The Politics    Friday, November 12, 2021

Lies and emissions

By Rachel Withers

Prime Minister Scott Morrison during the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry breakfast in Melbourne, Wednesday, November 10, 2021.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Melbourne this week. © AAP Image/Joel Carrett

More falsehoods foreshadow the PM’s release of the net-zero modelling

Prime Minister Scott Morrison lied again today. Asked by government-friendly radio host Neil Mitchell on 3AW this morning if he’d ever told a lie in public life, Morrison responded that he didn’t think he had – a demonstrably false claim. “I don’t believe I have, no,” he lied, prompting half a dozen articles dedicated wholly to that response (several more than appeared after deputy PM Barnaby Joyce openly admitted that he sometimes lies, or after Opposition leader Anthony Albanese’s stilted denial, when the same question was posed to them later in the day). Not all of these reports fact-checked the PM’s lie about lying, although Guardian Australia and PedestrianTV certainly did, providing a litany of past examples. The context of each report was nonetheless clear. Scott Morrison has a spiralling trustworthiness problem, which he cannot simply lie his way out of.

The PM’s claim that he didn’t believe he’d ever told a lie was the most outrageous falsehood of this morning’s 18-minute interview (unless, of course, as my predecessor Sean Kelly argues in his new book The Game, Morrison genuinely believes whatever is coming out of his mouth, in which case this “belief” may be truly held). But it was quickly followed up with even more lies: that he was “accountable”, that he wasn’t one to lecture the states over their pandemic decisions, that he didn’t take things personally, that he had a “good track record” of being able to cop criticism, that his government didn’t want to interfere in people’s lives, and, of course, yesterday’s whopper, that Labor’s EV policy was about putting up petrol prices. In an afternoon press conference, in which he continued his desperate scare campaign about Labor wanting to “control” Australians’ life, the PM again pushed back against the L word. “Of course the French are upset,” he said, when asked about the label French President Emmanuel Macron had so successfully applied to him. “I’m not going to have Australia’s best interests intimidated by people who might be a bit upset with me over things like that,” he added, once again implying this was about something it wasn’t.

The press conference was ostensibly to announce that the government was finally – and on a Friday afternoon – releasing the long-awaited modelling behind its net-zero “Plan”, though it’s still not clear why it took over two weeks for it to be made public.

The modelling has now been revealed, with experts and journalists still poring over it. But many are already sceptical of what it shows, with the plan not actually reaching net-zero emissions at all. “The Plan”, in fact, happily leaves emissions reductions at 85 per cent on 2005 levels, with that remaining gap to be met through “further technological improvements” (never mind that much of that 85 per cent is already “offset and capture”). “This is why they delayed the modelling release to the Friday afternoon of the final week of COP26,” tweeted climate writer Ketan Joshi. “When we said they’re relying on magic for the last 15%, we weren’t wrong.”

It’s long been clear that the Coalition’s “Plan” is a work of (not particularly detailed) fantasy – a major transition that came with no actual policies, and which was suddenly going to create jobs and financial benefits for all Australians, when Labor’s proposals were supposedly going to do the exact opposite. The expert consensus forming now is that the “modelling” behind it (if we can even call it that) has only further revealed just how empty a strategy it is, assuming voluntary action and magically low costs, while continuing to do nothing. The prime minister has spent the week telling outrageous lies. But the net-zero “Plan” might just be his greatest fabrication of all.

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Rachel Withers

Rachel Withers is the contributing editor of The Politics.

@rachelrwithers

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