t be so close-minded.

73. Go away!

74. Wake up! its not about you Martin. Its about the climate and our children.

75. Martin, open your eyes and stop listening to big coal.

76. Don’t invest any CEFC money in gas. It is not clean and is not renewable.

77. I support government funding renewable energy projects

78. Disappointing to see investment in…

79. Get on with rolling out renewables.

80. Renewables are a real investment in our future.

81. I support CEFC funding as long as it goes to renewables.

82. Push for renewables. Move away from gas and coal.

83. I support responsible use of the $10b on renewables.

84. We really need to start building solar power in Australia.

85. I fully support funding for renewables.

86. He better go green or his electorate…

87. Think more about the future. Cheaper coal at the moment won’t stay cheap.

88. I don’t support nuclear power. He should do more on solar power.

89. Dear Mr Ferguson, I am shocked by your climate destroying attitude and will work hard to unseat you at the next [election]. Cheer!

90. Everything should be given a go.

91. In general I’d be supportive of renewable energy as opposed to coal and nuclear.

92. Build big solar for jobs in Australia.

93. Get real and deliver the rhetoric. Stop supporting big business.

94. Take appropriate measures to look after the environment.

95. Support clean alternatives.

96. Clean energy should be a priority.

97. I support renewable energy.

98. Do something more with renewables.

99. Listen to your constituents.

100. Use renewable technology.

101. Fund renewables.

102. Australia is an ideal place for solar.

103. We need to use out natural renewable resources.

104. What is your choice between long-term sustainability or short term lobbying from the coal industry?

105. I’m fully supportive of renewable energy sources like solar and want my taxes to support that.

106. Energy sustainability is paramount to a liveable planet and ensuring our children’s future. Australia is the perfect environment to pioneer in this field.

107. I’d like the ALP to get behind investing in renewables once you do it the population will realise how good it is or we will get Abbott in and that will be hell!

108. We have huge opportunities for renewables in Australia so why aren’t we using it?

109. I support renewable energy for the country.

110. ACT NOW!!!

111. Decentralised solar power in domestic homes is the most effective and efficient way to generate domestic electricity.

112. Resign!

113. An obvious source of energy in solar-rich Australia.

114. Time to do what is ‘Right’ and lead.

115. If they can do it in Spain, why not here?

116. We need to be looking at alternatives because coal [is] not the answer.

117. You’re wrong.

118. Martin, stop living in yesterday’s world. Start planning and thinking for now and the future.

119. Extraordinarily important. Happening in Spain, why not here? We have more sun than Spain.

120. “Come On Martin, make it happen!”

121. Please consider this ground-breaking technology. Why is Spain utilizing this and Australia doesn’t know about it? Solar not coal is the future!

122. Just do it!

123. Don’t be a Wally. Just get behind it!

124. Absolutely! In our climate – it’s crazy we are not making use of solar for all our power requirements.

125. Sooner rather than later coal will kill our planet. Are we insane?

126. Retire! Support Big Solar. Stop supporting coal. Stop destroying our efforts to cut emissions.


128. Please represent us!!! Big Solar is a great resource – use it and I urge you to do your job as Resources Minister. – Darebin resident.

129. Time to get moving and aim for 50% renewable energy ASAP. Coal is old technology and dangerous to health.

130. Time to build solar now. Time is running out. Forget pretending carbon sequestration will work.

Knock, knock Fergo…Let’s talk about Big Solar

Let’s make Martin Ferguson pay some Big Attention to Big Solar

Big Solar Poll Door-knocking – Sat March 31 and Sat April 14, 2012

RSVP to taegen -at- ycan.org.au

Knock, knock.
Who’s there?

Martin Ferguson

Martin Ferguson who?

Oh, I used to be Minister for Energy but I got kicked out because I kept making excuses for my fossil fuel industry buddies instead of working to get Australia powered by large-scale solar…

What’s this about?

