Monday, April 9, 2018

Today by Paddy Manning

A Turnbull reboot
The nation is crying out for real leadership. Here’s a place to start.

Image of Malcolm Turnbull at the Commonwealth Games 2018


Good afternoon,

A theme of this morning’s commentary on the Coalition’s 30th straight Newspoll loss is the prime minister’s lack of leadership and direction. If Malcolm Turnbull wants to reset the government’s bad polling and return it to the electoral highs of late 2015, immediately after he toppled Tony Abbott, when Australians showed they were up for an adult conversation and an end to shouty politics, he could do worse than give the following speech. 

Fellow Australians,

Year by year, the risks of global warming and extreme weather events continue to increase in this country. Longer heatwaves already take a heavy toll, especially on the frail and the elderly. More frequent and intense storms, bushfires, floods and drought are a constant source of worry and danger, and the longer-term forecasts suggest that there is more and worse to come. The cost of responding and adapting to these threats, and the associated risks – such as predicted sea level rise – continue to mount, both in social and economic terms. Australia’s priceless natural heritage is also in peril, from our many endangered species to the world’s largest living organism, the Great Barrier Reef. These are the challenges that we know are coming, based on the best scientific evidence. It is no exaggeration to say that if we do not take effective action soon, the threats to life from abrupt, dangerous climate change may become insurmountable, with frightening and irreversible consequences for our children and future generations.

In 2015, in Paris, the world agreed to limit global warming to two degrees, and indeed to try to do better than that, and keep warming below 1.5 degrees if possible. It is an extraordinarily difficult challenge, which will require us to virtually eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of the century, and, using technologies we know exist, to draw down carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases from our atmosphere.

For this global effort to have any chance of succeeding, every single country needs to play its part. That includes Australia. We are a small contributor to the world’s emissions, but we are a large contributor on a per capita basis and through our fossil fuel exports. With our abundant land, sun, wind and coastline, and some of the best science and technology in the world, Australia has an enormous opportunity to make a difference. In just the past decade, truly remarkable advances have been made that reduce the cost of zero- and low-emission energy technologies; these advances are transforming world energy markets at an astonishing rate and offer hope that we can beat this wicked problem … and lower energy prices while we’re at it. It is no use longing for the technologies of the past: Australia can and must keep up in a changing world.

For too long, this country has been divided over the best way to respond to climate change. It is time to take the politics out of this issue, between government and Opposition, between the Commonwealth, states and territories, once and for all. In 2007, as environment minister under then prime minister John Howard, I began work on Australia’s first emissions trading scheme. Had the Howard government been re-elected that year, this country may now have almost a decade’s experience with an effective, economy-wide regime to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

After more than 25 years of debate, we know what needs to be done, and the longer we leave it, the more expensive and difficult the task becomes. We can no longer deny the reality, the gravity, and the urgency of tackling climate change.

We are not pointing the finger of blame – at individuals, companies or industries, nor at our political opponents. There will be no recriminations. We have had enough of division. Everyone will be required to make a contribution. Nobody makes windfall gains, nobody gets left behind. After a decade of near-crippling uncertainty it is clear that the transition that is required and that is already underway will be more efficient and less painful if it is properly planned, with an ambitious reform path setting a steady course for the next decade, freed from political bickering. We need to transform, not just our energy supply, but transportation, infrastructure, construction, manufacturing, and agriculture. The government has made a start with our National Energy Guarantee, but if we are to face up to the real risks of climate change, we know there is much more to do, and we plan to build on this effort. My government is facing up to this challenge, starting today, and we will be urging our political colleagues and state and territory counterparts to work with us. I ask for your support.

since this morning

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has told Melbourne’s 3AW that he wants to be prime minister one day.

On social media, Wallabies star Israel Folau has quoted the Bible, saying that “the persecuted are righteous”. Last week his comment that gay people were destined for hell “unless they repent of their sins and turn to God” prompted outrage.

in case you missed it

In a feature for The Australian, Andrew Clennell writes [$] that there is a siege mentality in the prime minister’s office, dominated by the PM’s private secretary, Sally Cray, who is “a kind of ‘new Peta Credlin’”. The piece accompanied extensive reports on the Coalition’s 30th successive Newspoll loss.

Ahead of tonight’s Four Corners, Fairfax Media has this investigation into allegations that small businesses are being crushed by the Australian Tax Office.

Australian Maritime Safety Authority inspectors have detained the scandal-plagued Awassi Express at Fremantle Dock after 60 Minutes last night aired footage from a voyage last year in which 2400 sheep died from heat stress. In Crikey today, Bernard Keane writes [$] that “virtually nothing will be done to stop it” as Emanuel Exports, the ship’s operator, “has been getting away with it for years, and the [agriculture] department allegedly responsible for regulating it has done little”.

Fraud charges are expected to be laid against one of Queensland’s biggest cotton irrigators, John Norman, within a matter of weeks, The Guardian reports.

Electoral analyst Ben Raue, who works for GetUp!, writes for The Guardian that while the Coalition has been consistently behind in the polls, recent history suggests that Labor’s lead is not big enough to rule out the possibility of a Coalition recovery.

by Oscar Schwartz
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Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Body Count: How Climate Change Is Killing Us, Inside the Greens and Born To Rule: The Unauthorised Biography of Malcolm Turnbull.


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