Clean Power

Published on August 29th, 2014 | by Giles Parkinson


Abbott Blindsides Mainstream Media On Renewable Energy

August 29th, 2014 by  


The Abbott government is about to celebrate its first anniversary in power – and one of its most notable achievements has been its ability to close down the $20 billion large-scale renewable energy industry.

tonyabbott_pressDespite its fondness for professing that Australia is “open for business,” the Coalition is pretty choosy about which industries are, in fact, open for business.

But don’t expect the mainstream media to hold it to account.

The paucity of knowledge and understanding about renewable energy has been a constant source of frustration for the industry, and nowhere was highlighted better than by the main editorial in the Sydney Morning Heraldon Tuesday.

The poor old SMH, as befitting a left of centre publication, thought it was supporting renewable energy. But, just like the Abbott government, it was merely paying lip service to the issue.

“The government should show it cares about the risks of climate change and accept that the RET helps reduce emissions without changing power prices much,” the SMH proclaimed in its editorial, titled How Abbott should fix Direct Action and save the RET. (our emphasis).

Save the RET?

Sounds promising, but the newspaper went right ahead and recommended the very same policies that would bring about the destruction of the renewable energy industry in Australia – cut the target to a “real” 20 per cent, and include gas in the target.

Do they have any idea what they are saying? As Infigen Energy, Pacific Hydro and any number of other companies have said, slashing the target to a “real 20 per cent” means little large-scale generation will be built.

Including gas closes the door even tighter. That particular policy cocktail, as various studies have pointed out, would present an $8 billion fillip to coal-fired generators.

It is well known that the mainstream papers have lost a lot of knowledge and experience with the dramatic downsizing of the last few years. But this is absurd. The level of ignorance for the newspaper’s signature piece is breath-taking. Are the interns now writing editorials?iStock_000002099178Medium_big_paper_stack

Truth be told, the level of ignorance around energy markets and renewable energy in particular pervades the media, which is why the government and the incumbent fossil fuel generators can get away with the nonsense they do.

This though, extends through the government ranks, as the recent opinion piece by Mike Canavan revealed.

That is true whether the discussion is about the cost of generation of various technologies, the level of subsidies, the need for back-up, the fixing of tariffs, the regulatory protection – even the definition of the renewable energy target.

But the Murdoch newspapers are much, much worse – publishing endless amount of tripe from fossil fuel shills and “economic” experts about the impact of renewable energy.

They enthusiastically include some of this nonsense, particularly from the Institute of Public Affairs, in their own editorials that invariably call for the RET to be ended. At least they are not pretending to do the opposite. Their ignorance appears to be one of deliberate exclusion.

With mainstream media like this, Abbott will manage to kill an industry and pretend he’s saving it at the same time.

As one correspondent noted today: “We’re at a low point in our public conversation about climate and renewables. The only mainstream media journos with more than 5 minutes of background are climate skeptics or cheerleaders for fossil fuels. The sympathetic ones have either gone online or left the business.

And, of course, that’s a prompt for a vaunt for RenewEconomy. With August page views of more than 420,000 (before the end of the month), and unique visitors of more than 150,000 in the past month, more than a few readers – and many within industry – are getting properly informed.

Source: RenewEconomy. Reproduced with permission.

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About the Author

is the founding editor of, an Australian-based website that provides news and analysis on cleantech, carbon, and climate issues. Giles is based in Sydney and is watching the (slow, but quickening) transformation of Australia's energy grid with great interest.

  • Randall Mathews

    Does anyone remember Lachlan Murdoch declaring that BskyB would be carbon neutral, and then getting sorted out by his Dad? This would have been about 2006. The power to manipulate minds is incredible to most.

  • Calamity_Jean

    Is Abbott being paid by some other country to sabotage Australia’s future?

    • Bob_Wallace

      There are plenty of people inside Australia willing to sabotage their country in order to put some more money in their pockets.

      All countries have to deal with the excessively greedy.

  • Chris

    I spent some time in Northern Australia and was a bit shocked too see such a rabid, anti-scientific, renewable-energy fearing general sentiment. I had thought I had left that all behind after I left American shores, but apparently Australian voters weren’t content to let Americans be the most backwards looking in the world.
    Good job with Abbot down there! You really are setting a global example.

    • Ronald Brakels

      It gets better as you go south, but go east or west and it tends to get weird again. But go south east and across Bass Strait to Tasmania and they’re mostly sane there. (The ones with two heads are twice as sane.)

  • JamesWimberley

    Has any journalist asked Abbott about the implications for Australia of the peaking of Chinese coal consumption, which fell in the first half of 2014 in a booming economy? Link to a blog post of mine, which has a translation of the full news item.

  • Will E

    It is not the government
    The Australians voted for this policy.

    • Ronald Brakels

      Go to the local shopping center or race track here in Australia and start asking around to see how many people can tell you what the RET is. It is almost certainly less than one in ten. And most of those who have heard of it probably can’t tell you anything true about it. So Australians voted for the end of a scheme that only a few percent at best understood while at a time the Coal-ition was promising another million solar roofs? Thanks for the vote of confidence, but I don’t think we’re actually that smart.

      • juxx0r

        Pretty sure Abbot went to the election supporting the RET. And the election before that.

        • Ronald Brakels

          Yep, no mention of scrapping the RET was made.

    • Ross

      When the media prints shite it isn’t surprising.

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