Do you think Martin Ferguson is doing enough to get renewable energy built in Australia? Would you rather he concentrated on building baseload solar power plants rather than defending coal and salivating over gas and uranium?

We would. But we are just crazy, CIA-funded greenies.

So, we need to know what the rest of his electorate thinks…

Unlike Fergo, we don’t need to buy the services of spies to find out. We thought we’d just go out and talk to our neighbours. We’re going to Clifton Hill, which has recently become part of his Batman electorate. We’re also going to Preston and Reservoir, to talk to his most loyal voters.

We’d love you to come along and help us have some interesting conversations about solar power and Martin Ferguson with the people he cares about second-most.*


When and where is the door-knocking happening?
Saturday March 31, 1pm – 4pm (CLIFTON HILL)
Meeting spot: Community Church of St Marks Hall, 100 Hodgkinson St, Clifton Hill.  See MAP.
Saturday April 14, 1pm – 4pm (PRESTON/RESERVOIR)
Meeting spot: 19 Murphy Grove (Nb. not Murphy Street), Preston. See MAP.


What will we be doing?

1 – 1.45pm         Briefing on the Big Solar Poll, doorknocking training and Q&A
1.45 – 2pm         Allocate maps and head with partner to doorknocking locations
2 – 4pm             Collect Big Solar Poll responses in your allocated area
4pm – later         Debrief at the closest decent pub (tbc)

What should you bring?

Water, sunscreen/umbrella (as appropriate), come on a bike if convenient…

To let us know you are coming along RSVP to taegen -at- ycan.org.au


Who is running this?

These Big Solar Poll door-knocking activities are being organised by Yarra Climate Action Now and Darebin Climate Action Now. We are 2 local climate action groups made up of volunteers who live and work in Martin Ferguson’s seat of Batman.

The Big Solar campaign is bigger than just us. Coordinated by the team at 100% Renewables, it is a campaign that is being brought to life by over 50 community groups all across Australia. Together we will speak to thousands of Australians from all walks of life about solar power and the possibility large-scale, baseload solar power presents as a replacement for coal and a much better energy solution for Australia than gas.

Anyone interested in talking to their fellow community members about Big Solar and hearing what they think about Martin Ferguson’s efforts on solar to date is most welcome to join us.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Please let us know if you are coming along. RSVP to taegen -at- ycan.org.au

Queries? Call Taegen on 0438 787 026 or Jane on 0419 870 507

*People he cares about first-most should be obvious. If you need a hint, check out Minister Ferguson’s draft Energy White Paper.

The Greenhouse Mafia strikes again

Originally published in Arena Magazine.

During the prime ministership of John Howard, the term ‘greenhouse mafia’ was coined to describe the fossil fuel industry representatives who were so influential they were literally writing the Federal Government’s climate and energy policies. With Martin Ferguson as Labor’s Minister for Resources and Energy, it seems very little has changed. The draft Energy White Paper (EWP), released in December 2011, provides as clear an indication as ever of the access and esteem granted to the organisations and individuals whose profits depend on Australia maintaining its fossil fuel-dependent status quo.

The EWP addresses questions central to the supply and use of energy in Australia and points to strategic priorities for the government in the face of expected challenges over the period to 2030. The answers it comes up with are as strikingly beneficial to fossil fuel industry interests as they are disdainful of the growing importance of renewable energy and the reality of responding to global warming.

The vision put forward in Ferguson’s EWP is one of a nation continuing to expand its fossil fuel use and exports, albeit under the Orwellian banner of a ‘clean energy transformation’. As the EWP proudly notes, ‘Australia is currently the world’s largest coal exporter, third-largest uranium producer and in future years will be the second-largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter’. Ensuring major, ongoing growth trends in fossil fuel exports, particularly to Asia, is a significant theme of the paper. Domestic energy supply will continue to be met by coal, made less emissions-intensive by the assumed commercialisation of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, and will see an increasing reliance on gas, which is expected to account for 44 per cent of Australian energy supply in 2050. Some diversification into renewable energy sources is envisioned, with qualified support for the potential of large-scale solar, geothermal and wind power. At the same time, the paper suggests the introduction of nuclear power should be considered. The EWP’s vision is also one of a fully privatised, deregulated energy sector, in which protecting the sanctity of the market is prioritised over the promotion of zero emissions technologies.

