Paul Keating accuses government of using Afghanistan report to bury Treasury backing for superannuation | Superannuation


Paul Keating has accused the government of using the release of the bombshell report on Australian soldiers’ alleged murders in Afghanistan to hide Treasury report findings that he said backed increasing superannuation payments.

The former prime minister also dismissed suggestions that scheduled rises to the minimum contribution employers have to make to employees’ super accounts would slow a recovery from the pandemic.

Speaking to the ABC’s 7.30 program, Keating read from the Treasury’s retirement income review that was released on Friday, a day before the release of Maj Gen Justice Paul Brereton’s devastating report into the conduct of a small group within the elite Special Air Service regiment.

Keating said: “The government released the report on the day they released the Afghan revelations. The point was to not have people focus on the central finding.”

Days earlier, the government released selected excerpts from the Treasury report in a move interpreted as laying the groundwork to scrap the planned increases in the superannuation guarantee.

The Australian Taxation Office will raise the superannuation guarantee from 9.5% to 10% in July 2021. Five further 0.5% increases are scheduled each year until the rate goes up to 12% in July 2025.

Keating said the rise from 9.5% to 10% was equal to about $8 a week for a person on an average wage.

“You are talking about small amounts,” he said. “You think that $8 is going to upset the employment equation of Australia. 0.5% is worth $8 a week … two coffees!”

Keating, a champion since the 1990s of raising the minimum amount employers had to pay employees, rubbished concerns that the scheduled rises in the superannuation guarantee would impact on wages growth or slow recovery from the pandemic.

In September Keating attacked Reserve Bank of Australia governor, Philip Lowe, who had suggested raising superannuation would hit wages growth.

Weeks earlier he slammed “little bitchy Liberals” for trying to undermine his superannuation scheme.

Keating said at the time that wages growth had been stagnant since 2012, a point he repeated on on the ABC late on Monday.

Reading from parts of the Treasury document, Keating said: “[The government] wanted the report to say super was in trouble.”

Running his finger along lines of the report, Keating read that Treasury had found superannuation was effective and its costs were sustainable.

“The second line says, ‘Without compulsory superannuation, middle income earners would not save enough for retirement.’

“Here is the report. There it is. Point one, in other words, the report, the review has confirmed the universality of superannuation.”

Keating said the rise in the superannuation guarantee to 12% would be paid for by employers, and people had earned the rise because productivity had gone up.

He said if the superannuation scheme didn’t exist and people were instead left to manage their own investments, people would stop saving for their retirements.

“That’s what the [Treasury] report says. Middle income earners would not save enough for retirement. This is not just Australians, this is true around the world. Unless you’re compulsorily required to do it, they don’t do it.”





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Skipper Tedesco already has Blues backing


James Tedesco doesn’t know yet what will come out of his mouth in his first pre-game speech as captain at any level, let alone State of Origin.

Tedesco has spoken at length this week about his dearth of experience as a captain, not even leading during his high school days at the rugby league nursery of St Gregory’s.

He feels he is ready to communicate with the referee and is largely largely relaxed about the prospect of having to make the call on captain’s challenges.

But when it comes to what he says to his teammates as he leads NSW out for the first time, there will be no script.

“I’ve got nothing yet,” Tedesco said.

“I’ve heard a lot of Boyd (Cordner)’s ones the past few years and they have always been from the heart with plenty of passion and pride.

“If it’s a bit robotic you don’t get a response from that.

“It’ll be a few things of how we want to play.

“But I want to speak as myself and from the heart … I think that’ll get a response.”

Tedesco led NSW through their last session on Wednesday, with no injury clouds surrounding the team before the ANZ Stadium showdown.

Whatever Tedesco comes up with on Wednesday night, his teammates already think he’s got it down pat.

He addressed the group after Cordner left camp and has made a point to try and alleviate pressure from his under-fire deputy Nathan Cleary.

“He nailed his first speech as captain. I liked it anyway,” hooker Damien Cook said.

“I felt pretty good and I was pumped up. I definitely think he’s got the motivational factor in him too.

“He’s different to Boyd but he more talks about what we’ve got to do on the field.

“He talks about getting through our sets and making sure we’re disciplined with the ball.”

Tedesco’s former and current teammates know he is someone who will be looked at as an example on the field.

