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Issue 16: Angus Taylor: the smartest guy in the room



November 3 · Issue #16 · View online
Your weekly wrap of national affairs, society, culture and politics, published by UnionsACT.

From the editor
Impeachment in the US, generation-defining elections in the UK, the inexorable collapse of democratic freedoms in Australia – it’s been quite the week! In this issue of SundayFocus we cover a few of those things, but we also dig a little into the mystery that is federal energy minister and human punchline Angus Taylor. We also have some news about the Morrison government’s latest assault on workers and what you can do about it.
Also, in order to make SF sustainable we need a bit of money. Not much, just enough to break even. So please, forward this issue to friends and family, encourage them to check out the back catalogue, and invite them to become a Solidarity Subscriber. And if you’re not one yourself, consider signing up. It’s only $6 a month! Not only will you help keep SF going, you’ll get a bunch of other benefits too.
Enjoy the issue!
Guy Mosel, Editor

Angus Taylor: the smartest guy in the room
by Guy Mosel
Photo by Rick Stevens | Knowledge Society
Photo by Rick Stevens | Knowledge Society
Further to my statement of Friday 25 October I write to offer my apologies.
It is now clear to me that the correspondence I sent you on 29 September 2019 included numbers that were not correct.
Given this, I regret not clarifying those figures with you before writing, and relying on those figures in media commentary. I apologise unreservedly.
This apology to Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Mayor is how Energy Minister Angus Taylor ended yet another terrible week in what has been a diabolical year for the Coalition’s former “rising star”.
Regardless of where the investigation into those patently doctored documents about the City of Sydney’s travel costs ends (criminal charges are not out of the question), this episode raises yet more questions about the ethics and competence of the frontbencher from country New South Wales.
Taylor’s year-to-forget began in early April with the Jam Land scandal over poisoned grasslands, about which he was later accused of misleading parliament. Less than two weeks later he was defending himself over the so-called “Watergate” controversy in which a company he was associated with made massive above-market profits from an $80 million water buyback.
He’s also been caught lying about the government’s carbon emissions performance, and was hilariously busted posting glowing appraisals of his own performance on social media. (Crikey has a good summary of his many missteps here.)
In short: Taylor would probably like a do-over of 2019.
Who is Angus Taylor?
“Smart, rich and charming” was The Australian‘s appropriately gushing headline when Taylor, a management consultant, won preselection for Hume in 2012. The paper’s drooling biography pretty much says it all:
His CV reads as if it’s too good to be true. Born in Nimmitabel in southeast NSW, went to Sydney’s the King’s School, studied honours economics/law at the University of Sydney, winning the university medal for economics. Then he chuffed off to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar for a masters in economics. He is a director of management company Port Jackson Partners and co-founded Growth Farms, responsible for the management of $300 million worth of agricultural assets across Australia. He is not short of a quid.
“Not short of a quid” is accurate: Taylor effectively bought his way into a safe seat by donating $155,000 of his own money to the party, the most recorded by any parliamentarian in the country.
Privately educated bankers and lawyers dominate the Liberal Party’s ranks so Taylor’s ascension should surprise no one. A pre-election report from Per Capita revealed that 17 per cent of Liberal Party MPs came from a banking and finance background, with another 27 per cent coming from law. (Half of Labor’s MPs were originally party staffers, it should be noted.)
Married to barrister Louise Clegg, who sits on the board of Gerard Henderson’s right-wing Sydney Institute, Taylor is the perfect emblem of the modern Liberal Party: wealthy, privileged, connected and entitled.
But as cathartic as it is to make fun of a born-to-rule rich kid constantly screwing up, incompetent, rich-kid screw-ups have a tendency to fall upwards, and when they do they bring their bad politics with them.
Which makes Taylor more than just a cartoon villain with nice cheekbones. It makes him dangerous.
As a management consultant Taylor was a member of a Victorian government task force which concluded that promoting coal seam gas exploration in the state was a great idea. (Thankfully a fracking ban remains in place in Victoria.)
He’s notoriously anti-wind farm, even appearing alongside Alan Jones at the so-called “Wind Power Fraud Rally” in Canberra in 2013. As Giles Parkinson in Renew Economy put it at the time of Taylor’s appointment as energy minister:
The rally was addressed by several Coalition MPs – the only other speaker still in parliament is Craig Kelly, the outspoken chair of the backbench committee on energy.
Taylor’s views are no less extreme than Kelly’s, although better articulated. His particular beef is against wind farms, but he doesn’t seem to like renewables of any type very much, describing the RET as “industry pork-barrelling on steroids.”
He was one of the loudest voices calling for the end of the renewable energy target, way back in 2013, and has called state-based targets “crazy, crazy …. insane.” He was a key supporter of Peter Dutton’s push to be PM.
His position on man-made climate change is also sketchy. Although he says he’s not a climate denier, he had this to say in parliament: “Religious belief is based on faith not facts. The new climate religion, recruiting disciples every day, has little basis on fact and everything to do with blind faith.”
We’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about what putting a pro-fracking climate sceptic in charge of the energy portfolio means for the future of the country, but if his affection for burning fossil fuels is any indication (see this, this and this) it isn’t likely to be good.
Read more
I couldn’t recommend this 2016 piece by Paddy Manning highly enough. Based on a lengthy interview with Taylor it dives deep into his convictions and motivations.
In other news...
Albo has a go Labor leader Anthony Albanese made the first of several “headland” speeches in which he promoted a direct link – finally! – between action on climate change and the future of work, although some think he has more to do to really articulate what the ALP in 2019 actually stands for [$].
The grim blue line Victorian police have come under fire for their aggressive response to protests at the International Mining and Resources Conference in Melbourne (the original non-violent protests were endorsed by the Victorian Trades Hall Council). Political figures across the spectrum have naturally defended the boys and girls in blue and wept at the inconvenience caused to global capital. Scott Morrison has flagged new anti-protest legislation because of course he has.
Money for nothing Another great Aussie job creator has ‘fessed up to thieving from its staff with Woolworths admitting to pinching $300 million from its employees since 2010. ACTU secretary Sally McManus says the Fair Work Ombudsman doesn’t have the capacity to deal with the scale of wage theft and has demanded an increase in criminal and civil penalties, as well as the return of the historic role of unions in enforcing wage laws.
Health (s)care Private insurers apparently want to extend their coverage to GP visits and other out-of-hospital services in news that should terrify everyone who likes to be “healthy”. In case you needed reminding, private insurance-funded healthcare is mostly bad compared to publicly funded care. And would you really want a for-profit insurance company deciding who your doctor was or whether they would allow you to see the health professional of your choice?
It’s on! The UK will go to an election on December 12. Most polls show the Tories leading Labour comfortably but we all know what tends to happen when you rely on polls. Jeremy Corbyn launched Labour’s campaign with a speech in which he described his party’s election platform “the most radical and exciting plan for real change ever put before the British electorate”.
Another week, another reminder New research shows that by the middle of the century “150 million people are now living on land that will be below the high-tide line”, with south Vietnam, for example, expected to be completely inundated by rising seas. Meanwhile, the Morrison government, with no coherent climate policy, is copping ever-more flak from within its own constituency.
Workers need your help!
We don’t normally do this, but we’re asking for your help on behalf of Australia’s workers, please.
Next week in parliament we believe the government will try to push through some deeply regressive anti-worker laws called “Ensuring Integrity”. You can read our short summary of the legislation here.
Labor and The Greens oppose these proposed laws, but to stop them from going through the senate, we need to convince the cross-bench senators not to back them.
And that’s why we’re asking for your help! Please take action by contacting the cross-bench senators – especially the South Australian senators from Centre Alliance, independent Tasmanian Jacqui Lambie and the One Nation senators from Queensland – and ask them, respectfully, to please oppose the government’s anti-worker laws.
Click here for more information about the campaign and to find out how you can act. Thank you.
Winning the general election
How to run a successful impeachment hearing
For your bookshelf
The Good, the Bad and the Unlikely: Australia's Prime Ministers, by Mungo MacCallum
And the Weak Suffer What They Must, by Yanis Varoufakis
Fixed It, by Jane Gilmore
"I support the ABC and public broadcasting" t-shirt
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