Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Today by Paddy Manning


No relief on drought
Why do farmers vote for climate change-denying Nationals?

Source

Why do drought-stricken farmers calling for assistance continue to vote for politicians who are determined to block attempts to address climate change? Why would they support politicians who seek to subsidise uneconomic new coal-fired power stations and new coalmines that would get unlimited access to fresh water?

On Monday the NSW government declared that 99 per cent of the state was experiencing drought that was billed as the worst in a century, and belatedly announced $500 million in emergency relief. This morning, Fran Kelly on RN Breakfast interviewed Brian Egan, founder of farm charity Aussie Helpers, which has been running for 17 years and provides food and water, equipment and counselling to farmers around the country. Egan described what he was seeing as like a war zone. Host Fran Kelly didn’t ask him about climate change, so I rang him up afterwards. Egan, who lost his own property to drought back in 1999, spoke to me from a paddock where he was surrounded by the smell of dead livestock.

“Well mate,” Egan replied. “I don’t know about climate change but I just know it’s very dry. Honestly I’ve never really worried about climate change; whether it’s just a cycle of weather or whatever it is, I don’t get into that stuff, honestly. We just put up with the conditions as they are, there’s not much you can do about them, I think we’ll leave that up to God or whoever rules the joint … Droughts have been in Australia since history’s been kept; some droughts are longer than others, it’s just something you live with in the bush, you don’t worry too much about why it’s happening. It’s just part of the gamble you take, good seasons and bad seasons, if you have one good season out of six you’re doing pretty well these days …”

I asked why farmers keep voting for the National Party, which doesn’t believe in climate change, while farmers are absolutely under the hammer from drought.

“We don’t get into the political side, we’re not aligned with any political party or religious organisation or anything, we’re just out there to help farmers and keep them on their properties …”

Later on this morning, Kelly interviewed Resources Minister Matt Canavan – who sits in the Nationals’ party room – about a few issues, including the reported Minerals Council of Australia–funded trip by backbencher George Christensen to Japan to drum up investment in a new coal-fired power station. Kelly didn’t ask Canavan about climate change either, but Canavan did take a shot at “ridiculous carbon emission reduction policies that will push up power prices”.

Canavan said he had visited the same Japanese firms that Christensen was about to meet, and they were “keen as mustard to invest in clean coal technologies”. He played a straight bat on what assistance the government might be able to provide, and insisted it would be technology-neutral, in line with the National Energy Guarantee (NEG), which he supported.

At a clean energy summit in Sydney over the past two days the NEG has come under attack from Labor states and the ACT, and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has today warned [$] the Coalition’s coal-lovers that the future will be carbon-constrained and that future carbon policies will “strand” any new coal-fired power stations. The policy may be heading right off the rails ahead of next week’s crucial energy ministers meeting, with news today that the final report from the Energy Security Board does not contain detailed modelling the states were awaiting, “an absence that could further complicate approval on the plan”.

Where Canavan was choosing his words carefully, former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce was much less diplomatic last night, threatening to oppose the NEG if it meant emissions-reduction targets would be placed on agriculture. “If we go down that path then forget it, I’m out, see you later, goodbye,” Joyce told Sky News. “That’s just nutcase stuff.”

The voters of New England, who would be forgiven for some buyer’s remorse given the Barnababy saga that’s unfolded since December’s by-election, might be happy to see him go.

At some point battling farmers will reach the conclusion that the issues of climate change and drought are related and that, until emissions are reduced, drought relief is effectively throwing good money after bad.

A vote for a climate-denying MP is a vote for a hotter planet, including worse heatwaves and drought. It’s as simple as that.


since this morning


Coles will continue handing out plastic bags for free in its stores indefinitely, bowing to customer pressure and saying that shoppers “need more time to make the transition to reusable bags”.

Given the government’s admission that access to health records should require a warrant, Crikey’s Bernard Keane asks [$] why this is not so for the rest of the metadata the government retains.

The Guardian’s Amanda Meade writes that the ABC is in turmoil and that there is an atmosphere of fear at the broadcaster, with one on-air presenter telling her: “Frankly, we are all spooked about everything in here.”


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT


Fairfax Media reports that another damaging education “funding war” looms as independent schools challenge the prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to rule out a deal with Catholic schools that could cost independent schools $1 billion over a decade.

The Daily Telegraph reports [$] that federal Labor MP Emma Husar is under investigation for possible misuse of public money following revelations she went to a Bruno Mars concert when on a taxpayer-funded trip to Queensland. On Twitter, Husar responded that “no work expenses were used to attend a concert”.

A report by KPMG proposes that the federal government take over TAFE and vocational education.

Shareholder Alex Waislitz and venture capitalist Daniel Petre have reservations about Nine Entertainment’s takeover of Fairfax Media, the AFR reports [$], but Nine’s biggest shareholder, Bruce Gordon, has told the SMH: “I like it”.

Also in the AFR, Aaron Patrick writes [$] that Labor candidates in marginal federal seats are already campaigning on the ground, while many of their Coalition opponents have not yet been pre-selected.

Federal prosecutors are evaluating [$] evidence relating to Pauline Hanson’s chief of staff James Ashby over One Nation’s use of a light plane during the 2016 election campaign, The Australian reports.


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Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is a contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly. He is a writer and journalist who has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is also the author of three books, including Boganaire: The rise and fall of Nathan Tinkler.

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