Zane Alcorn

Power and gas prices are set to rise by a huge 16–19% on July 1, bringing a profit bonanza to the big three electricity companies — AGL, Origin and Energy Australia.

This unpopular price hike comes in the context of record low wage growth, record high housing prices and record levels of household debt.

The federal government is covering for the price hikes by blaming state governments for ruling out unconventional gas (Victoria), or moving too fast to renewables and not planning ahead (South Australia).

Community campaigners rallied in Port Augusta on April 30 to make a final call for the South Australian government to build a new solar thermal power plant in the town.

I became aware that Centrelink were trying to pin a cooked-up “robo-debt” of $5558 on me through a text message from the aptly named Probe group debt collection agency.

There resources about how to dispute a Centrelink debt letter, including GetUp! which has a page that sends a bunch of letters to key places in one go. 

The staff who have to adminster Centrelink’s “robo-debt” system are under huge pressure and are demanding an immediate halt to the punitive approach.

A Centrelink worker told Green Left Weekly that the system was implemented without staff being trained and that they were ill equipped to explain the debts.

Jim Casey, until recently the secretary of the Fire Brigade Employees Union in NSW, has been preselected for the Greens candidate in the seat of Grayndler in Sydney. I interviewed Casey for Green Left Radio on February 5.

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Last week Anthony Albanese, who is the Labor MP for Grayndler, lambasted you for being a socialist.

With the Paris climate talks just around the corner it is timely to consider what effective policies to cut emissions might look like. Nationalisation and direct public investment are key policies that have historically been “bread and butter” political demands both for socialists and for the more radical voices within social democratic parties.

Climate activists from the Greens and Labor Environment Action Network should revisit these ideas, as they are a useful alternative to the dead end that is carbon trading.

Direct public investment

The New South Wales government's nominally independent Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) has approved a fourth coal loader for the port of Newcastle.

Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) initially applied to build the loader in 2012 at the height of the resources boom. Since then coal prices have crashed, caused by the fact that renewable energy is now a preferred source of “new build” power plants across the globe and fewer new coal-fired power plants are being built than was forecast.

The Renewable Energy Target could become a victim of its own success. A review into the scheme, released on August 29, has recommended the federal government close new investment into renewable energy because it has produced more energy than originally planned.

But Labor, Greens and Palmer United Party senators have vowed to block any changes to the scheme.

At the same time, a debate has emerged among climate activists about whether we should “change tack” when it comes to campaigning on the issue of climate change.

After attending the national day of action on climate change, organised by GetUp on November 17, Sally Rawsthorne wrote in the Guardian that “fringe dwellers” like the Socialist Alliance and the Green Left Weekly participating in the rally “does climate action a disservice”.

With Tony Abbott ruling the roost in Canberra, it is important for the climate movement in Australia to take stock and have a discussion about where to go next.

It is easy to be discouraged by the election of Abbott. However, it should not be forgotten that the election was more than just a “referendum on the carbon tax”, it was also an electoral snapshot of a country that has been subjected to an exceptionally strong barrage of brainwashing for the past few years. The ideas spread through the media are powerful, but they are not invincible.

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