Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Today by Elle Hardy

Laboring the point
The Opposition needs to hold the government to account on climate policy

Shadow Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water Mark Butler. © Mick Tsikas / AAP Image

A day of contrasts began with former Liberal Party leader John Hewson engaged in full media saturation, as he appeared on television, radio and in print to urge Scott Morrison to grant government MPs a conscience vote on a new parliamentary motion declaring a climate emergency.

Hewson has become the public face of the parliamentary motion introduced by the Greens and supported by the majority of lower-house crossbenchers. He told reporters that climate change “was an emergency 30 years ago”, and that “we’ve left it very late in the day to get to net zero emissions by 2050”.

His statements came after the minister for water resources, drought, natural disaster and emergency management, David Littleproud, sought to clarify remarks he made earlier in the week that the causes of climate change were “irrelevant”. But instead of walking them back, the minister doubled down, telling Guardian Australia that he doesn’t “know if climate change is manmade”. He then tripled down on Sky News Australia, asking “does it really matter?”

Against this backdrop, it was the perfect time for Labor to take a strong stance on the issue. Instead, the Opposition resumed its position firmly on the fence, with MPs unable to commit to a position on the climate emergency motion.

“The Morrison government needs to make up its mind about whether they think climate change is even real, let alone an emergency,” shadow climate change minister Mark Butler told reporters, adding that Labor was considering the motion through its usual processes. Labor MP Terri Butler similarly deflected, saying that “it’s actually up to the government to decide whether there will be a declaration of a climate emergency”.

As bushfires and drought ravage large swathes of the country, and with the Coalition seemingly a lost cause on climate change, it is of the utmost importance to have an effective Opposition holding the government to account for environment and climate-change policies. Even the theatre of dysfunction that is the British parliament managed to pass a motion declaring a climate emergency in May this year.

Instead, amid clashes over the “vegan terrorist” bill in the party room on Tuesday, Anthony Albanese told colleagues [$] that “if you do the same thing in politics you can expect the same outcome”. It’s a statement that he ought to be repeating to himself in the mirror.

The Labor Party has only been in power federally for six of the last 23 years, and that short period of government can hardly be characterised a success in terms of progress on climate-change policy. Since the Keating years, with the exception of the Kevin 07 election campaign, Labor has been largely unable to articulate a clear set of values for the party, let alone the country. 

Despite its many attempts at formulating a climate policy in recent years, the Labor Party still cannot provide a coherent response to the questions of how we can move away from fossil fuels and what life looks like in a renewable-energy economy. 

When the party talks out of both sides of its mouth, it winds up saying nothing at all. You only need to look to the most recent election defeat to see that people don’t like to be sold a different vision for the future depending on where they live.

A report out this week found that that the majority of Australians want the federal government to do more to meet emissions targets. If a group of self-described progressives cannot adopt a robust position on climate change, it must be asked if they’re progressives at all.

“Last night in a TV interview I was not clear and I should have chosen my words better.”

The member for Chisholm in a statement following a train wreck of an interview on Sky News in which she refused to explicitly criticise China’s activities in the South China Sea, and said that she could not recall whether she was a member of groups linked to the country’s ruling Communist Party.

“The greatest threat to our environment is not carbon dioxide but unsustainable immigration.”

Queensland LNP senator Gerard Rennick has used his first speech to call for Australia’s immigration levels to be slashed.

Christian Porter’s integrity commission
As ICAC exposes apparent corruption in NSW, focus is drawn on the federal government’s proposed integrity commission, which, among other things, would not be empowered to make findings of corruption. Mike Seccombe on anti-corruption legislation and how politicians avoid scrutiny.


The number of Australians to have been recently arrested in Iran, in what will prove to be a test for Foreign Minister Marise Payne. Two British–Australian women are believed to be in prison in Tehran, while the location of an Australian man is unknown. One of the women, an academic, was arrested months ago, while the couple is believed to have been detained several weeks ago.

“The exposure draft legislation is further evidence of the government’s commitment to strengthening financial regulators like ASIC and restoring trust in the financial system as part of our plan to build a stronger economy.”

The treasurer has released draft legislation seeking to strengthen the enforcement and supervision powers of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission in the aftermath of the banking royal commission.

The list

“On his last night alive, Spiro Boursinos could almost touch the 25th anniversary of his event – the dance party Earthcore, the original bush rave. He loved saying that. Loved spinning myths about his originality and influence, the wild maestro of doof ... This is the story of an ascension, followed by a long and bizarre decline. So luridly shambolic was Boursinos’s life that those who knew him warned me that his story would be hard to tell. They were right.”

“In June, the butterfly effect of Minogue’s crime reached the core of Australian democracy, forcing the High Court to assert its judicial power against the legislature. At issue was the power of the state over the courts – our shield against tyranny. The picture is muddied by how we regard the man responsible for holding the frontline: as Dr Craig Minogue, or as the Russell Street Bomber?”

“Adrian Burragubba of the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Family Council is on the screen. He is standing on a stretch of dry earth and long grass, tall trees with pale green leaves behind him. People are holding up a flag with an eel, an emu claw print and a river on it. They are on Country. Specifically, they are on a parcel of land over which the Queensland government quietly extinguished native title rights last week.” 

Elle Hardy

Elle Hardy is an Australian journalist based in the United States. She can be found at



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