To begin to understand the EWP’s outcomes, it is worth noting the reference group that Minister Ferguson put together to help write it. The group does not include one person with any expertise or exclusive interest in renewable energy. There is also not a single representative from community or environment groups. Instead, the list of those invited to the table reads like a roll call of the usual suspects: BHP Billiton; Rio Tinto; Xstrata Coal; Woodside Energy; Caltex Australia and so on.

In many ways, the EWP is a typical neoliberal document in the tradition of the last few decades of Labor and Liberal party policymaking. It calls for the privatisation of all remaining government-owned energy assets and full deregulation of retail energy pricing. The EWP also sets the scene for the scrapping of policies designed to support the deployment of renewable energy, lending weight to the view that carbon pricing is considered a sufficient, catch-all response to emissions reduction by the Gillard Government. During his launch of the draft EWP, Minister Ferguson underscored this point by announcing the scrapping of the Government’s promised emissions standards for new coal-fired power stations, no longer seen to be necessary given the passage of the carbon price legislation.

Also in Ferguson’s sights are the various feed-in tariff schemes introduced by state and territory governments to support the uptake of solar panels. According to research presented in September 2011 at a renewable energy symposium in Taiwan, feed-in tariffs have been responsible for 64 per cent of wind energy and 87 per cent of solar energy installed worldwide. Rather than giving due credit to this effective policy instrument, the EWP dismisses it as a ‘market distortion’. In the meantime, the distortionary implications of support for the development of controversial carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, assumed in the EWP to allow coal to continue to play a major role in Australia’s energy future, is not brought into question. Nor is the over $10 billion in fossil fuel subsidies already supplied by taxpayers annually.

The introduction of a low carbon price and the absence of policies to support renewable energy deployment will ensure the increasing exploitation of fossil gas, including gas from non-conventional sources such as coal seams. Widespread community opposition to the emerging coal seam gas (CSG) industry is treated in the EWP as a minor hurdle. Rather than legitimise concerns about what the destructive impacts of this industry and what its planned expansion will mean for farming, water supplies and greenhouse gas emissions, the document merely notes that effort will need to be applied to build community support. More fundamentally, the assumption that gas is a ‘clean energy’, creating lower emissions than coal may not even be true, particularly when it comes to non-conventional sources with high uncertainty around fugitive emissions. Very little research has been done on the life-cycle emissions of gas, with at least one recent report suppressed by the gas industry.

The EWP displays a rose-coloured glasses approach when it comes to the future price of fossil fuels. Dismissing outright the potential for peak oil to occur between now and 2035, the EWP predicts an oil price of US$120 a barrel (in real terms) in 2035. That amounts to an approximate increase of 54 per cent on 2010 prices over twenty-five years, which seems especially naive considering the 300 percent oil price increase over the last seven years acknowledged by Minister Ferguson in his speech to launch the EWP.  Ferguson also admitted that the eastern states of Australia will be exposed to global gas prices once the export terminal in Gladstone is complete around 2015, which is likely to see gas prices triple and become as volatile as oil prices are currently.

Modelling included in the EWP also exposes Minister Ferguson’s questionable grasp on the price of renewable energy. Research by the University of Melbourne’s Energy Research Institute, commissioned by Ross Garnaut in May 2011, showed that the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism was consistently overestimating prices for renewable energy. In the case of rooftop solar panels, the study showed that they are already cheaper than the prices Ferguson’s department predicted they would fall to in the year 2030! Despite publicly acknowledging this data and promising to note changes to the cost of renewable energy, the EWP reflects continued use of outdated figures. One week after the EWP was launched, finance analysts at Bloomberg revealed that the cost of wind power had been exaggerated by 50 per cent, and the price of solar power by 300 per cent in EWP modelling.