Former Wests Tigers teammate and two-time stand-in NSW skipper Robbie Farah believes the captaincy will only make Tedesco better.

Former Blues No.9 Farah knows Tedesco as well as most, having been impressed when he saw him score a hat-trick the first time he saw him play in under-20s.

“His strength will just be leading by actions,” Farah said.

“For me he is the best player in the world, the way he can impact a game of football is second to none.

“If anything, I think the captaincy will bring out the best in him tomorrow night.

“There will be times in the game where things will get tough, no doubt. As Origins do.

“The players will be looking for Teddy’s leadership in those moments.

“He’ll step up and inspire his teammates.”





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James Maloney backing Nathan Cleary all the way


He said the Blues ”stopped playing footy” in the second half, but Cleary created enough chances, and Queensland’s three tries ”came out of nothing”.

The likes of immortal Andrew Johns and Herald columnist Roy Masters have questioned Cleary’s Origin credentials. Fans are hoping Cleary does not become another Mitchell Pearce, the Newcastle halfback regarded as a fantastic footballer but who was unable to consistently deliver the knockout blow on the Origin stage.

Jimmy Maloney has backed his mate Nathan Cleary to dominate on the Origin arena like he has in clubland.Credit:NRL Photos

Maloney was certainly comfortable with Cleary calling the shots this week at ANZ Stadium – and for many years to come.

“It takes time to be fully comfortable and fully understand the Origin arena,” Maloney told the Herald. “It’s a different type of footy. There are not many who come in and are perfect from their very first game to their last game and nail it down. You get things wrong, you learn from it and move on.

“When it comes to Nathan, he’s now played in two series and they’ve had two series wins. They’ve lost the first game and people want to put him into a box.

“They also lost last year’s first game. By them sticking with him, I don’t think it will be a case of him thinking, ‘it doesn’t matter how I’ll play I’ll still be there’. He’d never feel like that.

“Despite outside noise, he’s always been able to honestly assess where his game is at and work really hard on what he’s doing. I thought he created some opportunities in the game, they just couldn’t capitalise on them.”

Maloney experienced the intense scrutiny being a NSW playmaker, despite featuring in seven Origin wins from his 14 appearances against arguably the greatest Queensland teams in history.

“Unfortunately it’s the way it goes being in the halves at Origin time, and if you don’t get the result a lot of the blame falls on you,” Maloney said.

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“‘Nath’ was one of the most dominant halves throughout the whole season, and he’s been there the last two years as part of a winning Origin series. He’s still so young and will keep developing.

“Everyone is a couch critic at Origin time. He’s in good hands and knows what they need to do.

“I thought the team stopped playing a bit of footy in the second half [on Wednesday night]. Queensland hung in there and to be fair their three tries came out of nothing.

“That’s how it can be sometimes in Origin. The first half they were really dominant. I just thought they missed the opportunity to keep playing footy – there were opportunities they left out there.”

Cleary will re-unite with Cody Walker in the halves and knows his kicking game needs to quickly improve.

“It would be end of sets for me,” Cleary said. “I didn’t give them the ball in the corners and in the right place enough times. It’s something I want to work on and implement. Owning the moments.”

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Freddy Fittler backing Boyd Cordner to make full recovery


“Boyd is built not to let people down. He feels like he’s letting people down.

“From the advice I get from people who are educated, players can go through these stages [with repeated concussions] and, if given enough time, things can change where they become resilient again to knocks.

Boyd Cordner will play no further part in the Origin series.Credit:Getty

“If Boyd keeps getting knocks like that [on Wednesday night] where it doesn’t look like much, then there are huge concerns. He’s a smart bloke, he now knows and he understands.

“Him and the Roosters will take the required time out to hopefully get him to the stage where he can [be resilient again]. He leads with the head. He’s tough.”

Tedesco said he had learnt plenty of his own leadership skills under Cordner and the added responsibility would only enhance his game rather than hinder it.

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“Boyd said he was a bit hesitant about telling the group because he would get emotional,” Tedesco said. “He said he got a lot of it out by himself while he was in his room.

“You could tell he was hurting. He was clear he needed a rest. Everyone understood.

“We all know how tough he is. His health comes first. He needs some time away from footy to relax and get his head right.

