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In the news, now & soon: Morrison, the ERF for miners, Strongbuild & more

A round up of the things that caught our eye in the media this week… or might do soon.

The Morrison government has come out with all guns blasting to fight climate change. Or is that a little feather duster instead?

This week we heard he’s approved the expansion of the Snowy Hydro scheme among a number of other announcements aimed at tackling climate change.

Snowy Hydro 2.0 is supposed to shore up reliability in the grid and force energy prices down. It also emerged today (Tuesday) that transmission infrastructure associated with the project will need to be managed by the New South Wales and Victorian governments.

Morrison on Monday pledged $2 billion for projects to bring down Australia’s carbon emissions using the Emissions Reduction Fund set up under former prime minister Tony Abbott. That’s about $200 million a year. Or the equivalent of 200 houses in a lower middle class Australian neighbourhood to tackle rising sea levels and raging weather patterns. Yep, a fitting solution alright.

Part of the promise is good for buildings, help with retrofitting lighting and equipment, but the bit about drought proofing for farmers is a mystery. How do you “drought proof” anything? Other than dramatically and drastically reduce the thing that’s causing them.

Morrison, in a great show of optimism, has renamed the ERF the Climate Solutions Fund.

Meanwhile here’s what the ERF has been up to:

According to the Australian Conservation Foundation’s chief executive Kelly O’Shanassy, Rio Tinto looks like it’s receiving several million dollars from government climate change programs to switch from burning one fossil fuel to another.

“In public statements Rio Tinto told the Gove community the closure of the oil refinery and switch to diesel generation was commercial. If this is correct, serious questions need to be asked about why this project was publicly funded,” she said.

We’ll keep you posted on this.

Just as disturbing from the ACF is that:

A good way to use the ERF would be to encourage farmers and other small landowners to cut emissions and restore the landscape, O’Shanassy says.

“Big miners like Rio Tinto, and large corporations, should be required to cut their emissions by other means.”

Such a reasonable response to such an outrageous use of our money.

But there is light at the end of the coal mine.

The PM has also announced a backup plan for Victoria, land of the dark brown coal seam: $56 million to start work on a second electricity interconnector between Tasmania, whose energy is all clean, based on hydro, which has however, its own environmental issues, such as the destruction of much loved lakes and once, potentially, the mighty Franklin River.

Strongbuild factory sale rumours 

Market sources indicate a sale of the Strongbuild factory at Bella Vista in Sydey’s north west is imminent after this much-loved company fell into voluntary administration late last year (see our articles below).

But we stress it’s still strictly speculation right now.

A raft of related companies was said to be interested to buy the factory in the early days of the VA, including Hutchinson, John Holland, Watpac, Lipman and Lendlease.

A telling sign something is afoot is that no one close to the VA returned several calls, including Brian Silvia from Ferrier Hodgson who is the administrator.

A Lendlease buyout would make sense. The factory is believed to be a good one and we hear that LL’s existing factory at Bella Vista is at full capacity and struggling to keep up with demand. But other parties are also more than interested, boosting hope that this fledging industry can keep one its pioneer’s work alive, alebit in a different ownership.

See our related stories:

To be fair it might be a long shot to think Lendlease will be the buyer as Australia’s biggest property company was in the news this week for its financial performance.

“Group chief executive Steve McCann must be experiencing a sense of déjà vu as the company heads for its worst annual financial performance since the global financial crisis a decade ago,” wrote The AFR this week about Lendlease.

In the six months ended December 31, Lendlease’s statutory profit after tax fell to $15.7 million from $425.6 million in the year-earlier period and engineering and services lost $218 million in the year ended June 30, the report said.

Total losses from the engineering services could hit $1.3 billion and a sale of this segment is possible.

Three engineering projects are pinged for biggest fault in the losses: NorthConnex in Sydney and Gateway Upgrade North and Kingsford Smith Drive in Brisbane.

On the positive side of the story the company has “20 urbanisation projects in 10 cities worth $59.3 billion.”

Other stories we think are worth a read this week are:

UPDATED: 27 Februrary 2019: a slight update to this article was made at 12.54 pm

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