Leaving aside these flaws in the EWP it is worth asking, more fundamentally, what a strategic, long-term energy policy for a wealthy, emissions-intensive country like Australia should look like, given what we know about global climate change and energy trends.

A forward-looking energy policy not tainted by vested interests would recognise the twin realities of the urgent need for emissions reductions and the favourable economics of a switch to renewable energy. It would recognise that these transitions require strong government leadership and support.

Policies built on this analysis do exist. One example is the Danish Government’s recently released package of initiatives, Our Future Energy which clearly emphasises the need to ‘avoid becoming trapped with inefficient and non-renewable technologies… [and] caught with an expensive and outdated energy sector in 30-40 years’. The investment required to meet its target of 100 per cent renewable energy in national energy supply by 2050, expected to amount to a net cost of less than 0.25 percent of that country’s GDP in 2020, is considered a necessary insurance policy to avoid higher costs in the longer term due to increasing prices of non-renewable energy.

The EWP contains no such vision. Instead, it shows that there is a contradiction at the heart of the Gillard Government’s climate and energy policies. On the one hand it fought to get the carbon price through parliament in 2011, while on the other Australia’s planned fossil fuel export projects will generate at least eleven times as many annual emissions as will be saved by the Clean Energy Future package. As Guy Pearse recently calculated, these projects will also contribute a staggering one eighth of the global carbon budget to avoid 2 degrees C global temperature rises (which, as many have explained, may not avoid disastrous impacts) between now and 2050.

The EWP claims to be working towards a ‘secure, resilient and efficient energy system’ and one which provides ‘accessible, reliable and competitively priced energy for all Australians’. Looking beyond motherhood statements, it contains policies which, if implemented, appear more likely to entrench energy insecurity, expose Australian energy consumers to ever-increasing fossil fuel prices, and completely contradict national efforts to abandon our greenhouse gas emitting path towards catastrophic climate change.

Taegen Edwards is a Research Fellow at the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute. Pablo Brait is General Manager at Beyond Zero Emissions and Convenor of Yarra Climate Action Now. The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the organisations the authors work for.

Spying for Big Coal

For background information on the spying scandal see The Age’s report published on 7 January 2012. Links to further commentary are at the bottom of this post. This post was originally published on Brian Walters’ blog.

NOTE: There will be a protest action outside Martin Ferguson’s office (159 High St, Preston) on Thursday 12 January, 4.30pm onwards.


Today the Age reported that the Federal government has been spying on Green groups, particularly environmental activists peacefully protesting at coal-fired power stations and coal export facilities. Martin Ferguson, the member for Batman and Minister for Resources and Energy, requested the additional surveillance, prompted by lobbying by the coal energy companies.

These companies are largely foreign-owned. Over the next five years, foreign-owned mining companies will ship some $50 billion per annum offshore in dividends.

Not content with their campaign against a tax on their super profits, these vast corporations are now using their influence to have Australian authorities covertly spy on their political opponents – and they have a ready supporter in Martin Ferguson.

This surveillance of community groups is one-sided: it is not directed at companies who break the law. There is no surveillance of board rooms to find out what other plans they might have to use their resources to alter the political debate in Australia. Nor is it being used to detect breaches of environmental laws by these companies. It is directed against the very community which should be sovereign in a democratic system.

You won’t be able to find out if your group or your emails have been spied on. This would be exempted from disclosure under s 37 of the Commonwealth Freedom of Information Act. This means that the community will not be able to challenge the use of these covert powers in any specific instance.

The latest news follows revelations in 2008 that police have been infiltrating community groups and spying on them.