“The way he was after the game, he wasn’t feeling himself. He’s had a lot of head knocks and issues this year.

“I think it’s been a long year, a tough year, he’s had some issues off the field as well. It’s been mentally and physically draining for him.

“We were all thinking the same thing and it was best for him to have time away. We all want him to play and be with us, but his health and wellbeing is No.1.

“I’ve learned a lot off him. He’s captained at club level, state level and for Australia. It’s weird not having him here.”

Cordner suffered a head knock in the first half on Wednesday night before he returned to the field. It was his fourth head injury this season.

Origin legend Wally Lewis has even urged Cordner to think about his long-term health.

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Meanwhile, Tedesco knows that with a good spell Cordner will return. He was vice-captain last year for NSW and now he is nearly 28 is more than happy to sink his teeth into his new role.

“I can’t remember if I’ve ever been a captain,” Tedesco said. “Maybe at St Greg’s [College], but that’s a maybe.

“As I’ve got older I’ve wanted to increase my leadership [role]. I want to be a leader and this is a pretty good time to be one, game two in State of Origin.

“It motivates me to take control and be accountable for this team. Sometimes as a player you can worry about yourself and want the best for yourself, but as a captain you own the team. That responsibility is cool and I want the best results for our team.”

Fittler certainly had zero doubts about Tedesco being the man to lead this state into battle with Queensland and said: “When we made him vice-captain last year I thought he stepped up. He’s now stepping up again and we’ll see if he can go to another level.

“He’s a very quiet sort of bloke, I don’t know if anybody knows him that well, but I love what he does on the field, the way he trains, and when he has input there’s always thought behind it.”

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Biogen Alzheimer’s Drug Fails to Gain FDA Panel’s Backing


(Bloomberg) — Biogen Inc.’s experimental Alzheimer’s disease therapy failed to gain support from a panel of U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisers on Friday, putting the drug at a crossroads as the agency weighs approval.

The outside experts voted 8 to 1, with 2 undecided, that data from a single clinical trial with positive results was insufficient to show Biogen’s drug works. They also voted 10 to 0, with 1 undecided, that the positive study shouldn’t be considered primary proof the drug works in light of conflicting evidence from a different trial.

The votes contradict a report FDA reviewers prepared ahead of the meeting that supported the efficacy of the drug, called aducanumab, though there was dissent in the agency. The FDA will continue the review process with a decision by March 7, 2021.

Advisers said the trial they were asked to assess wasn’t finished and even though the data appeared positive, they couldn’t know for sure.

“There’s a huge danger in approving something that is not effective,” said Joel Perlmutter, a panel member and neurology professor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri.

Approval of Biogen’s therapy would be a milestone for the long battle against Alzheimer’s, a harrowing brain-wasting disease that affects some 5.8 million Americans. While there are other drugs that temporarily improve some symptoms, none slow or stop the eventually lethal destruction of brain neurons, the Alzheimer’s Association said in a report last year.

Aducanumab has also become a singularly important drug for Biogen, which has seen its market value fluctuate substantially over the past two years as it halted study on the drug, restarted its research, and then submitted it to regulators for approval earlier this year.

Shares of Biogen were halted throughout the regular trading day on Friday. On Wednesday, the stock surged 44% after the upbeat assessment from the FDA staff, though some of those gains were given back Thursday, when Biogen slid 7.5%.

“We will continue to work with the FDA as it completes its review of our application,” Michel Vounatsos, chief executive officer at Biogen, said in a statement.

The advisory committee’s recommendations aren’t binding. The FDA often calls on panels of experts, including researchers, medical professionals and patient representatives, when it is considering whether to approve a new drug. Wall Street analysts said the FDA seemed set on viewing the drug positively.

“This will be a test for the FDA on what happens when the FDA is on one extreme and the panel is seemingly on the other, with science and evidence or the lack thereof being at the core of discussion,” Mizuho analyst Salim Syed said in an email to Bloomberg News.

Tumultuous Path

Aducanumab targets amyloid plaque that builds up in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, though scientists don’t know what role it plays in the disease. Brain scans showed the drug removed the plaque, but whether that had any benefit is unclear.

The FDA hasn’t followed the typical process for advisory panels this time, starting with posting a joint report with Biogen on aducanumab’s clinical trial data ahead of the meeting. Usually, the FDA posts its own report outlining staff’s review of the data.

