Confected conflict in the wake of the South Australian blackout: Diversionary strategies and policy failure in Australia's energy sector
In late September 2016, a severe thunderstorm and tornado outbreak hit the state of South Australia, causing a state-wide blackout. In its immediate aftermath, conservatives in Australia's media and political parties began laying blame for the blackout on the state's significant wind-power capacity, while criticizing South Australia and other Labor states for promoting renewable energy targets which are 'unrealistic' and a 'threat to energy security'. Despite receiving advice from its own public servants, independent experts and industry players that these criticisms are wrong, the Coalition Government has sought to use the blackout as the foundation for an anti-renewables, pro-coal energy campaign. Although this strategy was clearly intended to provide a distraction from its other problems, and was partially assisted by the way in which subsequent assessments of the causes of the blackout were represented by the relevant agency and some elements of the media, it has instead served to highlight the Coalition's failure to create a coherent energy policy, or to adequately address the significant challenges currently facing Australia's electricity network. Both of these policy failures are directly attributable to its dedication to protecting incumbent fossil fuel interests, while denying the role played by fossil fuels in driving climate change.