Community participation is at the core of democracy. Once we allow our “security” forces to undermine the freedom to participate in public life we are on the slippery slope to a different kind of regime. As Benjamin Franklin put it:

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Today we need the voice of the community like never before: the corporations trying to protect their position are jeopardising the future of humanity – and the Earth itself – with their dig it up and burn it approach, and the community is our last best hope.

The chill effect on community participation where government agencies are spying on participants is well known and makes it so much harder to act against the big carbon economy.

Democratic power requires community participation: it is the very essence of the idea of democracy that all can have a say, that all can seek to lobby, that all can seek to change laws and indeed their representatives.

For Martin Ferguson to be siding with big coal against the future of the planet is not surprising. It is consistent with his dreadful anti-environment record, including recently promoting the sale of uranium to India. And of course he’s no stranger to protesters – because they have taken their campaigns right up to him.

Now he’s been caught urging the use of covert government power to spy on those who have challenged him – and who have challenged the companies whose interests he has championed.

Spying on community groups is a hallmark of totalitarian regimes. It is an unaccountable use of power which undermines the foundation of democracy itself. Australia should not stand for it.

By Brian Walters.


For further commentary see the Northcote Independent blog.

Ferguson “the fossil fool” faces protest

Members of community groups representing Martin Ferguson’s constituents rallied outside one of his speeches on Tuesday morning in response to the Labor Party’s endorsement of Uranium exports to India, and Minister Ferguson’s unwavering support of the fossil fuel industry and his lack of support for renewable energy.

“We are sick of having an energy minister and local member that rejects renewable energy and supports nuclear, coal, gas, oil and mining interests” Yarra Climate Action Now Convener Pablo Brait said.

“Minister Ferguson was instrumental in the Labor Party’s recent decision to allow Uranium exports to India. He has stacked the Energy White Paper Reference Group so that there isn’t one single wind or solar company or community group representative. He is encouraging the development of the gas hub which will destroy the Kimberley coast.”

“Labor party sources tell us that Martin Ferguson’s intransigence is the biggest barrier to the roll-out of renewable energy across Australia.” Mr Brait said.

“We are worried that Martin Ferguson’s next step will be to stack the board of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). We demand that 100% of the ARENA board members be from renewable energy companies, and that doesn’t include gas companies dressed up as renewable energy companies.” Mr Brait said.

Carol Ride, Convener of Darebin Climate Action Now said, “Our local member is trying to sabotage renewable energy and stands up for the interests of the coal and gas lobby. It’s what we would expect of a member of the Liberal party.”

“We can’t help but label Martin Ferguson a ‘fossil fool’ who is out of touch with his constituents and the future of our children and grandchildren,” Ms Ride concluded.

F for Ferguson: protest the fossil fool

Stand up for renewable energy!

“Energy Minister” Martin Ferguson is the fossil fuel industry’s man in the Labor Party. He stands up for coal, oil, gas and Uranium interests, while doing his best to slow the roll-out of clean and cheap renewable energy technologies.

He’s not an energy minister, he’s the minister for maximising fossil fuel company profits.
He’s not an energy minister, he’s the minister for maintaining the dirty and unsustainable status quo.

For example, he has stacked the Energy White Paper reference group with fossil fuel industry representatives, and not one solar or wind company or community group. We are sick of this bias. We want a real energy minister that will take us on the path to 100% renewable energy. A path that will mean clean air, clean water, productive farmland, good jobs and a safe climate. (For further information on how Ferguson is stacking the White Paper process with fossil fools click here)

Come and join us early on the morning of Tuesday 13 December to help us form a welcoming party for Minister Ferguson before he addresses the Committee for Economic Development of Australia.

When: 6.45-7.30am, Tuesday 13 December
Where: Hilton on the Park, 192 Wellington Parade, East Melbourne

Bring your banners!

Organised by Martin Ferguson’s constituents in Darebin Climate Action Now and Yarra Climate Action Now.