The agency declined to answer questions on why it combined the report and whether Biogen was able to review it prior to it being made public. The agency also gave panel members the option to vote undecided when typically it asks for yes or no answers.

The therapy has had a tumultuous path to FDA consideration. Biogen halted its study of the drug in March 2019 on signs it wouldn’t work, then revived it in October that year after it said a review of data in one of two trials showed it was successful.

Biogen, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, presented data from the two aducanumab trials at a conference in December. One trial showed the drug may slow the progression of the disease, while the other found no effect. Researchers questioned the positive results because not all participants completed the trials.

Kyle Krudys, a clinical analyst at the FDA, told the advisory panel in a recorded presentation that the trial results that showed no effect of the drug on patients shouldn’t detract from the positive trial. “I have concluded that the applicant has provided substantial evidence of effectiveness to support approval,” Krudys said.

Meanwhile, Tristan Massie, a statistical reviewer at the FDA, determined a third clinical trial followed through to completion is necessary to determine whether aducanumab works.

“Excluding data from a large trial without sufficient justification is unscientific, statistically inappropriate and misleading,” Massie said in a prepared presentation for the advisers.

‘Strikingly Incongruent’

Billy Dunn, the director of FDA’s Office of Neuroscience in the Office of New Drugs, summed up the agency’s view on the drug in a positive light at the beginning of the meeting without a nod to Massie’s concerns. He focused on Alzheimer’s ranking as the sixth leading cause of death among Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We are highly sensitive to the need for new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease,” Dunn said.

G. Caleb Alexander, a panel member and epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, called the FDA’s materials “strikingly incongruent” and said Massie’s statistical review was “well done.”

“It just feels like the audio and video on the TV are out of sync,” Alexander said.

If aducanumab is cleared, sales are expected to total about $4.7 billion in 2025, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Biogen developed the therapy with the Japanese drugmaker Eisai Co.

Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly & Co.has several experimental Alzheimer’s drugs in development and shares of the company fell as much as 4.4% after the panel vote. Like Biogen’s drug, Lilly’s donanemab aims clear amyloid plaque from the brain.

(Adds FDA’s decision date in third paragraph, CEO comment in ninth paragraph)

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Staying put – In Belarus neither dictator nor protesters are backing down | Europe


THE YOUNG man tore open his coat, threw his arms in the air, and dared the riot cop to open fire. The startled officer retreated, his assault rifle still aimed at the approaching protester. “Long live Belarus!” chanted the crowd. It was just another Sunday in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where the opposition has staged huge rallies every weekend since August 9th, when Alexander Lukashenko, the country’s erratic dictator, rigged presidential elections to claim a sixth term.

Despite the bravery of the protesters, Mr Lukashenko, 66, shows no sign of relinquishing power. And as winter approaches, the opposition movement could be slowly running out of options. A nationwide strike called for October 26th by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the exiled opposition leader, has largely crumbled amid a clampdown on picketing and threats of dismissal. Dissenting students have been expelled from university. More than 230 protesters were accused this week of taking part in “mass disorder”—a charge that could see them incarcerated in a brutal Belarusian prison for up to three years.

Mr Lukashenko has urged security forces to ramp up the violence against protesters. At least five people have already been killed and dozens more have been injured. Speaking recently to security chiefs, he said protesters who confront police should have their arms torn off. “We’re not taking prisoners,” he said. Days later, security forces used live bullets at a demonstration, firing warning shots into the air. The show of strength was met by sarcastic applause from the crowd of opposition supporters.

The clampdown does not mean that the opposition is going to give up its fight to topple Mr Lukashenko. One in every five urban adults is estimated to have taken part in the protests, and around 85% of them intend to continue demonstrating until new elections are held, according to a poll by Chatham House, a British think-tank. (Independent opinion polls are banned in Belarus.) Ms Tikhanovskaya has called for more protests and fresh strikes to pile economic pressure on Mr Lukashenko. “Neither side has the strength to decisively turn the tide in its favour,” said Igor Ilyash, a political analyst in Minsk. “This is a war of attrition.”

