The Politics    Friday, June 7, 2019

Minister for Hot Air

By Nick Feik

Minister for Hot Air
Angus Taylor’s handling of the latest emissions data is a lesson in spin

The federal government is obliged by Senate order to report national emissions data each quarter.

This data was supposed to be released to the public last Friday by the office of the energy minister, Angus Taylor. It was instead leaked to The Australian on Wednesday, when the news cycle was swamped with reports of the recent AFP raids on the media. (Some leaks from government to journalists are still okay, apparently.)

Graham Lloyd, The Australian’s “fearless” environment reporter (their words), spun [$] the news accordingly.

Here’s the first paragraph, published in yesterday’s paper: “Australia is not given sufficient credit internationally for the carbon dioxide savings it helps other nations achieve, Energy Minister Angus Taylor says.”

Only in the fifth paragraph did Lloyd mention that Australia’s emissions were “0.8 per cent higher than the previous quarter and 0.7 per cent higher than last year”.

Taylor was pushing the line that the rapid growth in LNG exports, whose production is raising local emissions, is actually helping reduce emissions globally, because the gas will be replacing coal in Asian energy markets. This spurious argument – repeated verbatim by Lloyd – ignores the fact that the Coalition government is also supporting increased coal exports, not to mention that fugitive emissions of LNG derived from coal seam gas mean in this form it is little better than brown coal.

Lloyd didn’t mention, either, that the Coalition still has no credible economy-wide plan to reduce local emissions (let alone global ones). Or that this is the fourth year in a row that Australia’s emissions have risen.

But why are Lloyd and Taylor talking about LNG production and export, anyway? The report was about total national emissions – to measure the effectiveness (or lack thereof, in this case) of the government’s climate change mitigation policies – not whether we have a successful resources sector.

This was a lesson in how the government uses compliant media sources to shape the news.

The emissions report was eventually released to the general public yesterday, and Taylor appeared on RN Breakfast this morning to continue making the case that up was down and down was up when it comes to Australia’s emissions. Furthermore, what was important, he said, was that the LNG and coal industries were creating jobs and investment opportunities.

Taylor, like his Coalition colleagues, is happy to count the earnings from resource companies, but refuses to calculate the cost of rising emissions and the effects of climate change on every other sector of the economy. The minister for energy and emissions reduction has a long history of promoting fossil-fuel industries and opposing support for renewables. He also has an ongoing scepticism of emissions reduction schemes generally, which, to be blunt, is probably why he was appointed to his current role.

Listen to The Politics Podcast, with Rachel Withers

“It is impossible to ignore the seismic nature of this week’s events: raids on two separate media outfits on consecutive days is a blunt signal of adverse consequences for news organisations who make life uncomfortable for policy makers and regulators.”

Ita Buttrose says she will fight any attempts to muzzle the national broadcaster or interfere with its obligations to the Australian public.

“You are criticising police officers.”

Peter Dutton attacks Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese for deigning to express reservations about the AFP’s intimidatory raids on journalists over stories that were clearly in the public’s interest.

The amount by which the prime minister’s salary will rise on July 1, the same day that some of Australia’s lowest-paid workers in the retail sector get a penalty rate cut.

“Thousands of Australians could be about to lose the only insurance they have and not realise it. Starting from July 1 there are major changes to superannuation, which were designed to stop super balances being eaten up by insurance fees. [Financial counsellors] were shocked to realise the changes could leave vulnerable people without vital insurance they’ve spent decades paying for.”

The list

“Jean-Baptiste Del Amo, although not yet 40, has written four novels and won several significant French literary prizes. Animalia is the first of these to be published in English. His translator, Frank Wynne, also works with Michel Houellebecq. And, like Houellebecq, Del Amo presents scenarios designed to confound.”

“It was Halloween 2013, and the station’s cells were badly crowded. The whole place was combustible. One prisoner, a sculpted giant weighing 100 kilograms, was experiencing withdrawal from methamphetamines, cocaine and steroids. Another was badly agitated by the scabies he assumed his cellmate was carrying. Officers thought most prisoners were experiencing cabin fever.”

“It wasn’t so very long ago that an Australian employer could legally refuse to employ a woman, simply because of her sex. Only in 1984, following Commonwealth legislation on race nine years earlier, did this become illegal. In 1986, the government introduced affirmative action legislation and an agency to enforce it.”

Rates, raids and meeting the Queen
As Scott Morrison completes his first overseas trip since winning the election, there are worrying signs for both the economy and press freedom. Paul Bongiorno on interest rates, AFP raids and Kristina Keneally’s new responsibilities.

Nick Feik

Nick Feik is the editor of The Monthly.


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