When I first heard Turnbull describe himself as a nation-building Prime Minister, I almost dropped my lunchtime sandwich, and spat ham and salad everywhere. His statement instantly reminded me of Abbott’s ludicrous statement after the first challenge to his Prime Ministership in February, 2015, that “Good government starts today” which clearly indicated that poor government had occupied the previous 17 months1. The latter of course was true, and furthermore, poor government did not stop then either, but continued for another 8 months at which time Turnbull toppled Abbott in September 20152. Upon taking office, Turnbull said he was humbled by the victory and he promised a new economic vision for the nation.
When Turnbull did take over from Abbott, there was almost a sigh of relief from the populace, because the inarticulate, bumbling, stuffup that was Abbott was gone and someone with a functioning brain had taken over. What happened? Not much, actually. Turnbull had clearly made a deal with the religious right wing nut jobs (RRWNJs) of his party to dump Abbott, in return for keeping some of Abbott’s idiotic policies, such as the same sex marriage plebiscite, and the enormously inefficient Emissions Reduction Fund. The people soon realised that Turnbull was just like Abbott, only more articulate (which wasn’t difficult).
While wandering around Tumut 3 hydro power station, nation-builder Turnbull stated that the plan was to increase the Snowy Mountains Scheme’s electricity output by 50% and to install some pumped hydro generation capacity to cope with peak electricity demand. It is odd that the nation-builder only seemed to have thought to mention this plan to the governments of co-owners Victoria and New South Wales, on the day before the public announcement3. It is clear that this announcement was designed to act as a counter to the plan put forward for his state by South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill (more on this below). However, the Snowy ‘plan’ will consist of a $500,000 one year feasibility study to examine four possible sites for new power stations and tunnels (but no new dams). With a bit of luck, construction will start in 2018 or 2019 and will take between four and seven years3. So, at the very best, not much will be happening by way of extra electricity for half a decade, or probably longer. This would not be much help to South Australia.
The South Australian Government has announced that it will spend more than $500 million to build a new $360 million, 250 megawatt, gas-fired power plant and a 100 megawatt battery system to secure the state’s energy supply. South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill stated that Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis would be given powers to direct that the gas-fired power station be turned on in an emergency if a generation shortfall was forecast. The South Australian Government also announced funding incentives to discover and develop new gas supplies for local power generation4. Weatherill was enormously critical of the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), which, during January’s ‘load shedding’ (i.e. blackout), failed to direct the Pelican Point gas-fired power station to turn on. Turnbull knew this, but lied in saying that these blackouts were the fault of South Australia’s relatively large reliance on renewable energy5. Frydenberg and other MPs also effectively lied about the causes of the blackouts, by indicating it was caused by renewables. There were jokes around at the time asking Frydenberg (sometimes unkindly labelled Fraudenberg): what velocity of wind was required for those wind turbines to blow over those power transmission pylons?
One of the most entertaining things to happen recently was that Jay Weatherill apparently gatecrashed a Frydenberg launch of an AGL ‘virtual power station’, after the Snowy Mountains Scheme announcement and in front of the canmeras, he let Frydenberg have both barrels. He stated “It shows that the Commonwealth government are in a white-knuckle panic about national energy policy. It is a $2 billion admission that the national energy market has broken and there needs to be public investments to actually fix it up”7. Frydenberg and Turnbull both attempted to cast doubt on Weatherill’s state of mind, indicating that he was unhinged. Given what had happened over the previous two months, it was clear what Weatherill’s state of mind was. He was livid and fed up with the rubbish spouted about renewables by the federal government. I am sure if I was in his position, I would have done something similar.
If Malcolm Turnbull was a nation-building Prime Minister, he should actually have a vision for the future. This is something he patently does not have. He cannot even overcome the religious right wing nut jobs in his own party and organise something as simple as having a free vote in parliament on same sex marriage. He has delivered, then only to some people, a buggered National Broadband Network (NBN), which will need, for this nation to prosper into the future, much faster speeds than it looks like delivering. He also doesn’t seem to realise that the thermal coal industry is history and giving taxpayer billions to it is no longer sensible. He has just realised that we do not have enough gas in Australia, despite the country being one of the biggest gas exporters on the planet. The situation is so mind-blowingly bad that I could send a ship to Japan, buy enough Australian gas to fill it, bring it back to Australia, and sell the gas to homeowners cheaper than the gas companies do now, and still make a profit. Turnbull also doesn’t seem to realise that there is a multi-billion dollar industry which is at risk of dying right before his eyes; tourism on the Great Barrier Reef. The northern end of the reef is doomed because of increasing water temperature, and this will only get worse and more extensive as temperatures increase further. If Turnbull was a real nation-builder he would make sure the climate change denying morons in his government understood climate science and the consequences of their denialist stupidity. That is the first step in nation-building; understanding where we are now. Turnbull doesn’t even have that.