Whatever comes next, it is hard to see how life in Belarus can go back to normal. An entire generation of Belarusians has been politicised by the protests and Mr Lukashenko’s frenzied attempts to crush them. “Where are our guys, dad?” asked a small child recently, as he gazed at a phalanx of riot police officers. “Over there, see, with the flags?” his father reassured him. The video went viral.

Waiting in the wings, should the protesters get the upper hand, is Vladimir Putin. The Russian president has said the Kremlin will intervene in Belarus, Russia’s closest ally, if the protests “get out of control”. Late last month, Russian security officials accused the West of financing the opposition. The comments came as Russian state television used images of widespread destruction from the Nagorno-Karabakh war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in a report on “aggressive” protesters in Minsk. Was it a technical error or a bid to swing Russian public opinion in favour of a military intervention in Belarus? Only the Kremlin knows the answer.

This article appeared in the Europe section of the print edition under the headline “Staying put”

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Tiger Lynch thankful for coach’s backing


Tom Lynch says Richmond coach Damien Hardwick’s decision to risk personal backlash and staunchly defend the star forward’s character was crucial in their march to this season’s AFL flag.

The former Gold Coast captain has drawn criticism since his move to the Tigers for his on-field antics, this season escaping suspension despite a series of off-the-ball incidents drawing match review officer scrutiny.

Lynch had a drink thrown on him by a Port Adelaide fan during a post-game interview that followed last week’s preliminary final victory and was even booed by some sections as he collected his premiership medal at the Gabba on Saturday night.

But each time the key forward has been in the firing line his coach has stuck his neck out and backed Lynch’s methods.

“It comes with the territory; people are going to love you, people are going to hate you,” Lynch said of his apparent bad-boy reputation.

“But I have had amazing support through Dimma (Hardwick), Jack (Riewoldt) and Trent (Cotchin), the whole list.

“It means so much when you have the senior coach coming out to publicly back you and potentially open himself up to criticism.

“It shows how much care he has for his players and we don’t take it for granted, that’s for sure.”

Lynch has played just 44 games for the Tigers but has two premierships in the bag, while former Suns teammate Dion Prestia has won three since heading home four seasons ago.

Prestia enjoyed some quiet time on the Gabba surface late on Saturday night, video-calling his family in Melbourne while sitting on the Richmond logo cradling the premiership cup.

The party then ironically moved back to the Gold Coast, where the pair played six seasons together as Suns but have now called home as Tigers for more than 100 days.

“This one was different (to the premierships in 2017 and 2019), but still so special and amazing for us to get over the line and (my family) were pretty pumped to see me win another one,” Prestia said.

“I always thought we’d have success, but didn’t think we’d win three premierships in four years.

“We had a lot of fun being up here and it’s the journey we’ll remember the most, just being together literally for 100 days under the same roof.

“It was like being on school camp.”

An ankle injury had kept him off the park since round five, Prestia admitting his return for the first week of finals looked doubtful.

He booted two goals on Saturday night to continue a remarkable ride that might not be over yet.

“Our list is pretty young and the team tonight had a lot under 25, 26, so there’s a fair bit more success in us,” he said.

“It’s hard to win, but we’ll take this in and see if we can go again next year.”





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LNP backing locks in Ballymore upgrade


The final piece has been laid in Ballymore’s long-awaited upgrade puzzle after the Queensland opposition promised to match the $15-million Labor commitment already on the table if they win Saturday’s state election.

The Australian women’s Wallaroos rugby team would join the Queensland Reds at the $30-million National Rugby Training Centre to give the once-proud venue new life after years of decay.

The works, due to begin next year, are the first stage of a vision to turn the beating pulse of Queensland rugby union into a health and high-performance sporting hub.

Ballymore could house multiple sports if Brisbane’s 2032 Olympic bid is successful, bolster Australia’s 2027 Rugby World Cup hosting hopes and act as a training base for the Wallabies or touring Test nations.

The upgrade will feature an integrated stand to replace the existing McLean Stand, which was first built in 1968 and extended in the 1970s, as well as men’s and women’s changerooms and recovery facilities.

In 2007, then Prime Minister John Howard guaranteed a $25 million funding commitment, only for the project to be canned the following year by Kevin Rudd after Labor won the federal election.

Support from both sides came ahead of last year’s federal election, with a Palaszczuk Labor government promise earlier this month ironically nudging the LNP opposition into action on Tuesday.

