The pandemic and its resulting economic crisis continues to cut an unpredictable path through our lives, with millions doing it tough. But there are a few cashing in at everyone else’s expense, helped along by the government’s reverse Robin Hood policies.
By Adam Bandt
We’re really starting to see the tale of two recoveries here in Australia. As the pandemic continues on its unpredictable way, it’s clear that the impact on our society and economy will be long-lasting. And while millions are doing it tough, there are a few who are doing extremely well – those who frankly didn’t need to do any better than they were.
Last year, on the day they should have been at the Climate Crisis Summit in New York, Scott Morrison and Donald Trump visited one such person at his box factory in Ohio, their friend and supporter, Australian billionaire Anthony Pratt. The box industry has boomed as we change the way we transport goods during Covid – and while we’ve all been locked down and unemployment has skyrocketed, the third-richest Australian has increased his fortune by $2.7b to almost $20 billion.
This has been the case for many of the most rich and powerful. Across the world, 25 billionaires have increased their wealth by a staggering $255 billion through the pandemic so far, while the world has plunged into the worst recession in a lifetime. The super-charging of the growth of inequality that has occurred is a long-term threat to our economy, society and democracy.
While a lot of the growth of inequality now seems to be happening on its own, it’s not just a case of the government letting it occur through neglect. The likes of Morrison never waste a crisis, and they’re doing their bit to exacerbate inequality. A sadly perfect example is the choice to cut JobSeeker and JobKeeper even as the pandemic continues and the number of Australians qualifying for the supports are at their highest levels yet.
And for what, to save money? Not really – the amount ‘saved’ by cutting payments for those hardest hit – on the lowest incomes – is almost exactly the cost to the budget of bringing forward income tax cuts for those on very high incomes. Reverse Robin Hood in action, in the midst of a pandemic and worst recession in a lifetime.
Picking losers on energy
The latest foray into energy policy – the technology roadmap – is yet another blatant cover for an expansion of major fossil fuel projects. While reports indicate the roadmap includes references to green hydrogen, it places a focus on blue hydrogen made with fossil fuels and failed carbon capture technology, it locks in coal and gas, and has no science-based binding targets to reduce carbon emissions over the next decade.
Make no mistake: this roadmap will take us off a cliff. The Morrison government is accelerating towards climate collapse. This technology list is a fig leaf for the continued expansion of the fossil fuel industry. This roadmap contains no plan to phase out coal and gas. In fact, the roadmap bakes in coal and gas for years to come, subsidising the coal and gas cartels from the public purse.
Carbon capture and storage is unicorn technology that has already had millions of dollars of public money poured into it. This is corporate capture and profit as the coal and gas cartels get access to billions of dollars meant for renewables. We already have the technology we need to move to a clean energy economy that exports hydrogen to our neighbours.
People across the country are demanding a rapid transition to renewable energy, not just putting solar panels next to new gas wells. This approach doubles down on last century’s technology, all to suit the coal and gas corporations whose fingerprints are all over this roadmap. Across the country, people are crying out for a transformative shift to clean energy, and the hundreds of thousands of jobs it will create. If you don’t have a plan to phase out coal and gas in the next decade you don’t have a real plan for climate action.
We will do everything we can, in particular in the Senate, to stand up to the government and put pressure on Labor and the crossbench to help us cut dirty fossil fuels out of Australia’s energy future.