Political Chronicles 317
and passed without a single amendment, despite conservatives demanding more legal
protections for religious institutions (the key vote in the Senate was 43-12 in favour, with
some 21 not voting or abstaining). Following the passage of the enabling bill, scenes of
jubilation were witnessed in the parliament and in street gatherings.
On the issue of energy uncertainty, state blackouts, rising electricity and gas prices,
and the decommissioning of older, high carbon-producing, power stations, all added to
the controversies over a national plan for reliable and sustainable energy production.
After severe blackouts in South Australia following the closure of old power stations and
the reliance on wind, solar and the national grid supply, the issue of future electricity
supply erupted as a national concern, with both sides of politics blaming each other for
a persistent failure to act or for adopting sub-optimal policies. Indeed, a report of the
Energy Security Board (ESB), established in August 2017 and chaired by Professor
Kerry Schott, stated: “fifteen years of climate policy instability has complicated long-
term investments […] left our energy system vulnerable to escalating prices while being
both less reliable and secure” (ESB National Energy Guarantee, Consultation Paper
2018, p.5). A political feud erupted between federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg
and South Australian Premier Jay Wetherill largely over acrimonious personal
criticisms, but also over the federal government’s preference to retain fossil-fuel
generation of electricity while the Premier was pushing for a 75 per cent renewable
energy target for his state by 2025. The federal government also signalled that it may
consider some form of nuclear power generation by joining an international nuclear
energy forum (GIF) which researches next-generation nuclear reactors.
Meanwhile, by Christmas Malcolm Turnbull continued to accumulate consecutive
negative Newspoll ratings for the Coalition, which by now totalled twenty-five losses in
a row to Labor on a two-party preferred basis. These successive defeats in the polls were
now edging towards the magic number of thirty consecutive losses that Abbott had
managed; a figure Turnbull had prominently cited as the main reason why his party
colleagues needed to oust the first-term PM in the leadership coup of 2016. Such is life
in contemporary Australian politics but, oh, how history repeats itself!
New South Wales
July to December 2017
Government and International Relations, University of Sydney
ICAC and Eddie again
On 3 August, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) released its
report on Operation Credo, the last of its long-running series of investigations into the
activities of Eddie Obeid. It concerned attempts by Obeid to secure a lucrative public-
private partnership (PPP) from the former Labor Government for Australian Water
Holdings (AWH) to provide water infrastructure in north-western Sydney. The Obeid
family would have benefitted significantly if the arrangement had gone ahead. Obeid’s
close associate, Joe Tripodi, lobbied strongly in the background for the deal.