“Securing a commitment from the LNP guarantees a project which has been more than a decade in the making,” QRU boss Dave Hanham said.

“It is also an important first step for Queensland in developing a 100-hectare community precinct for the Olympics, centred on Ballymore and the Newmarket sports fields to the north.”





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Early count has Chileans backing a new constitution


The country’s conservative government agreed with the center-left opposition to allow the plebiscite after vast street protests erupted a year ago with a hike in transport fares but culminated in frustration over inequality in pensions, education and healthcare in what has long been one of South America’s most developed nations.

Demonstrators burn a doll depicting General Augusto Pinochet on a horse, on the day of the referendum.Credit:AP

Recent polls indicated heavy backing for a new constitution despite opposition from conservative groups, and centre-right Piñera said after voting that he assumed the measure would be approved.

“I believe the immense majority of Chileans want to change, modify our constitution,” he said.

A special convention would then begin drafting a new constitution to be submitted to voters in mid-2022.

The current constitution was drafted by the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, and was sent to voters at a time when political parties had been banned and the country was subject to heavy censorship.

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It was approved by 66 per cent of voters in a 1980 plebiscite, but critics say many voters were cowed into acceptance by a regime that had arrested, tortured and killed thousands of suspected leftist opponents following the overthrow of an elected socialist government.

“I think that many people went to vote out of fear,” said political scientist Claudio Fuentes, who wrote a book about that plebiscite titled, The Fraud.

“The current constitution has a flaw of origin, which is that it was created during the military dictatorship in an undemocratic process,” said Monica Salinero, a 40-year-old sociologist who supports drafting a new charter.

The free-market principles embodied in that document led to a booming economy that continued after the return to democracy in 1990, but not all Chileans shared.

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A minority was able to take advantage of good, privatised education, health and social security services, while others were forced to rely on sometimes meagre public alternatives. Public pensions for the poorest are just over $US200 ($280) a month, roughly half the minimum wage.

Luisa Fuentes Rivera, a 59-year-old food vendor, hoped that “with a new constitution we will have better work, health, pensions and a better quality of life for older people, and a better education.”

But historian Felipe Navarrete warned, “It’s important to say that the constitution won’t resolve the concrete problems. It will determine which state we want to solve the problems.”

Claudia Heiss, head of the political science department at the University of Chile, said it would send a signal about people’s desires for change, and for a sort of politics that would “allow greater inclusion of sectors that have been marginalised from politics.”

Conservative groups fear the revamp could go too far, and endanger parts of the constitution that have helped the country prosper.

Electoral officers tally votes in Santiago during Sunday's constitutional referendum.

Electoral officers tally votes in Santiago during Sunday’s constitutional referendum.Credit:Getty Images

“The people have demonstrated saying they want better pensions, better health, better education, and the response of the political class” is a process that won’t solve the problems and will open a period of uncertainty,” said Felipe Lyon, 28-year-old lawyer and spokesman for the group “No, Thanks” that opposes the change.

The decision to allow the vote came after hundreds of thousands of Chileans repeatedly took to the streets in protests that often turned violent.

The vote was initially scheduled for April, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has killed some 13,800 Chileans. More than 500,000 people, or one in four Chileans, have been infected by the new coronavirus.

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Officials trying to ensure voters felt safe barred infected persons or those close to them from the polls, and long lines formed at voting places. Voters had to wear masks — dipping them only briefly for identification purposes — and brought their own pencils.

The manner of drafting a new constitution was also on the ballot. Voters were choosing between a body of 155 citizens who would be elected just for that purpose in April, or a somewhat larger convention split equally between elected delegates and members of Congress.

AP, Reuters

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Government’s technology investment roadmap finds unlikely backing from former ARENA boss


The Federal Government’s new energy plan has been slammed by Labor, some green groups and even members of the Coalition, but cautiously welcomed by a leading renewables investor who until recently chaired the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

Martijn Wilder chaired the taxpayer-funded ARENA for more than four years, before he was unexpectedly not reappointed this year by the Coalition Government, which replaced him with investment banker Justin Punch.

However, Mr Wilder said there are many positives to be found in the Government’s new Technology Investment Roadmap.

“The technology roadmap identifies a number of critical areas that are required to drive the economy toward net zero [emissions], particularly the focus on green hydrogen, batteries and decarbonising industry,” he told ABC’s The Business.

After previously declaring itself “technology neutral” the Government has picked five key areas of focus to bring down emissions in Australia’s most carbon-intensive sectors — energy, transport and agriculture.

It has chosen hydrogen made with renewable energy not gas, batteries, low-carbon steel and aluminium, carbon capture and storage, and sinking carbon into soil.

“The nature of research and development portfolios is that you have to place bets, we are placing a bet on a portfolio here, that’s what companies do, that’s what nations do, that’s what universities do. That is how research and development investment works,” Energy Minister Angus Taylor told the National Press Club.

The Grattan Institute’s energy program director Tony Wood said they were probably not his “perfect five” technologies, but they were all well worth investigating.

“What it is basically saying is, look, we think there is five horses here that are worth putting some money on and we will take them to the training yards and see if we can make them into racehorses,” he told RN Drive, extending Mr Taylor’s gambling metaphor.

“Once you have done that, you have got to put them on the track and maybe they run.”

Potential for a ‘very, very good outcome’

The Government has committed to spending $18 billion on the technologies and it is hoping that will encourage up to $100 billion in private investment.

However, Labor’s energy spokesman Mark Butler argued the commitment is commercially meaningless without a firm emissions target.

“There is nothing to give investor’s confidence to put the billions of dollars they need to put on the table to see this new technology made a reality, and that is what the Business Council, the Australian Industry Group and many others, are calling for,” he responded.

But Mr Wilder believes that, even without a legislated net zero target, the roadmap will see cheques written.

“It is difficult to know exactly how much you will get in private investment for every dollar the Government spends, but the principle is absolutely right and the best use of public money to help drive private investment,” he said.

“It is what ARENA seeks to do, it is what the Clean Energy Finance Corporation seeks to do, and if we can leverage that money it is a very, very good public policy outcome.”

Two of the chosen technologies are particularly controversial — carbon capture and storage (CCS) and soil carbon.

There are significant doubts about the application of CCS, and whether its cost can be brought down to economical levels.

Mr Wilder believes that net zero emissions will need to be brought forward by up to 20 years from current 2050 targets, and so CCS needs to be explored, particularly for heavy emitting industries such as cement manufacturing.

He said soil carbon was worth exploring for its dual benefits of improving agricultural land and reducing emissions.

“The challenge to date has been the ability to measure soil carbon, it has been relatively expensive, but there are very rapidly evolving technologies that bring the cost down significantly,” Mr Wilder said.

It was not just the Opposition expressing doubts about the roadmap, however, with Nationals senator and strident coal supporter Matt Canavan telling Sky News that, while he agrees with the aims of the roadmap the economy needs jobs and cheaper energy now.

“I think it would be much better for us to prioritise technologies we know will work to create jobs today,” he said.

“Things like high efficiency, low emission, coal-fired power stations and fracking.”

On the other side of the Coalition’s energy divide, the roadmap was also savaged by former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who decried it as “a fantasy” and “crazy stuff”.

Roadmap ‘necessary, not sufficient’

Despite this internal Coalition conflict, Mr Wilder believes that the Technology Investment Roadmap has taken some of the sting out of the heated and long-running energy debate, although there is still more to be done.

“The debate so far has been around the very technologies that have been identified in the roadmap — so energy storage, green steel — these are all areas which people are talking about,” he said.

“What’s really important now is understanding how that investment will play out, because if we don’t have a certain level of co-ordinated investment the system may end up very unbalanced.”

Mr Wilder is also concerned that the roadmap may not lead Australia down the best path if it is not combined with co-ordinated federal and state energy policy.

Mr Wood agrees that more needs to be done for the roadmap to succeed in significantly cutting Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“This technology roadmap is the first piece in what can make a big difference,” he said.

“It is necessary, not sufficient.”

Key to success, Mr Wilder argued, is energy transmission fit for planned the new investments.

“This all needs to be backed by a focus on transmission — there are huge numbers of renewable projects currently being held up because there aren’t transmission lines where they need to be or they are at capacity,” he said.

He believes that ignoring transmission and just focusing on the five chosen technologies would threaten the country’s ability to become the energy super power that Angus Taylor believes Australia can be.



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